Paralympics in rio de janeiro : anke molkenthin is double on the water

Berlin-born Anke Molkenthin is the only German athlete competing in two disciplines at the Paralympics in Rio.

The Cristo statue, which looks down on the lagoon from the mountain in Rio de Janeiro and provides a fantastic backdrop for the Paralympic rowing and canoeing competitions, is covered by a gray cloud. The German rowing mixed four casually registers this during training; the first session of the day is over, and it’s off to the second breakfast in a moment. "Cristo might as well make an appearance," says Anke Molkenthin, pointing to Corcovado, the 710-meter-high mountain on which Rio’s landmark is enthroned.

Apart from the murky water in the lagoon, her room in the Paralympic Village and the far too air-conditioned bus that transports her between these places, Molkenthin has hardly seen anything of Rio, although she arrived a few days before the Paralympics began. Because when the second session with the mixed foursome ends at 11 a.m., she gets into the canoe at 1 p.m. and adds another training session, this time in the forward direction.

Molkenthin has a special position in the German team – possibly even at the Paralympics: she will be the only athlete to compete in two disciplines: In the rowing four with coxswain and in the canoe, the
is paralympic for the first time. In 2012 at the Paralympics in London – Molkenthin’s first Games – she won silver in the rowing four with coxswain. After the 2014 world championship, she temporarily stopped and went on to canoeing. This is difficult because Molkenthin now lives in Berchtesgadener Land and takes three and a half hours by public transport to the next training opportunity on the water in Oberschleibheim near Munich, so the ergometer was often used.

Molkenthin previously completed ultra runs

Molkenthin became faster and faster, but missed the qualification for Rio by one place with eleventh place at the World Championships in Duisburg in mid-May. "It was okay all around, as a 54-year-old in a sport that was new to me, I had the goal of paddling for a quota spot, but others were just faster."But two days after the world championship race, the phone rang. At the other end: The rowers who wanted Molkenthin to return. "I hadn’t held an oar in a year and a half, but I guess that was a risk they wanted to take," she says, smiling.

The short preparation left her only one regatta, two training weekends and the immediate competition preparation with the quad, canoe she continued because the paddling movement is good for her back, which is unstable due to broken spinous processes in the upper part and limited in the head lift and rotation.

Six days before the departure to the Paralympics, the news came that due to the exclusion of the Russian national team, a place for Germany in the canoe was available – and Molkenthin got it.
Because the canoeists are on after the rowers, it doesn’t affect her in her main competition. "And I didn’t have to think about it for long, because I have nothing to lose in the canoe, no one expects me to be a
Move over."

The distances in Rio are actually too short for her

For Molkenthin, who until her dystonia as a late consequence of a hereditary paralysis, did ultra runs, mountain runs and triathlons and was a world-renowned extreme athlete in the scene, the double load fits. In 2013 she set the women’s world record in 24-hour ergometer rowing with 261.06 kilometers, and in 2014 she set the world record in 1000-kilometer ergometer rowing in 6 days, 7 hours, 51 minutes and 10 seconds. What others call crazy is fun for Molkenthin. The distances in rowing and canoeing are actually too short for her, "but short and fierce," as she says: "And that’s what makes it so exciting again, because it’s so completely different from what I was used to before."

More on the topic

Paralympic Games Rio 2016 The competition venues at a glance

Around the Christ the Redeemer feature in the south of Rio der Janeiro, where judoka Rafaela Silva held the Olympic torch in the picture above, competitions are held at various venues around the city. See our interactive map to learn more

While she can sail free in the canoe, her goal is to reach the A-finals in the four-man rowing race. At least: On Thursday, the canoeists should also be ready with their competitions as planned. Then Molkenthin has one more day to see more of Rio – and possibly to look down on the lagoon from Corcovado itself – before heading back to Germany.

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