NSFor more than two decades, professional cyclist Michael Tuber has been a trusted medal collector and spokeswoman for Para sports. In Tokyo, he was rewarded for it even before his Paralympics races: along with Marek Miller, captain of the wheelchair basketball team, he led the German delegation as the flag bearer at Tuesday’s opening ceremony.
For Teuber, this is already his sixth match, and so far he has won five gold medals and one silver. “The fact that I can carry the flag is the icing on the cake,” said the 53-year-old from Munich. “There is no greater honor.”
Globalism: Mr. Tuber, your first games were 21 years ago. When you look at the development of Paralympic sport as part of society, how satisfied are you?
mature: In the meantime, Paralympic sports are becoming more known, the coverage of Paralympic Games is much wider, and as a result, special sports for people with special needs have reached a certain limit in society, which is a matter of joy. However, I must say that as a young athlete I believed that the steps for greater recognition, equality and inclusion would come faster. We’ve made great strides, but I think we’re still far from our goal.
Globalism: When was the biggest step in development?
mature: In my opinion, between 2006 and 2008, when Federal President Horst Koehler directly and successfully addressed the major German companies in obtaining support for semi-outdoor sports, on the other hand he ensured tremendous recognition through a high level of personal commitment and attendance at the Games. ARD and ZDF also followed suit and reports on Beijing 2008 increased tenfold compared to Athens 2004.
Globalism: “I think the sport of Paralympic athletes is often underestimated and laughed at,” says cyclist Robert Forstman, now Kay Cruz’s first-time mentor. What’s your opinion?
mature: The Paralympics are all about high performance, just like the Olympics. Some smile to semi-athletes because they do not achieve the same distances or speeds, others admire them for their courage and desire to achieve incredible performance despite their handicap. One must ask oneself: what are the most characteristic features, and what am I really ready to do with myself?
Globalism: Do you feel valued enough – by society, as well as by associations and the International Olympic Committee?
mature: Society can only recognize what is recognizable … So the media, and above all public broadcasters in the context of their programmatic mandate, as well as governments, public institutions and politicians must express their appreciation with their means. That has already improved tremendously in the past 20 years, but there is still much more to be done. The relative distance between the IOC and the Olympic professional federations for quasi-sports is also related to institutional separation, in Germany they are often not directly responsible for quasi-sports. So I am not surprised that appreciation is not expressed here every day. That’s why we have the German Disabled Sports Federation.
Globalism: It is still rare for Paralympic athletes to train with novices at the Olympics. This is correct? Or can we no longer benefit from each other?
mature: I think Paralympic and Olympic athletes can benefit from common forms of training and that this should happen more often. However, this often conflicts with the fact that parasports are not incorporated into the respective professional association. Therefore, the interest in joint training is rather low, and there is development potential here.
Globalism: And how far does Germany compare to other countries – is the impression that Great Britain and Australia are ahead, correct?
mature: It’s hard for me to make a general statement here. As for cycling, I would say that countries like Great Britain, Holland or Australia, where bicycles have been incorporated into the National Cycling Federation, are very strong. Cycling has access to experts and resources from the professional association. We are also in a very good position, especially after the reform of competitive sports in 2016. However, in Germany, most Paralympic sports are organized with parallel structures under the umbrella of DBS, which means that we have to actively promote cooperation with professional federations if we want to develop their experts and resources for disabled sports.
Globalism: So what do you wish for the disabled movement?
mature: I would like the Olympics and Paralympics to be seen as more than a unit, as did London 2012. The Olympics and Paralympics as a global movement for fair sport and a peaceful encounter between competing nations, it sounds good.
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