Leena Bennetto

She started playing tennis at age 9, and now 13-year-old Leena Bennetto aims to be the best tennis player in the world.

Although having Type 1 diabetes means Leena has more on her plate than other athletes her age, she’s making no excuses on her way to the top. She speaks with confidence, and she’s got the talent to back it up.

"I want to show that I can work just as hard, if not harder, than anyone else to achieve my goals. Diabetes won’t stop me from being the best tennis player I can be, or the best tennis player anyone can be.”

Leena’s diagnosis came unexpectedly at age 10. She was competing in a BC junior ranking tournament in Victoria, BC when she started feeling faint. A sudden drop in energy meant she couldn’t finish her match. Living in Vernon, BC at the time, Leena’s parents rushed her home to the doctor.

She dealt with diabetes the same way she handles other life challenges — embracing it head on. From the start, she insisted on doing her own injections and taking full responsibility for her diabetes management.

For about three months, that meant multiple daily injections, until she started using the OneTouch Ping® insulin pump and meter-remote.

“The insulin pump makes it so much easier for me to focus on tennis and not worry about diabetes,” she says. “On injections, it took more time to adjust, dose and treat. That can be distracting. The pump lets me focus on my game.”

Zipped in the back pocket of her shorts, the pump is never in her way during training or competitions. She wears it all the time.

Determined not to let diabetes keep her on the sidelines, Leena has learned to monitor her diabetes diligently without allowing it to interfere with tennis or life.

“Between sets or during breaks, I’ll quickly check my blood glucose levels. If I’m low, I’ll treat it and get back out there.”

Her drive has paid off. In 2014, she was selected to Tennis Canada’s National Junior Program, prompting her family to move to Vancouver to accommodate her training schedule.

She’s one of 18 athletes between ages 11 – 17 on the co-ed Vancouver National Junior Training Program. Competing internationally has meant lots of traveling. In the past few years, tournaments have taken her to Italy, Mexico, the US and Russia. With the sport taking her away from home so often, she recently learned to insert her own infusion sets, giving her more freedom to travel without her parents.

“I always push myself to exceed expectations. Lots of people work hard, but only those who exceed expectations become the best in the world.”

She trains intensively 6 days a week, including tennis and fitness workouts of endurance, strength and mobility. With a fitness schedule like that, Leena doesn’t shy away from carbohydrates. She’s nearly 5’11” tall and her lean, athletic frame needs plenty of fuel.

“Since being diagnosed, I’m so conscious of what I eat. That’s really helped my tennis. I eat like an athlete. I need lots of carbs and I’ve learned to adjust my insulin for that.”

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Leena’s list of achievements goes far beyond tennis. She excels at school, art, music and swimming. But when she started playing tennis, it quickly took priority over her other recreational activities. Now she’s focused on tennis, and the very high bar she has set for herself.

“I always push myself to exceed expectations. Lots of people work hard, but only those who exceed expectations become the best in the world.”

And that’s where she’s headed. Setting her sights on the pro tour, Leena hopes her success will encourage other people with Type 1 diabetes to dream big.

“My big dream is to win Grand Slams. I hope it will inspire other people to reach for their best too.”