POSTED: June 14th 2012
Titanic: The Tennis Story that beats all odds
LAURA WALDEN / Sports Features Communications
Titanic: The Tennis Story by Lindsay Gibbs
June 14 – If you are looking for a powerful athlete’s story as we approach the London 2012 Games try Titanic: The Tennis Story a book about two American tennis players Richard Norris “Dick” Williams and Karl Behr that wind up in the most unthinkable of situations – aboard the Titanic. And even more amazing they both manage to live through it with a small number of survivors.
Karl Behr was the more well known of the two players at the time their paths crossed aboard the ship the fateful week of April 1912. Williams was aboard the ship with his father en route to the USA to transfer to Harvard from Switzerland where he had been living. He was a rising young tennis player and his father was a very popular businessman in Switzerland as well as his coach and trainer.
Behr was one of the top ten players in America at the time and a member of the 1907 Davis Cup Team as well as a Wimbledon doubles finalist in 1907. He was on the Titanic in pursuit of the love of his life, Helen Newsom, and desperately was trying to win over her parents to ask for her hand in marriage. This romantic part of the story pales the blockbuster film love story with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCabrio and by one moment of circumstance his life is saved.
The plot draws you in as the real life tragedy of the Titanic unfolds and the horrific aftermath when they both wind up on the rescue ship Carpathia. Williams escaped the sinking ship to wind up in the frigid waters where he clung for his life to a collapsed lifeboat overnight suffering severe hypothermia. His legs were so badly affected the doctor recommended amputation to avoid gangrene.
The story that ensues is one of real core focus and strength as to how both men manage to deal with getting Williams back on his feet and the psychological trauma of being a survivor of one of the world’s most famous tragedies.
Williams pursues his tennis goals and was a part of the 1913 Davis Cup Team then went on to compete at the Paris Olympics of ’24 and won a gold medal with Hazel Wightman in the mixed doubles.
Mixed doubles making a comeback
The story comes full circle as this year in London mixed doubles will once again be on the program that will be contended at Wimbledon so the pertinence resonates even more. Williams won the doubles title at Wimbledon with Charles Garland in 1920 after serving his country in World War II.
A very compelling story about staying positive in the face of disaster that gives chilling insight into the real last night on the Titanic.
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Laura Walden ()
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