Ipswich world champion celebrates birthday in Paris
TENNIS: Back at the courts where it all started, Ipswich's world champion was glowing with pride.
Having retained his number one international ranking and added more medals to his impressive collection, Archie Graham had every right to be.
He recently celebrated his 25th birthday in Paris before spearheading the Australian team's tennis success.
It was his fourth world singles title in a row at the 2018 International Federation for Intellectual Disability Sport (INAS) championships.
As he chatted at the welcoming Ipswich District Junior Tennis Association centre at East Ipswich, Graham was a contented sportsman.
"This one was even more special,'' Graham said, overlooking the courts where many young Ipswich players learn.
"It was my first time in Paris and different conditions.''
Although he had played on an international clay surface before, Graham appreciated representing Australia in such a world famous city.
"I enjoyed the experience and the lovely people around,'' the Rafael Nadal fan said. "Not just winning gold but also the experience of seeing Paris.''
The Australian players were taken on a tour including the Eiffel Tower.
His birthday was celebrated on the second last night before the finals with a surprise dinner and cake.
Asked whether he'd had a birthday party like that before, his eyes lit up as he answered: "No. I'd never had a birthday overseas.
"I got a bit emotional.''
He praised his Aussie teammates for their efforts in France. "They did some very good stuff,'' he said.
Graham had previously won world singles titles in Ecuador (2015), United States (2016) and the UK (last year).
Like he did at those international tournaments, he won multiple medals during six days of competition in Paris.
Apart from gold medals in the singles and team events, he also returned home with a silver (in doubles) and a bronze medal (mixed competition).
"I played about 20 or so matches,'' he said.
"There were some old players there and some new players coming through and they were tough as well.''
Among them was a British opponent he has beaten in three of his four world championship finals.
Graham has Aspergers Syndrome, a condition that helped him discover the benefits of playing tennis.
He first played, aged 15, at the historic Ipswich District Junior Tennis Association courts, which provide a wonderful environment for young players to learn like he did.
Since then, he's become a four-time world champion and last year was named the 2017 City of Ipswich Senior Sportsperson of the Year.
But through all his overseas achievements, he's maintained immense pride in Ipswich.
He's getting more involved in coaching, keen to share his international experience.
The tennis ace thanked his mother Claire and coaches Stan Cuthbert and Luke Bond for their ongoing support, helping him achieve his international goals.
"I was happy with my preparation. Stan and Lukey have been training me pretty hard,'' he said.
"I'm learning so much and it runs in the family. That's where the passion comes from.''
As for his future, his answer highlighted that love of the game.
"I'm back on the horse again,'' Graham said.
"I've got another tournament this weekend (at the Gold Coast).''
And further ahead, Graham has plenty of motivation.
That includes working hard to contest the 2019 Global Games in Brisbane next year.
Proud and determined, Graham will strive to be there.
Recognise, reward city's best like Archie
NOMINATIONS for the 2018 City of Ipswich Awards are open. That means it is the perfect time to recognise your leading achievers like last year's Senior Sportsperson of the Year Archie Graham.
Other categories are: Junior Sportsperson of the Year, Masters Sportsperson of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Sporting Organisation of the Year, Team of the Year, Coach of the Year and Official of the year.
Winners receive up to $2000 in cash.
To nominate is easy, via Smarty Grants.