You’ll have seen her in the papers, on TV and in tennis tournaments throughout Europe. But it’s in Oskarshamn that 24-year-old Rebecka Sternisa Bellander feels most at home. Her profile is higher than ever this year, with major preparations for the Paralympics and her involvement in TV4’s sports programme Vinnarskallar.
Tennis, tennis and more tennis. Rebecka’s life is entirely taken up with the sport she loves, and that helped her back to life when at the age of 16 she suffered an inflammation of the spinal cord and became paralysed in her legs.
“My life changed overnight,” she says. “It was just two days from feeling the first symptoms to becoming paralysed.”
From the outset, Rebecka had her sights set on a football career. But she had to rethink her plans and instead threw herself into tennis, which became an instant love.
“The tennis has really helped me process what happened. Of course it was a challenge, but also fantastically liberating to be able to do sport again.”
Over the years, Rebecka has won a number of prizes in wheelchair tennis.
“The ones I value the most are my Swedish Championship golds. I think there’s been 6 or 7,” she says, laughing.
While putting her all into tennis, Rebecka Sternisa Bellander has also found time to train to be a teacher.
“After all I won’t be able to play tennis my whole life,” she points out. “I need to have something to fall back on, and primary school teaching is appealing.”
She dashes about from one competition to another throughout Europe and there isn’t much time for anything else. But her boyfriend Sava still gets to see his tennis heroine.
“It’s about good time management,” says Rebecka. “So yes, we do get to see each other quite a bit and sometimes he comes with me when I play.”’
She sees the opportunity to get involved in the TV series Vinnarskallar as a great honour.
“It’s was fantastic. Meeting all these wonderful sportsmen and women and sharing our stories meant that we got very close. And then of course it was great that the programme was recorded on Gran Canaria in November, the grimmest time of the year back in Sweden!”
No place like home
Rebecka was born and grew up in Oskarshamn, and does not intend to roam far from the place.
“Of course I might move away for a bit,” she says. “But when the time comes to start a family, I definitely want to be back here again. It’s the perfect city to grow up in.”
When Rebecka does manage to get a bit of free time, then it’s sun, swimming and nature that she is drawn to.
“Last summer, I discovered beautiful Havslätt,” she says. “It’s got everything. Sandy beach, lawns, concrete jetty and restaurant. Perfect!”
Stensjöby is another place that gets a visit from the young tennis star every once in a while.
“Stunning countryside and a lovely place to just switch off and relax.”
Watch this space. There’s little doubt that Rebecka Sternisa Bellander will soon be a household name in Sweden.