Engines of Society - Lis Fautsch

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In cooperation with Losch Luxembourg, we regularly present women who have a very special impact on Luxembourg society through their professional careers or simply through their personal stories.

"I'm currently thinking about buying one!" That's what Lis Fautsch said as she was invited to test drive the new Volkswagen ID.3 a few months ago. Perfect timing. "But it's now or never!" For a good reason. It's pouring rain and the k-ways are out. "Beautiful Luxembourg weather", she laughs, hooded… and 8 months pregnant.

Lis Fautsch is 36 and the mother of a little boy. He will soon be joined by two brothers or sisters, as Lis is expecting twins: "It took us by surprise, but we soon came to our senses." She is the Head of Marketing and Communications at the Comité Olympique et Sportif Luxembourgeois, after 10 very different years. "I started at the COSL right at the end of my career."

Lis picks up the key to the ID.3. "That was the period that left the biggest mark on me, " she says on the way to the car. "I was in the army and a top-level athlete in the 'elite sports' section for 10 years." As a fencer, she rubbed shoulders with the very best in her sport and reached heights no-one else in Luxembourg reached so far. In the car park, a beautiful olive green bodywork catches the eye. Still charging, Lis unplugs it and climbs inside.

Symbol of modernity with a sleek design, defined by fluid lines and robust proportions, without any superfluous elements, the ID.3 turns heads with its bold, grille-less front end and welcoming-looking headlights. Its profile is energized by large wheels and an aerodynamic roofline. Its silhouette is completed by a rear characterized by animated lights.

Symbol of modernity with a sleek design, defined by fluid lines and robust proportions, the ID.3 turns heads.

Inside, the car stands out for its functional minimalism: a less-is-more dashboard and mainly touch-sensitive controls, one central screen and another behind the steering wheel. The cabin, designed as a bright, open space, offers spacious comfort, enhanced by customisation options such as ambient lighting and seats in a variety of finishes. "I really like it, " says Lis, who immediately switches on the ignition.

Not a sound: the ID.3 is 100% electric. Not a first for Lis, a committed electric car driver, who was won over by an ID.4. "I find it really pleasant to drive. When you step on the throttle, it's a real blast. I can't feel any difference any more." The transition happened on its own, without forcing it. A bit like her discovery of fencing and her passion for it.

Discovering fencing

"When I arrived at the Fieldgen, I read that there was a fencing option and I decided to check it out." She soon signed up with the LASEL (Ligues des Associations Estudiantines Luxembourgeoises), which was "led by Isabelle Deville", a multiple national champion. From there, everything went very quickly: "I won my first tournament straight away and caught the eye of Victor Szombathy, who was coach of the national team."

All of a sudden… "it was serious". From the junior category (16 to 17 years old) on, World Cups are on the programme. "We went to Trapani in Sicily. For me, it was impressive, but I got slaughtered. (laughs) On the international stage, the level is different from when you win the tournament in Arlon…" It was her first taste of reality, but it motivated her to redouble her efforts.

At 18, she asked herself what she was going to do. "I'd finished school and you couldn't make much of a living from fencing… so I went to study. Communications and sports journalism were things I'd always been passionate about." She went to Vienna… where there wasn't really a big fencing club. "I played less. It wasn't the best of the best in terms of level…"

In her final year of the Masters, though, her fencing results took a quantum leap. "I won two satellite tournaments, the level just below the World Cups. I said to myself: 'Ah… if you gave it your all once again…' I wanted to find out how far I could go. I was already 25, 26, so I was relatively old, which isn't too bad for fencing, but if you really want to have a big career… The Russians, they start at 10. (laughs)"

A discussion with Heinz Thews, the COSL's technical director at the time, broke the deadlock: "I was wondering how I could turn pro, and he suggested the army. But he also told me that if I went to the army, I'd have to find somewhere to train seriously, because in Luxembourg there were simply no fencers. Fortunately, my husband followed me wherever I went. (laughs) We ended up in Heidenheim, Germany."

