Fischer Sports has been supporting people with special needs in cooperation with the Styrian Sportbündel organisation since 2013. As part of this collaboration, 16 intellectually impaired sportspeople and their coaches and carers are provided with equipment.
Manfred Hollaus, cooperation partner and responsible for junior racing at Fischer Sports: "When I was approached by the organisation a year ago and they told me about the problems regarding good equipment in this segment, it was clear that we would help out. The athletes take part in races and, just like any other athlete without a handicap, are provided with top equipment. We let them have the skis at a special price and our dealer "Giga-Sport" Kapfenberg takes care of the mounting and service work."
The organisation's athletes are between 11 and 40 years old. "The different impairments are the challenge in the training sessions. As a result there are different performance levels. We have athletes with a slight learning disability and severe cognitive impairment. We have offered weekly snow training in Turnau for five years and compete in roughly three or four races per season. Unfortunately there are not so many events in our segment yet and coaches are hard to find. Our team consists of three skiing instructors and some special carers. We arrange one race ourselves every year. Our athletes want to take part in races. They grow through the comparison with others. This is why medals and recognition are important for our target group. Skiing enables all-round training outdoors and is thus an essential thing for our club to offer. People with impairments need support and intensive guidance when doing sport," says Martin Sommerauer, club manager at Sportbündel.
Away from the slopes the athletes work in disabled organisations such as the Pius Institute in Bruck, Jugend am Werk and Lebenshilfe. The team's declared goal: participation in the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Schladming in 2017. This will be possible if there is qualification beforehand at the national Winter Games which take place in Schladming in 2016.
Martin Sommerauer: "We see being able to take part in a major event as a marvellous opportunity and a huge personal gain for our athletes. Being confronted with new experiences and rules, developing self-confidence and self-efficacy are things which are often extremely difficult in day-to-day life for people with impairments. Our wish for Schladming is that we will be able to show that we personally have progressed thanks to the regular training sessions. This is about acknowledging and encouraging every single sportsman and sportswoman with their individual needs and abilities and rewarding them with the due respect and appreciation for their achievements."