“At first, the wheelchair impressed me”

As a child, Martín de la Puente (23) saw the dragon's eyes.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
23 May 2023 Tuesday 10:25
18 Reads
“At first, the wheelchair impressed me”

As a child, Martín de la Puente (23) saw the dragon's eyes.

The disease, Proteus syndrome, had disfigured his left foot, so it was amputated. He was eight years old.

But that wasn't going to stop me. I needed to practice sports. Swimming, water polo, also tennis... When they brought me the chair to sit on it and start training, the image impressed me. I didn't want to sit there,” Martín de la Puente tells me.

We talked on a track at the Real Club de Polo. This is where the TRAM Barcelona Open starts today, the international wheelchair tennis tournament co-organized by the Johan Cruyff Foundation. The tournament ends on Sunday.

(The tournament, which is six years old, is a big fish on the circuit: it has the ITF-1 category, only inferior to the Grand Slams).

True: the Proteus syndrome was not going to be able to with him.

The disease is a mystery. Certain parts of the body begin to grow asymmetrically. In his case, the feet (the right one is also larger than normal) and some fingers.

He shows me his left hand. The middle finger is thick.

-And what happened?

–As a child I had already played tennis. He had done it with my brothers and my parents, at the Náutico de Vigo. Then, after the amputation, I did it again. He played with my brother Antón. At first he did it standing up, with a prosthesis. Then I went to the chair. And what was a hobby was becoming routine. Today is my profession.

Martín de la Puente has played two Paralympic Games (Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020) and a range of Grand Slam tournaments: in 2022 he won the US Open in doubles. And he has a range of sponsors behind him (Toyota, Real Club de Polo, Solunion, Lab 3.11). And for five years he has lived in the CAR of Sant Cugat.

Are there many professionals?

–I calculate that those of the Top-10. But to get here, my parents had to put...

-A lot?

–Man, it has not been easy (Javier, the father, is an engineer and university professor; Marta, the mother, a legal advisor). I owe them many things. To them and to my coach and my physical trainer. And to my roommates in the CAR. For a time I lived with Bruno Hortelano. Bruno transmitted me peace. Now I live with Alberto Ginés, Olympic champion in climbing. I have seen how his life has changed. Before he was wearing a hood, no one knew him. Today he is a celebrity. Thanks to him, I understand that we can overcome difficult moments.

(The curious can purchase a free pass to the tournament through the Polo website).