Trading Places for Paralympic Games
Published on August 30th, 2016
Already boasting a gold and two silver Paralympic medals, Germany’s Jens Kroker has seen it and done it all in the Sonar. However, heading in to the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, he was faced with a challenge he hadn’t ever thought of or wished for.
In full swing of Paralympic preparation, the German Sonar team of Kroker, Robert Prem, and Siegmund Mainka headed to the Sailing World Cup Hyeres in April 2016. Little did they know that this would be the start of a manic few months ahead of Rio 2016.
Prem unfortunately suffered a stroke in Hyeres which put the sailor in hospital. His teammates were obviously distraught, but the strength of the team shone through and like everything else in their lives, they looked for positives, as Kroker explains, “A tragedy can always turn in to an opportunity and that’s what we saw here.”
The opportunity that Kroker was talking about was another German sailor who was competing in Hyeres, 2.4 Norlin OD sailor, Lasse Klotzing, switching fleets to join the Sonar team.
“We have a sailor like Lasse who had a tough competition with Heiko Kroger [2.4mR Paralympic gold medallist] and he could never have made it to the Paralympics, and now he has an opportunity to go to the Paralympics and we can help him on that road.”
With Klotzing coming from the 2.4 Norlin OD and having Multiple sclerosis (MS), there was a problem with him taking Prem’s usual position in the boat which meant that changes had to be made to make it all work. Kroker made the decision to move from his usual position of helm and let Klotzing take the lead, “Lasse is actually a very good helmsman and I can concentrate much more with the experience I have on tactics and the dynamic inside the boat.”
With all the changes and Prem’s absence from the Sonar, the team could be forgiven for making excuses, but that’s never entered their minds, “We want to get the best for Germany. No one is feeling like ‘I’ve changed position and this is a position I have never had’. We just want to get the best out of it.”
Something that is on their mind though is their teammate Prem, “We will feel like we are sailing for him. If we win a medal he will for sure get one of ours. He was part of the journey. He was part of magic moments. We are missing him big time. He’s part of the team and always will be.”
The new team, with Prem in their heads and hearts, are taking the upcoming Paralympic Games as they come and are just going to make the most the tragedy and opportunity that has arisen, with Kroker calmly stating, “We will make the best out of it, and whatever comes is the best.”
Kroker and his teammates will begin sailing at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on the Escola Naval race area of Guanabara Bay.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will take place on September 7-18 with the sailing scheduled to be raced on September 12-17 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Competition will be held in three events: 2.4 Norlin OD (singlehanded), SKUD18 (doublehanded), and Sonar (triplehanded).
Source: World Sailing