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Oliver Anthofer – living life to the full!

Despite a motorcycle accident, which left him paralysed, Oliver Anthofer had an extraordinary career as a top athlete and now enjoys a perfectly happy family life and an extremely active lifestyle.

 

A motorcycle accident changed Oliver Anthofer’s life forever twenty-three years ago. The initial feelings of despair experienced by the twenty-year-old, when faced with spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair, were soon replaced by a new positive outlook on life that has resulted in his extraordinary sporting successes in cross-country skiing, biathlon and relay. Winning nine medals in five Paralympics and eight world titles speaks volumes about the man.

I wonder how Oliver is after his first year as a married man and decide to ring him up and see what he’s up to these days. My curiosity pays off: Oliver proudly announces that he and his wife have just had their first child. This is great news and something that should be reported on the küschall® website. I suggest we meet for a face-to-face interview.

Full of anticipation, I ring the doorbell of the Anthofer family home in Vomp, a small and tranquil place near Innsbruck in Austria. I’m warmly welcomed. A little while later I’m sitting in a restaurant with Oliver, his wife Claudia and Simon, their baby boy. Simon is a lively little fellow who was three months premature – like his father, he just didn’t have the patience to wait to experience life! The joy of his parents is palpable and I feel privileged to share in their happiness.

Since the birth of his son life, of course, has changed dramatically. Oliver, who works for the Austrian Railway (ÖBB) no longer competes as a professional sportsman: “When you have a family your priorities change.” he says. Oliver loves family life and enjoys it to the full. But it hasn’t affected his love of sport and physical challenge. Even though he no longer takes part in official competitions he still trains when he gets the chance. During the interview I discover a man who is very ‘at one’ with nature, who loves the mountains and takes every opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the natural environment. He shows me an impressive collection of semi-precious stones and crystals that he has collected during his forays into the mountains over the years. 

Oliver points at the mountain ridges in the distance. “I’ve been up there,” he says and mentions a number of other mountains that he’s also climbed. I look up at the ridges in disbelief and ask myself how a wheelchair user could scale such heights? – one of the mountains, the Hippoldspitze, is 2643 metres high! That must be some challenge, even for hikers. Oliver shows me the special handbike he uses. It’s a mountain handbike with rear-wheel drive and a spring-loaded castor fork that was built for this purpose. Notwithstanding sophisticated technology, this is an extraordinary sporting achievement – a fact that becomes even clearer when Oliver shows me some photographs in which you can actually see him on his handbike riding cross-country.

“There are very few places that a wheelchair user can’t access nowadays,” he points out to me. I’m really happy to see how the mobility limitations for wheelchair users are being continually eroded: you might even say they are beginning to dissolve completely.”

Our conversation turns to the wheelchair that he uses on a daily basis, The Ksl from küschall®. I ask him if he’s happy with the wheelchair. Oliver highlights the super-lightness, free movement, mobility and superb driving characteristics of The KSL. Then he adds: “I’ve been driving this wheelchair for about eighteen months.  Nothing has come loose and nothing squeaks: I’m really happy with it.” He also makes one or two suggestions for improvements that we discuss together. I happily take notes because küschall® is always interested in user feedback, which facilitates the continuous improvement of our products.

We spend over three hours together and both agree on one point:  it was a lovely afternoon and a valuable exchange of ideas!

The küschall® team wishes the Anthofer family all the best in the future and we shall of course remain in contact and let you know more about the man, his family and his continuing achievements!

December 18, 2016

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