Like so often in life, Michael’s plans were entirely different: he was a passionate ice hockey player and had a big future ahead of him, an opinion shared by Kevin Schläpfer, coach of the Biel ice hockey club in Switzerland (National League A). But it was during his first training session with the elite A Juniors of SC Bern that Michael suffered a devastating cerebral haemorrage.
Meeting Michael today you would hardly believe that doctors at the time gave him little, or no chance, of survival. Instead you are met with a dedicated athlete who betrays nothing of the difficulties that he has already faced and overcome in his young life. After three weeks in an induced coma, he had to start again from the very beginning: learning to speak, think, move and walk.
Michael spent many months in hospitals as well as in a rehabilitation center and a day-care clinic. But he very quickly found a positive way of dealing with his situation. While his dreams of ice hockey were dashed, it was during rehab that he was first introduced to wheelchair table tennis. And with the same élan that he previously showed for ice hockey, he now trains with one sole, but significant, objective: to qualify for the Paralympics.
It is well known that table tennis is a sport that requires quick reactions. What is perhaps less well known is that with the shorter distances involved in wheelchair table tennis, response times have to be even faster. The wheelchair that he uses for his sport is a küschall® KSL. Michael has this to say about his chair: “I really love the high quality of the chair and its lightness. I am delighted to represent the küschall® brand, not only in sport but also in society, generally.”
Michael has already notched up some major sporting successes (for example gaining the title of Swiss Champion in the wheelchair table tennis doubles), but professionally things are going well too: he is currently on work experience with the Football Association of Northwestern Switzerland.
Where does he draw his strength from we asked him: “Firstly, my family and friends have always been supportive: they are always there for me. Secondly, during my time playing ice hockey I learned what it is to fight, to prevail and to persevere!”
And with all his sporting and professional commitments is there still time for hobbies? Michael says he makes the time. He likes to go out with friends, watch his brother’s ice hockey matches (he plays in the 1. Liga (1st League)) and also loves to watch his sister compete in track and field events.
He also enjoys travelling: his favourite destinations are Romania and Italy. When asked if, as a wheelchair user, he finds flying as difficult and troublesome as most wheelchair users, he answers positively: “Not at all, quite the contrary. As a wheelchair user, you get preferential treatment everywhere: you don’t have to wait in those long queues.” Typical Michael – he sees something positive in every situation!
We wish Michael all the best in working towards achieving his ambitious goals. With his optimistic attitude and overall friendly and natural manner, we’re sure he’ll do it! We are delighted to be able to support him in this and, of course, we will keep in contact with him and report back again on his future successes.