Anna-Lena Forster can inspire a young Germany
German Chef de Mission Dr Karl Quade has issued a warning as he prepares for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, significant absences and a dearth of competitive events, Quade feels that equaling fifth place at the 2018 Games is unrealistic.
“It will be very difficult to repeat the success of PyeongChang,” said Dr Quade. “We hope to finish in the top 10 of the medal standings. But predictions are not easy.“
Germany have topped the winter Paralympic table twice this century, at Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010. Four years ago, their 20-person team was fifth after collecting seven gold medals , eight silver and four bronze.
This time, 18 athletes were selected as well as five Nordic ski guides and an alpine skier. Nine of them are new to the Games and seven are under 22 years old.
Six-time Paralympian Andrea Eskau withdrew due to health issues, while seven-time gold medalist Anna Schaffelhuber retired.
“The team size is equal to that of PyeongChang but we don’t have a curling team and more athletes in cross country, biathlon and snowboarding,” said Dr Quade.
“The pandemic has had a very significant impact on sport. In Germany, only the best athletes had until the middle of 2021 the opportunity to train. A big problem was the lack of competitions.
“I worked for many years with Andrea Eskau, so I know how difficult it is for her to miss the Games. Such a successful and experienced athlete cannot be replaced by young athletes. But these athletes will show that they deserve to be selected.
Andrea Rothfuss is the most experienced member of the team, having participated in four previous Winter Games and won 13 medals in alpine skiing on this stage.
She won gold at Sochi 2014 in the standing slalom and has nine silver and three bronze medals in total, largely thanks to French phenom Marie Bochet.
Ⓒ Andrea Carloni for the CIP
Rothfuss’ teammate Anna-Lena Forster has just finished the World Championships in Lillehammer as the most successful skier with four titles and Quade believes she can be the catalyst for the rest of the team.
“Anna-Lena is a leader of the team, alongside Andrea. She (Anna Lena) inspires young athletes. A success at the start of the Games inspires the whole team,” said Dr Quade.
Forster admitted she was surprised by her success at Worlds, but raised the bar even higher.
“I think I can do better and I think I have to do better in Beijing because there are more competitors in my category and they are really strong,” she said.
Snowboarders Matthias Keller, Manuel Ness and Christian Schmiedt are making their Games debuts, as are Alpine skiing Christoph Glötzner and Leander Kress and Nordic skiers Marco Maier, Johanna Recktenwald and Leonie Walter.
Linn Kazmaier, the visually impaired Nordic skier, is the youngest competitor of the German team at 15 years old.
The oldest member of the team is Alexander Ehler, 52, who has a mixed relay bronze medal in PyeongChang and only started parasport in 2017 after a motorcycle accident.
There is no pressure on the group and the focus is on the 2026 Games in Italy.
“I am very happy to have nine newcomers to the team. From my point of view, it is too early to characterize any of these wonderful athletes as a star for the future,” said Dr Quade.
“Young athletes have to give their best and achieve good results. The Games will inspire them for their sports careers and their lives.
“If someone wins a medal in China, it will be wonderful, but the main focus for the future will be the Games in Milan and Cortina. »
There’s an iconic photo of seated biathlon gold medalist Martin Fleig overcome with emotion after winning the 15km event at PyeongChang 2018.
Fleig, who was born with spina bifida, is back to defend his title.