Jean-Pierre Limborg, the pioneer of wheelchair tennis

Settled for six years in Bordeaux, Jean-Pierre Limborg was born in Nancy. He was a brilliant student, passionate about Formula 1. In 1976, he was at the Nürburgring when Niki Lauda’s race car, one of his idols, caught fire. It was also when the Austrian driver, “six weeks after receiving the extreme anointing”, took the wheel at Monza.

adventure in india

We move away from tennis. But this is normal. Before chance decided otherwise, Jean-Pierre Limborg had almost never touched a racket. “Four or five hours, during my studies. “He’s from Central. His sports teacher at the Ecole Centrale in Paris will become famous. the Davis Cup, winner of the 1991 edition with Henri Leconte, Guy Forget and Yannick Noah on the bench.

“It’s not about having a comfortable life. I had to look for emotions that would compensate for the enormous effort involved, at the age of 21, in accepting to live in a wheelchair.

Jean-Pierre Limborg has something in common with the performer of “Saga Africa”. In parallel with his career as an engineer, which took him to Hong Kong, he began composing. Seventeen albums have been produced, including one of the Khmer songs, recorded in Cambodia. The last three are “electro experimental”. Originally, it was a battery. Sports activity was none of his business.

Jean-Pierre Limborg speaks quickly. He has so many things to say. In 1980 he left for India, “on an adventure”. Quite the opposite of tourism. He lived with the people on the street. His first chair weighing 25 kg, moving on dirt roads was a feat. “It simply came to our notice then. So there was no question of having a life that was too comfortable. I had to look for emotions that would compensate for the enormous effort involved, at the age of 21, in accepting to live in a wheelchair. »

Los Angeles at the helm

On his return from India, he came across an article in “L’Est Républicain”. He talks about an American, Jeff Minnenbreaker, who makes modern, lightweight wheelchairs. His company, Quadra, is headquartered in Los Angeles. “I go there right away. I meet him and ask for an aluminum chair, all black with neon pink tires.”

“It simply came to our notice then. Otherwise, you could not play “

The California businessman intervened at the Veterans Rehabilitation Center. He will go down in history as the inventor of wheelchair tennis. “It simply came to our notice then. Otherwise, it could not be played. The two men sympathize. Jeff Minnenbreaker invites him to a wheelchair tennis tournament in Las Vegas and puts a racket in his hands. Jean-Pierre Limborg is defeated 6-0 and 6-0 by a young woman.

There, everything speeds up. Quickly adopted, he took classes, “free”, with the best player of the time, Brad Parks, three-time US Open winner and gold medalist in doubles at the Barcelona Paralympic Games. For three months, he stayed with Jim Knaub, who in the 1990s held all world wheelchair records, from 5,000 meters to the marathon. These encounters changed his life. “Remarkable beings,” he says.

On his return to France, Jean-Pierre Limborg moved heaven and earth to promote wheelchair tennis. In the program “Automoto”, he sees Pierre Fusade, a “former tennis teacher” who has become paraplegic, riding a sidecar. Call him. “I tried, it’s not possible,” he replied, before changing his mind “instantly” when he saw his US-made equipment. Pierre Fusade, who became world team champion in 1990, developed wheelchair tennis within the French Handisport Federation. Jean-Pierre Limborg will take this discipline to the fold of the French Tennis Federation in 2017. A revolution.

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