In 1984 and 1988 there were two Paralympics in Austria. They took place in Innsbruck in each case. Our columnist goes in search of traces in Tyrol.
In Tirol one falls at present softly. It is snowing so heavily that some drivers are now learning how to attach snow chains to their tires in the flurry of white flakes. Finally, it’s really winter again! In 1984 and 1988, the participants of the first two "World Games for the Disabled" in the Innsbruck region also got to know this.
On the private snowboard trip to the Tyrolean skiing area Axamer Lizum during the Berlin winter vacations, sports history now catches up with me. A few minutes away by ski bus in Mutters the alpine competitions took place at that time. And a short car trip away, the Nordic skiers once competed for medals on the plateau in Seefeld/Leutasch – where our winter sports vacation group was just braving a strong headwind on the cross-country track.
Down in Innsbruck, former Austrian President Kurt Waldheim praised the athlete:s at the opening ceremony in January 1988 as "an impressive example of overcoming life’s difficulties". I discovered this sport-historical excursion into Para-history in an Austrian Youtube film.
At least this symbolic bow to the sportsmen:inside is unchanged since then. Worlds have changed in other areas. I never thought I would be so skeptical about the Paralympics. Under corona conditions, under human rights aspects the blood can freeze in the veins.
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In his Olympic television report on Tuesday evening, former German ski racer Felix Neureuther had a Uyghur woman tell in tears how Chinese police officers raped members of the Muslim minority, then shoved electric shock batons into the vaginas of the three women and took perverse pleasure in their suffering. I write this down so drastically because I will have this in my mind when I watch the Paralympics out of respect for the athletes and their teams.
In my hotel in Gotzens, everyone can relate to the Paralympics, even decades after the earlier games here in the region. The nice Irish-born hotel employee Aisling Hughes and her Australian husband have friends and acquaintances in the Olympic and Paralympic sports scene, like the Australian para-canoe coach Andrea Wood.
Winter sports athletes had told her after the 2014 Sochi Games how disconcerting it had been when there was a knock on the door, they were taken away in isolation for blood tests and competitions, everything was severely restricted. "And people have respect for the artificial snow in China now," Aisling Hughes says while talking at the breakfast buffet. Artificial snow is much more prone to injury, she says, and the crashes of the monoskiers on the bumpy slopes of Sochi come to mind, I still remember the roar of the rescue helicopters.
As always, once the Paralympic fire burns in Beijing 2022, there will still be great sport to watch. The dusty hills in the snowless mountains are sprayed with artificial white in such a way that at least everywhere the broadcast cameras turn there should be snow to keep up appearances.
Despite everything, great Paralympic sport will be on display in Beijing as well
Team Germany Paralympics with nine female and nine male athletes will meet on 25. February on the way to Beijing for the Paralympic Winter Games from 4. to 13. March make. It is a young team, accompanied by five guides in the sport of Para Nordic skiing and an escort skier in Para Alpine skiing. This means that the team is slightly smaller than in Pyeongchang 2018 (20 participants) and slightly larger than in Sochi 2014 (13).
The German Paralympics delegation consists of 63 people, including coaches, doctors and support staff. At the second Paralympics in Beijing after the 2008 Summer Games, a total of 736 athletes from around 50 nations will compete for medals and best performances in six sports and 78 events. German athletes will be represented in Para alpine skiing, Para biathlon and Para cross-country skiing as well as for the second time after 2014 in Para snowboarding.
Team Germany Winter Paralympics is in a state of flux, seven athletes are 22 years old or younger and no less than nine participants are eagerly awaiting their Paralympics premiere – in other words, half of the team. Three athletes will make their Paralympics debut in China in banked slalom and snowboard cross. The most experienced athlete is para-ski alpine skier Andrea Rothfuss, who will compete in her fifth Paralympics. Andrea Eskau, the six-time medalist from 2018, had to cancel her participation with a heavy heart due to persistent physical ailments.
Also in Innsbruck and the surrounding area, some people will curiously follow the Beijing 2022 Games on the Internet and on TV. Nicole Ellinger of the Alp Art Hotel Gotzens, where the author is currently typing these lines, recalls the South Korean ski team of athletes with disabilities, which she hosted in her own home in 2021, in an impressed manner. The fact that these made it up the Olympic stilt lift to the former Olympic women’s downhill is deeply impressive to myself. This is an adventure for sighted and standing snowboarders alone, many stairs, steep slope.
In China, there is no level playing field for fair games
The way young Gerhard Pscheider touched me in the old Paralympics documentary from 1988. When the then successful athlete with his predecessor Peter Erlsbacher told in the film that his optic nerves were damaged in a skiing accident a few years ago and how he has been skiing the turns since then without sight according to the calls and by gut feeling. In 1988, the double-armed Nordic athlete Horst Morokutti gave a moving account of how his sporting successes helped him gain self-confidence.
Time seems to stand still when the athletes complain about their own situation in this country, that the USA and Canada support disabled sports in such a way that the competitors can train all year round and do not have to go to work.
More on the topic
Olympics on ARD and ZDF Between cheering reports and uninhibited criticism
Equal conditions for fair games can not exist even in China 2022 simply because of the corona pandemic. May all those involved, however, despite all the challenges, fall as softly as I myself did just here on the slopes.