Future Paralympians meet Paralympic stars
Young amputees get inspiration at Ottobock Talent Days in Leverkusen, Germany
The images of prosthesis wearers Johannes Floors and Léon Schäfer sprinting and jumping their way to medals in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo are still fresh in our minds. Two weeks later, from 17 to 19 September 2021, the pair of athletes took these experiences along with them on a new mission: At Ottobock Talent Days at TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Floors and Schäfer shared their enthusiasm and motivation with the Paralympic athletes of tomorrow.
Children and adolescents with leg amputations got the chance to test their own sprinting and jumping abilities with sports prostheses in Leverkusen just shortly after the Paralympic Games in Tokyo – and the Talent Days were a huge hit with the young athletes. “I thought Talent Days were super cool. It was really fun to give it a go,” said one 18-year-old participant. Mihajlo, who also took part in last year’s event, added, “The Talent Days were fantastic. The atmosphere was the coolest thing about it, and you got to meet other people. The vibe has been incredible here, and I expanded my horizons as an athlete.”
The secret behind Talent Days
Under the guidance of Paralympic champion Heinrich Popow, more than 10 young athletes from the ages of two to 22 had the opportunity to discover Paralympic sports and sports prostheses. Their siblings were welcome to participate as well, and parents and orthotics and prosthetics professionals (O&P professionals) had time to exchange ideas and get valuable tips from experienced Ottobock technicians and orthopaedics company Lentes Prothesenwerkstatt. Andrea Cremer, Global Project Manager at Ottobock, highlighted how essential this type of communication is: “Talent Days are hugely important for the parents as well. They often have very few opportunities in their everyday lives to speak with other parents whose children are amputees, share experiences with each other and find out about the reimbursement process for sports prostheses, for example. This event gives them the opportunity to do that.”
Once the sports prostheses had been individually adjusted for each of the participants, they had fun trying them out for the first time together with Heinrich Popow. Throughout Talent Days, they were also joined by Paralympic athletics stars Léon Schäfer, Johannes Floors and Tom Sengua Malutedi along with legendary trainer Karl-Heinz Düe, who said, “When I arrived at the training grounds on Friday, it was fantastic to see how our athletes were there to support the kids while they took their first steps.”
The participants were then split into four groups according to their age and previous experience, as some had already attended the first Ottobock Talent Days event last year: “The old hands are a great help for the newcomers. The kids can follow their lead and see how much progress you can make in a year,” explained Bayer trainer Sara Grädtke. The participants became more and more confident with their sports prostheses as they moved from simple coordination exercises to games and throwing and on to sprinting.
The schedule also included a visit to BayArena stadium on Saturday evening. This was followed by dinner together, during which Floors, Schäfer and Malutedi answered all the questions the children and their parents had on their minds. And because some of the participants still had energy to burn, Johannes Floors accompanied a group of them on to Cologne, where they had fun doing yet another sport, bouldering – with or without a prosthesis.