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Rainer Küschall had a normal childhood in Switzerland. In July 1963, when he was 16 years old, he sustained a serious injury when diving in a pool, leaving him a paraplegic. At the time there was no treatment available for injuries of this kind. Due to the lack of alternatives, Rainer spent an initial period confined to bed in a convent. Then, after two years he was moved to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England. Well-respected neurologist Ludwig Guttmann was certain that the prospects for an improvement in his condition were poor.

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Rainer, we're going to try putting you in a wheelchair, but you should know that you'll never be able to use a wheelchair on your own.

Ludwig Guttmann

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Rainer spent three months undergoing complex rehabilitation in England. Thanks to the efforts of his physiotherapist, Maggy he learned to get about in a wheelchair. A whole new world of previously seemingly impossible opportunities was opened up to him. This was the start of life for Rainer Küschall as we now know him.
Maggy was always an important person for Rainer and was always at his side, showing him life and how to lead it in his own personal way. For example, one Friday evening she “kidnapped” him from the hospital and took him to “The Bell”, a local pub in Stoke Mandeville. This was the first time in two years that Rainer had been outdoors and was able to see the stars in the sky. They enjoyed a tasty beer together and, for the first time, Rainer began to feel alive again. Later, this small bid for independence would always be an adventure for him and the other patients when they broke out of the hospital and escaped to “The Bell” – always on the look-out for the physiotherapists. This was the first “victory” for Rainer Küschall.

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What is personality? What is life? Just the spirit - what goes on in your head. Nothing else matters.

Rainer Küschall

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During his time in Stoke Mandeville, Rainer got to know various sports, including table tennis. In 1968, Rainer finally competed for the first time in a world championships in Tel Aviv, where he won a bronze medal. Subsequent years demonstrated that winning would become a central concern for Rainer Küschall. In 1972, he won two gold medals as a tetraplegic, after which successes came thick and fast, with one medal after another – there was no stopping Rainer. As he gained experience, Rainer began to set himself different, more ambitious goals. One of them was wheelchair racing, the premier discipline for paraplegics. In 1982 he made his debut at a world championship event on his “home turf” in Stoke Mandeville. By the end of 1992 he had amassed 45 medals in the Paralympics and IPC World Championships – still an impressive performance today.

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Every human being has enormous potential - we just need to tap into it.

Rainer Küschall

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Because of his successful sporting career, there were many reports in the media about Rainer Küschall and his impressive victories, something that did not escape the notice of one particular person. The media reports brought the Swiss wheelchair athlete to the attention of his first and last employer, who offered him an office job, which he gratefully accepted. As a tetraplegic, it did not take Rainer long to realize that this was not the job for him – his limited manual capabilities and the numerous barriers encountered at his place of work meant that this position was unsuitable.

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05

Rainer always wanted to be a paraplegic athlete, achieving greater agility and speed with more muscle mass and more energy. It was an impossible dream. What he particularly admired about paraplegics was their maneuverability. A guy like him never gives up, however. Rainer Küschall wanted to be as independent as a paraplegic. It was this main wish that provided the spark for a new, all-important phase in his life. If he couldn’t change himself, we would need to change his heavy, unwieldy wheelchair. Rainer asked his then girlfriend to place an old wheelchair on the kitchen table. He spent no less than three weeks studying the wheelchair and considering its design, balance and ergonomic efficiency.

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06

Rainer first began by leaving out and modifying various parts of the frame – he got help from a mechanic, who worked with him late into the night. These new, modified wheelchairs, which were adjustable to the user’s needs, proved very popular among Rainer’s friends. Finally, a friend gave Rainer CHF 1,000 to build a completely new wheelchair – this proved to be the seed capital for today’s company. Rainer used this initial injection of cash to purchase spare parts from an English manufacturer. Eventually, in 1979, this manufacturer was forced to admit “Unfortunately we can no longer supply you with parts as you are gradually becoming our competitor.” The first series-built wheelchair – known as the “Slalom” – was produced in a run of 27 units in Rainer Küschall’s living room and was dispatched from there to various countries.

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07

1985 – An important year for the Küschall company and for thousands of people worldwide.
Driven by the idea that the focus should be on the person rather than on the wheelchair itself, Rainer Küschall dispensed with any unnecessary elements on the wheelchair and developed all parts to be as simple as possible: The “küschall Competition” was born The smaller overall volume and the new adjustment options significantly extended the action radius of a wheelchair and the mobility of the user. Rainer Küschall received the renowned Design Award from the Museum of Modern Art for the new, aesthetic design and the wheelchair itself as been on permanent display in New York ever since. Küschall’s invention, the “minimal frame design”, is still used for most wheelchair designs from various manufacturers and therefore improved the lives of thousands of wheelchair users worldwide.

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The Competition wheelchair was the template for the future. Many companies worldwide are already working with this design.

Rainer Küschall

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Another innovation took place just a year later: Rainer Küschall designed a folding wheelchair with a horizontal folding mechanism that is still quite unique. As a tetraplegic, this was something truly remarkable – it enabled him to carry the folded wheelchair beside him on the passenger seat of his car, so that he no longer needed help from anyone else. The great travel adventure could now begin and Rainer Küschall traveled all over the world – a hobby that he still loves to this day.

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09

In 2002 another dream came true for Rainer Küschall: At a car show he came across the AC Cobra 427. He liked the design and shape so much that he decided to buy it. When handing over the car, the sales representative pressed a flyer with a racing schedule into Rainer’s hand and said “by the way, you can race in this car.” Rainer Küschall got himself a license and since then has been the first Swiss tetraplegic to hold an international racing driver’s license. The enthusiastic racer has been on every track, from Hockenheim and Monza to Dijon. He has driven various cars throughout Europe and has frequently gained a place on the victor’s podium.

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Maybe I can't spread butter on my bread, but I can race cars.

Rainer Küschall

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Rainer Küschall is still active in the company and is responsible for the development of the wheelchairs. The four Küschall values are deeply ingrained in the business and all decisions are guided by these principles: driving performance & mobility, lightweight design and easy handling, Swiss precision and quality and appealing design.

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You should never stop dreaming!

Rainer Küschall

  • World record breaker

    200 m, 400 m, 800 m and the Marathon

  • 21 Paralympics medals

    5x Gold, 10x Silver, 6x Bronze

  • 5x World championships

    1982, 1983, 3×1985

  • 24 years of wheelchair sports

    1968 – 1992

  • 1986 award from the Museum of Modern Art

    THE COMPETITION WHEELCHAIR WAS THE FIRST MEDICAL DEVICE ADDED TO THE COLLECTION AT THE MOMA