Til Augustin presents his unusual hobby "wheelchair skating".
“Do what you want to do and go for it!!!” This crystal-clear message comes from someone who has taken a few low blows in terms of his health. Til Augustin from Chemnitz is not quite eighteen years old and has already spent “years” of his life at Leipzig University Hospital. But he says the hospital’s school is so “fab” that he’s sailing smoothly toward his Abitur (school leaving examination) two years from now. And Til has a special hobby: wheelchair skating.
German and world championships spur him on
Til first came into contact with wheelchair skating at a trade fair when he was fourteen, and his enthusiasm for this breakneck sport – at least it looks like a breakneck sport – was unstoppable. A national pro and a coach for wheelchair sports took him under their wings. “It would have been nothing without Patrick and Timon”, Til is sure. And that’s how it – and he – really became something. The three latest jewels in the crown of Til’s Wheelchair Motocross (WCMX) career are two German championships and a world championship in his young age group. HIs great role models David Lebuser and, in the USA, Aaron Fotheringham set milestones when they threw themselves and their wheelchairs into halfpipe and skate arenas.
When life gives you a wheelchair, find a skate park!
Of course, all this demands the right equipment. In addition to a helmet, back protection and pads for the arms and legs, an extremely resilient and highly customized wheelchair with special suspension is a must. Such a wheelchair is “essential for survival” for Til, who was born paralyzed from the navel downward with caudal regression syndrome and a back tumour, and has since undergone countless operations and most recently lost half his hip and a piece of his thigh bone. Donations financed his first sports wheelchair. Til’s aid supplier from Cologne works together with the Reha-Sport-Club Rhineland accordingly knows exactly what WCMX heroes need. There are about 100 such athletes of all ages in Germany. “WCMX is super inclusive”, Til says. “The new skate park in Chemnitz is almost barrier-free. Young people with and without handicaps all cavort there.”
Individually equipped aids are “essential for survival”
Til also uses his customized wheelchair in everyday life because it is the only one that is completely tailored to suit his stiff back, partly missing pelvis and corrected ribs. He recently has applied to his health insurer for a similar model in a version suitable for everyday use. “We’ll see if that goes through, but we haven’t found any other wheelchair that fits my physique like this.” An everyday wheelchair is important because although his family’s apartment is on the ground floor, it is not very spacious and stairsteps lead up to the front door.
Til’s mother Gundel Augustin supports her son in his hobby: “With eight special children, one of whom is especially special, you sometimes have to be more relaxed and simply let go. Besides, I always look fate in the face with optimism. When I trust my kids with something and let them learn from their experiences, everything usually goes well and they end up stronger afterwards.” Gundel accompanies her son to Leipzig for his many hospital stays. “That’s when my rescue chain of family and friends has to step in. I’m very grateful to them.”
This single mother is currently heading for her dream job: “I’ll be starting my new job this fall as a social pedagogue with administrative training. My task will be to coordinate the lives of refugees in our area after their initial reception here. All my talents will be needed.”
And what’s next for Til’s talent? What’s your dream, Til? He responds without missing a beat: “First, I want to get my driver’s license and then tour Europe with a converted camper van and a dog. That would be cool.” His mother has a down-to-earth dream of three weeks off, with nothing but free time for herself and her interests.
Inclusive sports facility: playing sports together at REHAB
Who knows, maybe you’ll meet Til and Gundel at REHAB? For example, at the Inclusive Sports Facility, where interested people with and without handicaps can get to know inclusive sports and try them out. In previous years, a daily program featuring wheelchair versions of rugby, fencing and basketball, as well as frisbee, inclusive field hockey and wheelsoccer, encouraged people to join in and play together. The program for the upcoming REHAB will be available in March 2022.