Via Lillehammer to Beijing – Team Para Nordic on track

Some eggs and potatoes. pancakes. That’s fine“- National coach Ralf Rombach orders his meal in the canteen in Canmore. At the first World Cup of the season in Canada, the 53-year-old tells how things are going with his protégés over eggs, potatoes and pancakes.

Rombach describes the corona measures and the associated paperwork to participate in top international sport as an “egg dance”. He says: “The big topic occupies the athletes very much. It requires an enormous amount of additional effort.”

There are some team members who are currently not vaccinated, but the association only sends vaccinated people to the Paralympics (March 4 to 13, 2022) in Beijing. Rombach explains: “Some of them are running out of time if they are still preoccupied with the question ‘yes or no?’. For some, the train has left.”

Second home Livigno is higher than Beijing

His athletes are probably fit. The German team trained for weeks in Livigno in northern Italy.

It didn’t just choose the location in Lombardy because of the good infrastructure: “The routes in Beijing are at an altitude of 1,700 meters. I’m not talking about classic altitude training, but rather about creating the intensities at altitude. “ So there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises in March, because Livigno is around 1,800 meters above sea level.

Martin Fleig fit – Andrea Eskau battered

For the German medal winners from the Paralympics 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the omens are completely different. According to Rombach, Martin Fleig, who ended an eight-year long losing streak for men with biathlon gold, is “on a very good path”.

The situation is different for Andrea Eskau, who missed a medal in fourth place in the road race at the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. Rombach says about the 49-year-old who, among other things, celebrated double gold in biathlon at the games in Pyeongchang: “Her health was struggling. She can perform well in selected competitions.” Maybe she will start less than four years ago, so the national coach.

Such mind games are probably not only found in the German team. the US-American Oksana Masters won the said handbike race in the summer. Her compatriot Kendall Gretsch prevailed over the competition in the triathlon. In addition, the Norwegian cross-country skier Birgit Skarstein won rowing gold. “This is a mega-level in the women’s sleigh”, pays Rombach his respect.

Clara Klug left Canmore after falling

Medal hopes have so far rested on the visually impaired Clara Klug and her guide Martin Härtl, who are entering their tenth season. The duo, who won biathlon bronze twice (10 and 12.5 km) in Pyeongchang, had to unexpectedly break off the World Cup this week in Canmore. “She wanted to make some space because an athlete came from behind. In the left turn, the outside ski slipped away.”, describes Rombach the fall of the 27-year-old in a really fast descent.

Unlike some other athletes, Klug sees nothing and can only rely on her hearing. According to Rombach, she first has to regain confidence in her sport after hitting the frozen ground: “She has to catch herself mentally first. You can’t estimate how much time it will take.”

Menje start at the World Cups

Nevertheless, there was also good news in the German team. Merle Menje has been elected Para-Young Talent of the Year. Votes from a committee of experts and an online vote by the German Disabled Sports Association were counted.

The 17-year-old is planned for the Para-Snow World Championships (January 8-23, 2022) in Lillehammer, but not for the Paralympics. Rombach says about the student: “Despite all the euphoria, she is at the beginning of her career. We don’t want to overload anyone.”

Change from the International Paralympic Committee to the FIS

Of the three World Cups on offer, parts of the German team travel to Canmore and Östersund, Sweden. The German athletes will skip the World Cup in Sapporo, Japan this winter. It takes place a week after the peak of the season in Beijing.

Soon the para-winter athletes will then also be officially integrated into the international ski association FIS. Its advantages are the organizational know-how including its own travel agency as well as the prospect of better marketing and prize money, according to Rombach: “I hope that our biathlon will get the position it deserves. It is important that this sport is developed accordingly.”

Stand: 08.12.2021, 11:34

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Via Lillehammer to Beijing – Team Para Nordic on track