Germany is one of Paralympic sport’s powerhouses. At Rio 2016, it finished sixth on the medal table, clocking up 57 medals – 18 gold, 25 silver and 14 bronze.
While Germany has sent athletes to every Paralympic Games, in the recent years, the team have been especially strong in athletics and cycling, nine and eight golds, respectively at Rio 2016, with the other gold coming in Para triathlon; and it is in these fields that they are again expected to excel.
The German Paralympics team for Tokyo comprises of a 134 strong line-up and will compete in 18 of the 22 sports, including for the first time in Para Boccia.
A total of 43 athletes will be making their Paralympic debut, mostly in Para swimming – for eight out of 11 swimmers, this will be their first Games.
The youngest participant of the squad is 16-year-old Para athlete Lise Petersen while the oldest is 66-year-old Para dressage athlete Heidemarie Dresing.The most experienced athlete is javelin thrower Martina Willing. The 61-year-old had made her debut at Barcelona 1992 Paralympic Games and Tokyo will be her eighth Games.
Johannes Floors, who won gold as part of the men’s 4x100m relay in Rio, is potentially the standout star. In a Tokyo dress rehearsal in June 2021, Floors smashed his own men’s 200m T62 World record, clocking 21.04 seconds at the Leverkusen Para Athletics International.
“Breaking the World record is always something great,” he said. “I didn’t expect that, but running that fast gives me confidence to be even better in Tokyo.”
Floors also goes into the 100m T64 and 400m T62. Leon Schaefer, the current T63 long jump world record holder, is expected to shine, too.
Nicknamed ‘The Blade Jumper’, Markus Rehm is another most recognisable athletes in the German squad. He will be keen to take Tokyo by storm.
A three-time Paralympic gold medalists mark of 8.48 meters is not only a world record but would have been enough to win gold at 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. Rehm had also claimed the gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.
Birgit Kober, another Rio 2016 gold medallist and still going strong at 50, is favoured to repeat her success in the F36, while fellow shot putter Franziska Liebhardt, the World record holder in F37, is nicely positioned to make it to the top of the podium.
In cycling, Michael Teuber is expected to be a national hero once more, even at the age of 53. Teuber won gold in the men’s road time trial H4 at Rio 2016, his fifth Paralympic title overall, to go with more than 20 world titles.
While for the women’s side, Annika Zeyen has shown excellent form lately. The wheelchair basketball gold medallist from London 2012 has found success in her new sport, winning back-to-back World Championship titles in the road race H3 and is hoping to add another Paralympic title to her resume.
“To try to beat the guys one more time, well, my life does not depend on that, but it’s nice,” Teuber said. “I’m also thankful cycling is a sport where endurance is a main factor. That is why I can do it at my age.”
Martin Schulz, one of the best swimmers in Para triathlon, is likewise determined to retain his Rio crown. And he is confident. “For weeks, I have felt in training that things are going really well,” he said in April 2021, after a win in Rotterdam. “This feeling obviously didn’t deceive me, I was finally able to prove my great shape.”
Where else can they do well? Traditionally, Germany has been strong in equestrian, table tennis, swimming, women’s wheelchair basketball and judo, and this time around it has a solid men’s goalball team.
While it is unlikely to be their best Games – Germany was second in the medal table in 1992 and third in 1996, though, overall, levels dipped from 2000 to 2012 – the improved performance at Rio suggests they are on an upward curve.
Dr. Karl Quade, who is traveling to the games for the 13th time as Chef de Mission of the German team, said: “Despite the difficult conditions caused by the corona pandemic, the postponement of the games and the complex qualification, we were able to put together a powerful team again. Of course we will experience completely different Games with many restrictions and less togetherness. The happiness and cordiality in the Paralympic Village and the atmosphere in the competition venues, which the Paralympic athletes usually only experience in this form at the Games, will certainly be missing. Despite everything, we will be incredible as we have well-prepared athletes.”