One of the most famous disasters of the 20th century is without a doubt the sinking of the Titanic. This enormous transatlantic liner was wrecked in 1912 following a collision with an iceberg. Nearly 1,500 people have died. But did you know that a shipwreck survivor refused to have both legs amputated and won the US Open tennis tournament two years later?
Some stories are worthy of becoming movies. This is the case of that of Richard Norris Williams. Indeed, this tennis player boarded the Titanic in 1912, with his father, Charles. On the night of April 14-15, 1912, the Titanic crashed into an iceberg while crossing the Atlantic. Like many passengers, Richard and his father had not imagined that the Titanic could sink. And for good reason, about 30 years earlier, Charles Norris was aboard the SS Arizona which had also struck an iceberg. “If Arizona hasn’t sunk, there’s no way the Titanic will sink. In the worst case, we will drift for several hours before a boat picks us up. “
However, this disaster resulted in the deaths of 1490 to 1520 people, including the father of Richard Norris Williams. However, the 21-year-old managed to grab onto a lifeboat. Only her lower body was submerged in the freezing water and her legs froze. When he was finally rescued by the Carpathia, the doctors advised him to have an amputation. Which he refused. “I’m going to need these two legs”, he replied.
So, the doctor explains to Richard that he will have to overcome the intense pain and that he will have to walk 45 minutes every two hours. Which he does with the help of Karl Behr, another tennis player, and which Richard admires. By the time Carpathia returns to New York harbor, Richard alternates between walking and hot baths. On April 18, Richard Norris Williams finally landed in New York and his two legs were saved.
Richard will keep the promise he made to his father: to continue playing tennis while studying at Harvard. Quickly, he climbs the ranks. In 1913, he joined the Davis Cup team in the United States, and reached his first final at the US Open. Then, the following year, he repeated this feat, and this time won. In total, Richard Norris Williams won two US Open, five Davis Cup and a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924.