Interview with Anna Schaffelhuber
On 16 May 2019 Anna Schaffelhuber will moderate the opening of the REHAB - trade fair for rehabilitation, therapy, care and inclusion (16 - 18 May 2019) at Karlsruhe Trade Fair Centre. KMK News spoke with the successful monoskier and Paralympics winner about her sport, her life and her plans for the future.
You started monoskiing when you were just five years old. Why did you choose this sport and later pursue it competitively?
I found the combination of freedom, speed and nature that was exactly right for me in monoskiing very early in my life. As soon as I sit on a monoski, I can glide to all the wonderful places where other people go on two skis. And I simply love to be outdoors in nature and among the mountains.
What equipment do you need for your sport?
Monoski, ski, crutch skis (short poles), helmet, ski goggles and winter clothes.
Alongside your sport and various social projects, you are also studying for certification as a teacher of business and mathematics in secondary schools. How do you juggle all these activities and interests?
It definitely takes plenty of planning, coordination and self-management. I always try to accomplish as much as possible during summer months so I’ll have more free time to devote to the sport in winter. Naturally I have often thought that a student’s life could be organized much more simply; but when winter comes, I again realize why I do all this. It has always been very important to me to be independent of sport and to always have a “Plan B”, respectively a concept for the time after my career as a sportswoman.
We are delighted that you will be moderating the opening of REHAB 2019. What do you expect from the rehabilitation trade fair?
This will be my first time in Karlsruhe and I am very excited to see if I can discover one or two new thing for me there. I am also eagerly looking forward to many conversations and pleasant encounters. The most important aspects of a trade fair for me are the opportunities it offers for sharing ideas and finding clever little solutions to utilize in daily life.
As in past years, REHAB 2019 will again host the “inclusive sports complex”, where visitors with and without handicaps can acquaint themselves with and participate in inclusive sports such as wheelchair rugby, inclusive hockey and wheelsoccer. Which sport would you like to try?
Hmm... I am especially curious about wheelchair tennis and cross-country skiing at the moment. I’ve tried them both, but only sporadically and without the perfect equipment, so I have chosen those sports to be the next entries on my list!
You are an ambassador for the medical technology company Otto Bock, which manufactures prosthetics, orthoses and wheelchairs, and which is also an exhibitor at REHAB. What features are especially important for you in a wheelchair?
First of all, a wheelchair must be stable, lightweight and have a chic look. The wheelchair is ubiquitous and an object of daily use in my life. Every metre I move, I also move the wheelchair, whether I propel it up a hill or lift it into a car, so I want to eliminate as much unnecessary weight as possible while simultaneously preserving a reasonable degree of stability for this “utilitarian object”. I found the optimal balance of these two criteria at Otto Bock. And beyond that… it also looks chic ;-)
The exhibitors at REHAB present newly developed market-ready products as well as research projects, for example, a stair-climbing wheelchair. In your opinion, which assistive devices are not yet available on the market? What would you like to see developed in the next few years?
Ooh, that’s a difficult question. If I knew exactly what things are missing, I would already be involved in intensively planning their creation! I have a few suggestions for improvements. One has to do with a handbike for trails in the mountains. In general, I would like to be able to move more freely in nature and on mountainous terrain, both in summer and in winter. Will wheelchair users someday be able to go on skiing tours? Hmm….
What do you generally want from society in dealing with people with disabilities?
Simply that people with disabilities are treated normally. I personally always like it best when people ask me before they feel afraid of contact. Of course, barrier-free accessibility is a fundamental topic: I view it as the linchpin of society! For example, if I cannot get into a cinema, a town hall or a bakery, then I surely cannot participate in everyday life in a normal way and I also cannot be in the midst of society. People in Germany have talked about and debated this topic for a long time already. That was good because reflection should definitely be encouraged. But now the time has come to take action! Germany can learn a lot from other countries.
What are your plans for the near future, both as an athlete and personally?
I am always full of ideas and I am looking forward to new challenges. First I will complete my studies at university in March 2019. Then I will get married and build a house. My situation as an athlete is just fine for me, as it is. I no longer have to prove anything: I can try things out and take risks. Basically I see myself at the start and that is the most important thing for me right now.
Anna Schaffelhuber was born in Regensburg in 1993. Dependent on a wheelchair since her birth, she began monoskiing as a child. Since then, she has developed into the world’s most successful monoskier, winning seven gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, Sochi and Vancouver as well as nine gold medals at world championships. Schaffelhuber was named German Disabled Sportswoman of the Year in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. She was voted World Disabled Sportswoman in 2015.
About REHAB Karlsruhe
As one of the world’s leading trade fairs for rehabilitation, therapy, care and inclusion, REHAB has been a must-attend event on the calendars of rehabilitation professionals, people with disabilities and their relatives every two years since 1980. REHAB presents the latest rehabilitative, orthopaedic and medical-technology products, as well as innovations for care and therapy. Marketplaces bring together the fair’s diverse topics and promote lively sharing among participants. Numerous lectures, live demonstrations, discussions and opportunities for further training round out the fair’s supporting programme. The twentieth edition of REHAB will take place at Karlsruhe Trade Fair Centre from 16 to 18 May 2019.