A 5-hour drive from the Grand Duchy, Heidenheim is within reach of the ID.3, which, with its 58 kWh battery, offers a range of 426 km for the Pro version. The ID.3 Pro S (77 kWh) goes even further: 546 km. "When I switched to electric, I was slightly sceptical because of what people were saying. 'When you go on holiday, you don't get anywhere because your range is so small.' But I don't have any problems."

"From home to work, I'm very close. In Luxembourg, my distances are very small. Sometimes I can drive for 2 weeks on a single fill-up, and when I'm at home, with the charging point, it's quickly charged." And charging on the move works just as well. At its maximum charging speed, the ID.3 goes from 0 to 80% in just 35 minutes for the Pro and 30 minutes for the Pro S – tested and approved by Lis.

"We went to Switzerland for a week in February. Yes, you have to plan your itinerary a little more precisely, but today, with Google, you quickly find the stations around you…" Google or, more importantly, VW's eGuide, an innovative technology that helps you plan charging points while optimising routes for longer journeys. "You park the car, plug it in, go for lunch and when you come back, it's already almost full."

Success and disappointment

Heidenheim, Bundeskader training camp. The year is 2012. "All of a sudden, I was training with people who were in the top 16 in the world. I was really well looked after." While the results were slow in coming, Lis suddenly made a top 64. "In fencing, it's the first jump. That's what gives you a lot of points in the world rankings." A result that became more and more frequent, then regular. In line with what was then her ultimate goal: the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

A goal anything but easy: "In fencing, you normally qualify by team. If you don't have one, like Luxembourg, it's very difficult." In that case, you have to qualify via the world rankings or by winning the European Qualification Tournament. "I went to the tournament. I finished top 8. I was beaten by a Swede who was one league better than me. In this kind of tournament, you're not allowed to have a league that's better than you."

4 years of work ended in disappointment. "Then I said to myself that I was going to try again, for Tokyo 2020. The work was starting to pay off so I said to myself that it was too early to stop." And with good reason, because it was during this period that she achieved what no Luxembourger had done before her, starting with an exceptional 7th place at the 2017 Euros.

"17, 18, 19 – those were great years because I was at the top of my game. I was fit and mentally strong. I was at the peak of my career… and everything was pointing towards Tokyo." A programme focused on the qualifying tournament due to take place in April 2020, with the World Cup in Budapest in 2019. Lis excelled there: "I took the 7th place, which propelled me into the top 30 in the world rankings." A historic result, it still is today, for Luxembourg.

Rain, clouds, clear spells, wind, then rain again. The weather can't make up its mind as the ID.3 enters Wormeldange. Nostalgia slowly catches up with Lis. "I can't remember how we go up." Phone, CarPlay, Waze: problem solved. From the Wormer Koeppchen, a chapel established in 1925 that overlooks one of the most famous vineyards in the region, an olive-colored silhouette winds through the hairpin turns and comes to a stop at the edge of the vineyards.

While Dark Olivine Green blends perfectly with the landscape, the ID.3 is also available in Moonstone Grey, Costa Azul, Glacier White, Grenadilla Black, Kings Red and Scale Silver. With a succession of long straights and narrow bends, it offers impressive driving performance thanks to its rear architecture. The model's 150 and 204 bhp engines, with a maximum torque of 310 Nm, make the VW responsive, quick off the line and quick to accelerate at low speeds.

In terms of roadholding, it is agile and offers a very calm driving experience. Thanks to the responsive steering and rear-wheel-drive configuration, the car performs well in dynamic driving, ensuring a pleasurable driving experience. The vehicle's mass, mainly due to the battery located under the cab floor, contributes to a low centre of gravity, improving stability.

Lis gets out of the car and heads towards the chapel. A breathtaking view of Wormeldange, the Moselle and its vineyards awaits her. "I associate this place with my grandmother, " she says. "When I was little, we often came here. We used to go for great walks. I loved it. It's one of the most beautiful places in Luxembourg." You feel like you're on top of the world. Like Lis at the Budapest World Cup… for just a few seconds.

"I was unlucky." In the quarter-finals, she came up against Nathalie Moehllhausen, an Italian player with Brazilian roots who was regularly in the world's top 10. "We played a great match. In fencing, you play for 3 times 3 minutes. If the time's up and we're tied, we play for another minute. If we're still tied, it's time for the sudden death." The next touch wins. It's come to this.

