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Interview with Paralympic champion Verena Bentele: “The whole town was upside down, like now with Kazmaier and Walter” – Paralympics Zeitung

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At this point, the team reports to the Paralympics newspaper, a project of the Tagesspiegel and the German Social Accident Insurance. All the texts of our digital series can be found here. You can find all the latest news on our blog and on the social media channels of the Paralympics newspaper. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Our reader survey can be found here.

Ms. Bentele, Linn Kazmaier and Leonie Walter, two young athletes from the German Nordic ski team, won a gold medal at the Beijing Paralympic Games. What sign is it based on?

It was really cool to see you both. A strong offspring is important for para-sport. Normally in international competitions you always see the same faces over a longer period of time. With Linn Kazmaier and Leonie Walter, they are now starting young German para-athletes, who are very good at the sport. In addition, his results at the Paralympic Games are proof of his successful work in cross-country skiing and biathlon.

Do you still remember your first start with the national shirt?

My first outing in a national jersey in a major competition was a World Championship and that was a bit depressing for me. He had a bad cold and was in agony. But I was still super proud and super excited, even though nobody expected anything from me. I just wanted to have fun. Of course, you have much higher expectations of yourself, and the excitement before the competition is also good, so you can get your best performance through adrenaline.

When he won his first gold medal in Nagano in 1998, he was 16 years old. How did early success change your life?

I still remember the euphoria and what it was like for me to come home. The whole town was upside down back then, just like it is now with Kazmeier and Walter. For the first time, the focus was not on my disability but on my athletic performance. Medals and sporting success were formative in my life and will no doubt be the case for the two young athletes as well.

They celebrated a total of twelve Paralympic Games victories and became four-time world champions. What moments of your sports career do you remember the most?

In particular, I like to look back at training sessions where I felt like I had learned something new, internalized a movement sequence, or understood a new technique. And of course, it’s always a great feeling to walk through a stadium during a competition, where everyone is cheering and you know you’re about to win the gold medal. To be panting at the finish line, to be completely exhausted, but to know that it was enough, is a nice feeling that, to be honest, you don’t feel every day at work, at least not in my political work.

Verena Bentele won twelve gold medals at the Paralympic Games.Photo: Imago

What lessons do you draw from defeats for everyday life?

You have to find ways to get up again, train, hold on and think about the next competition. This is a very big gain and a good opportunity to train in sports, because you need it again and again in everyday life.

Where does your ambition and perseverance come from?

Sport has certainly given me some stamina, which I need to get through the tough phases at work and still have energy after a long day. For me, sport has always meant team spirit.

Which way?

For me, sport also meant putting together a good team that I can trust. A team that you can be successful with and where you know that the team’s performance is just as important to others, not just my own. We also need it in life, whether in private relationships or at work.

How do these functional constellations arise?

For me it has always been a bit of luck, chance and of course an intense search. Then I tried cross country skiing and biathlon with different people and saw who was a good match. But it had to work for both the fellow runner and myself. It was difficult to find someone who was passionate about my sports goals with me and who was not alone on the road by himself. It is also not easy to find someone who can keep up and wants to train so much.

After his career in winter sports, he achieved other important sports achievements, such as climbing Kilimanjaro or several cycling marathons. How do you come up with your extraordinary ideas?

I’ve always had fun challenging myself and seeing what I can get out of my physical and mental strength. When my friends tell me about cycling marathons, I immediately get excited. I find it totally fascinating what a body can do and how you can get by with anything if you have a goal. I find it totally crazy.

Do you have other adventures planned?

Yeah, I’m just thinking. With the pandemic, it’s not that easy right now, but there are still really nice and crazy bike races going on. 300 kilometers around Vetternsee in Sweden would be great. Or something in Germany. I like it when it’s a bit longer. Personally, I am fascinated by 40 kilometers less than 200 kilometers.

adventure, here I come. Ten years ago, Verena Bentele threw herself from the Park Inn Hotel in Berlin from a height of 125 meters.

Ms. Bentele, after her sports career, became Federal Government Commissioner for the Disabled, is a member of the SPD and Vice President of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). why did you decide engage socially and politically?

Politics was always exciting for me, we always talked about politics in the family. From the beginning I was convinced that if you want to change something, you had better do something yourself. Nothing changes if you stay home and scold. I firmly believe that change can only be achieved by championing it and investing in making change happen. I think that’s really important and that’s why I’ve always been interested in political engagement.

How important is inclusion in German high-level politics?

It still doesn’t have the state I’d like it to have. The area of ​​inclusion is often full of social or health issues, but it is a cross-cutting issue that has to play a role everywhere. Also in sports. If, for example, sports facilities are being built, refurbished or renovated, accessibility must be an important criterion. The promotion of competitive sports is good, but during the pandemic we saw that the sport still does not have the status that we, as the Executive Committee of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), would like. Much more time and energy should have been invested, also politically, in making sport possible for people with disabilities, children and young people and the elderly. Something really has to happen.

How can people with disabilities motivate themselves to exercise?

The Paralympic Games clearly show what sporting achievements people with disabilities are capable of. Sport makes an important contribution to greater independence in everyday life and this, in turn, is a central component of inclusion. It is not only about creating compensation for disadvantages in everyday life, but also about giving people with disabilities the opportunity to play sports. Rehabilitation sport, as promoted by the German statutory accident insurance, is an important component.

How do you see your role as vice chair of the DOSB?

We have decided not to have any departmental responsibility. We distribute tasks, projects and responsibilities as they arise. As a former Paralympic athlete, I am not only responsible for the Paralympic Games. We would like to broaden the perspective and make the perspectives more open. I see it as a very good approach. Of course, I will continue to support my passion, Paralympic sport, and also the cooperation between the DOSB and the National Paralympic Committee (NPC).

What should change in the cooperation between the DOSB and the NPC?

I would like to see an improvement in the structures and progress in the discussions with the international federations and the organizers of competitions. There should be more hand-in-hand work to create more opportunities and better framework conditions for Paralympic sports. There is still a need.

Russian and Belarusian participants were excluded from the Beijing Paralympic Games, the war in Ukraine overshadowed the games. How do you see the connection? sports and politics?

Personally, I feel very sorry for the athletes, but I think the IPC’s decision was absolutely correct. Unfortunately, sport has long had a political component. For me, sport means fair competition according to the rules. Sport must be at the service of international understanding and people and not political systems.

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