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Learning from the greats

Talent days 2023

Talent days

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

“From never running before to racing against me in just three days – that's absolutely amazing,” says world record holder Johannes Floors. He has made it his mission to introduce children and young people with prostheses to the world of sport. That's why he is devoting three days of his time to the youngest at the “Talent Days” in order to work with Ottobock technicians to fit and extensively test sports prostheses. 

A weekend committed to the joy of movement

When Johannes enters the athletics hall in Leverkusen, there is a magical feeling in the air. The children get to swap their everyday prosthesis for a sports prosthesis for a weekend as part of Talent Days, organised by the medical technology manufacturer Ottobock together with the Parasport Verein TSV Bayer Leverkusen e.V. and the German Sports Association for Disabled (Deutscher Behindertensportverband e.V.). Then it's time to take the first steps and extensively test the prostheses. “I missed it so much” and “I have goose bumps all over my body” are just a few of the comments made over the weekend. 

The participants can rely on the expert support of professional athlete Johannes, multiple gold medallist Heinrich Popow and the trainers of the Para-Sport Verein. From coordination exercises, gait and running training to trying out new sports such as sitting volleyball, the children can look forward to many things. The 30-metre run at the end of the weekend always turns out to be the highlight. 

“We try to introduce the children and young people to using a sports prosthesis through lots of fun and games. We want them to realise that much more is possible with a prosthesis than they might currently think,” explains Johannes. This then also makes an impact in everyday life. Sport has been proven to have a positive influence on the cardiovascular system and the mental state. On top of that, they also become more confident in handling their everyday prostheses, which reduces the risk of falling, for example. Sport makes them more mobile and can therefore make seemingly large hurdles appear smaller as a result. 

At the same time, the weekend is a good opportunity to socialise and interact. It is often the case that the participants and their parents do not have any like-minded people in their immediate personal lives who know their concerns, questions and insecurities from personal experience. 

Sporting role models

Heinrich Popow has been alongside the participants and their parents since the beginning of the Talent Days. The former para-athlete is one of the founders and brings a lot of technical, sporting and also emotional experience due to his remarkable sporting career. “Heinrich said at the beginning that I would run by the end of the day at the latest. Then he showed me how to do it. And it worked. I never expected it,” one participant said happily. For Heinrich, sport is “the best medicine and the greatest motivation”, and that is exactly what he proves to the children during the Talent days.

“I can still remember what it was like for me back then. I didn't have the opportunity to run for 16 years myself. The fact that I can be there for the children's first attempts and show them how to do it properly is really a unique experience,” says Johannes. 

The gold medal winner at Tokyo himself repeatedly demonstrates that a prosthesis is not an obstacle to successful sports. He decided to have both lower legs amputated at the age of 16 due to a congenital fibular gene defect. Before that, walking and standing were extremely painful for him. He then decided to take up para athletics and has since achieved much competitive success. He is now training for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. 

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Anna Sophia Heinrich