"If I touched her at that moment, I would win a medal." Complete silence, despite an arena packed to the brim. Nothing but the opponent and her sword in her field of vision, despite the Luxembourgish supporters who had made the trip. Her whole body tingling. And touch. "I took off my mask and started to celebrate. A World Cup medal – wow!" Then a cold shock. "The referee said there was no touch."

"I was standing there asking him why. He told me I was off the track, that I'd touched the ground. I said: 'Video, video!' He went to look and… Pff (laughs)… It was a really stupid situation because her big head was hiding everything… But you could see from my movement that the sword couldn't touch the ground. It wasn't low enough. If he'd just looked a bit more closely… " No medal. 7th.

"I had the disadvantage that Moellhausen had a well-known and renowned coach. Next to them, I was the little Luxembourgish girl. The referee was also pro-Russian, our entire (international, ed. note) federation is Russian and she was friends with the president. I realised that I didn't stand a chance… I wanted to go on strike, sit there and protest. But nothing worked. It still hurts. To this day. But it made me stronger.

Her preparations for Tokyo were turned upside down by Covid. Then Lis got pregnant… "Doing top-level sport as a pregnant woman was something that didn't exist in Luxembourg. For my coach, it was a shock to learn that I was expecting a child. He said to me: 'Oh okay, so it's over…' I replied: 'No, nothing's over. It's only just begun.' (laughs)"

For future generations

It's possible to train during pregnancy. But you need to be well supported – a role that the LIHPS (Luxembourg Institute for High Performance in Sports) has adopted in the case of Lis – and be aware of your limits. The VW ID.3 also offers its driver the best possible support. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistant, autonomous emergency braking system, reversing camera, parking sensors and much more. Safety is as important as driving pleasure.

"For my coach, it was a shock to learn that I was expecting a child. He said to me: 'Oh okay, so it's over…' I replied: 'No, nothing's over. It's only just begun.' (laughs)"

Lis Fautsch

The rain intensifies. Lis goes back to the car and switches on the ignition. "It's funny, I can see information being displayed on the road." Among the car's aids, it's the augmented reality head-up display, which projects important information directly into the windscreen's field of vision, such as speed or road signs, that impresses her most. A little bonus that completes a futuristic navigation system.

Freshly pregnant with her first child, Lis went to the Deutsche Sport Hochschule in Cologne to find out more: "You always hear the same thing. If your body is used to doing something, you can continue to do it during pregnancy. You just need to reduce your training to 60 or 70%. That's an important point for me to make: you shouldn't stop just because you want to get pregnant."

"The day before I gave birth, I was still on the fencing piste. I wasn't fighting, but I was going through the motions as much as I could." After the birth of her son, she tried Tokyo again, in vain, before retiring. "I had my reasons, but my pregnancy wasn't one of them. I needed some distance from fencing." Since then, Lis has decided to raise awareness of the issue. Her triumphs have made her a role model.

"Young girls sometimes write to me. It makes me proud." She is aware of her responsibility. "With your story, you can show them that it's possible. If the passion is strong enough, why not give it a try? I think our society thinks too much about money… Who's still prepared to make a sacrifice for their passion? What I was doing at 25 was experimenting. That's very important and priceless."

Today, her fencing career is far behind her. Well, not that far. "My main tasks at the COSL are social networking, dealing with journalists, keeping in touch with our sponsors and planning different events with them." What's closest to her heart is developing Team Lëtzebuerg: "But also to show people what's behind it."

It's been 2 years since Lis stopped fencing. She's no longer in the spotlight. She still tries to impact Luxembourgish sport, which she has marked indelibly, but behind the scenes. "How many Luxembourg champion titles do I have? No idea… At the end of my career, it was just a nice-to-have… 13 or 14? Now, I'd like to try again. For fun and because Anna Zens is really into it!"

Lis' twins were born in October. She is now the proud mother of 3 children. At the same time, she is looking ahead to the next Olympics – Paris 2024 – but this time without the ambition of taking part. "We can't wait. It's so close: we can leave in the morning, watch the competitions and come back in the evening." In one and a half charges of a Volkswagen ID.3.