Kelesi, Helen Mersi

Helen Mersi Kelesi, tennis player (b at Victoria 15 Nov 1969). By the time she was 12, she was the top junior player (under 18) in western Canada. At age 13, she won the Canadian Junior Nationals and the Taipei International Junior Open. Her best world junior ranking was 3rd in 1985, after she had reached the semifinals in the Junior French Open and at Junior Wimbledon.

With such a record, she turned professional and was initially ranked 80th in the world. By the time she was 16, in 1986, she had achieved victories over Helena Sukova (ranked 7th) and Hana Mandlikova (ranked 3rd), her world ranking had jumped to 25th, and she had won her first professional tournament, the Japan Open. In 1987 she won her first of 4 Canadian Women's Tennis Championships. During this time she also represented Canada in 2 OLYMPIC GAMES: Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992. At some point during her career she was nicknamed "Hurricane Helen" because of her fierce determination, a moniker that stuck.

Helen Kelesi's playing career was quickly cut short in the early 1990s. At the 1994 US Open she was plagued by headaches and withdrew in the first round. She was diagnosed with and received surgery for a brain tumour in 1995, and made a courageous attempt to regain her former status. At the height of her career she was ranked 11th in the world on the WTA Tour in singles and 18th in doubles, and she had represented Canada in 10 FEDERATION CUPS, the most of any player to date. Helen Kelesi has since retired from professional competition but has pursued her love of tennis through coaching at the Pacific Tennis Academy in Richmond, BC. She was inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002.