The journey to Paralympia

By Laura TomassiniAnouk Flesch Switch to German for original article

Dubai, London, Rio - Tom Habscheid has already stood in many athletics facilities, as the shot-putter is currently one of the international top riders in his category. The 34-year-old now again showed that he can do quite a bit despite his handicap when preparing for the Paralympic Summer Games in Tokyo starting tomorrow.

"Are we supposed to feel sorry for you now, or are you doing this voluntarily?" With a serious expression and a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth, Fernand Heintz teases his sports protégé as he stands sweating in front of the weight bench after a round of hurdling. In preparation for the Summer Paralympic Games 2021, Tom Habscheid trains three times a week with his coach at the HPTRC (High Performance Training & Recovery Center) at the Coque, in addition to his shot put training on the field in Dudelange. The 34-year-old and his mentor have been a team for six years, and have both spent the past weeks and months to prepare physically and mentally for the Summer Paralympic Games in Tokyo from August 24th to September 5th.

"The weeks before the meeting are crucial, then we do a lot of explosive training with short sets and light weights", Tom explains the planning. On his smartphone, the athlete can see exactly what exercises his coach has planned for the day, because they are precisely tailored to his performance. First indoor cycling to warm up, then deadlift series and then hurdle race and bench press to build explosiveness and strength. "Tom trains as a Paralympic athlete no differently than anyone else, he practices runs, jumps, builds muscle and goes to training camps. Only endurance, we can't get that with him and his leg", Fernand says.

From football player without a license to para-athlete

The retired athlete was himself a long-time competitor and brought home the national championship title a total of 19 times. However, he and his athlete have not made it onto the podium together, yet the "oldie" still knows a thing or two about teaching the youngster. "Once, Tom eagerly announced on Facebook that he would flatten his coach. That didn't work out so well, though", Fernand reveals with a smile. "He's just an old fox", Tom admits with a shrug of his shoulders, "but when I'm a coach someday, I'm going to beat up my athletes just as much as he's beating me up now."

The duo knows each other inside and out, because as a world-class athlete, Tom spends almost more time with his coach than he does at home. His career as a semi-professional shot putter started rather in a roundabout way, because almost ten years ago, participation in the Paralympics was still a long way off. "I always played soccer as a youngster, but never got a license because of my handicap, so I could never really play sports officially", he recalls. In 2012, the Useldange native saw the campaign for the Paralympic Games in London on television – and was thrilled. "That didn't exist to that extent in Luxembourg at all."

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