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„I AM NOT DISABLED – I JUST CAN’T WALK“

04/20/16

„I am not disabled – I just can’t walk“

Alexandra Helbling, 22, is a wheelchair athlete. Her biggest goal is Rio. In order to reach it, she trains hard every day. 

By Eva Eder
 

Alexandra Helbling, when did you first hear of Wings for Life World Run?
Marcel Hug told me about it. At first, I couldn’t quite imagine – a race that is started at the same time around the globe, that’s in the middle of the night in some countries! I am stoked to be part of this. 

Thanks to Marcel Hug you are an elite athlete.
I saw him train when I was 11 years old. In that instant, I knew: That’s what I want to do! Ever since then the racing wheelchair has had a hold on me.  

What is it that fascinates you?
I like the competition. And I like the speed – we reach a top speed of up to 35 km/h. Marcel Hug even comes close to 40. 

You are completing a commercial education (KV) for elite athletes in Lucerne. What is your daily routine there?
This is a super institution. The education takes four years, a bit longer than usual, but in exchange, you go to school only in the mornings on four days of the week. That gives me plenty time to train in the afternoon. 

Your one big goal right now is Rio. When will you know if you're part of the Olympic games?
In wheelchair sport that is always an issue because it's extremely short notice.  We have competitions way into summer, and they all still count for the qualification process. I won't know before July. But right now things are looking good, last year worked out really well for me. 

Which ones are the distances where you believe you can achieve the best results?  
Unfortunately, there is no 200-meters race at the Olympic games. I like the middle distances of 400 und 800 meters. 

You once said the wheelchair was a part of you.
That’s true. I take good care of it, just like people take care of their legs. I hate it when there are scratches on it, from transport for example.  

Do you ever think about what it would be like if there was a cure for spinal chord injury?
Frankly: No, I don't. I like my life as it is now. I have met so many interesting people, many of them confined to a wheelchair as well, that I might not have met otherwise. I wouldn't wish for anything else. I am not disabled - I just can't walk. 

What if a fairy came along and granted you a wish, would it be Rio?
I have to fight for Rio myself, so no supernatural wishes there. I have the means to achieve that aim. A big wish would be riding on a two-wheeled motorbike one day.

When Alexandra Helbling (22) was six years old, she was involved in a car accident. Since then, she is a paraplegic. She is completing a commercial education (KV) for elite athletes in Lucerne.  In 2010, she was junior world champion, and in 2014 she won a bronze medal at the elite European championships in Swansea.

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