Para Sailor Spotlight - Q&A with Heiko Kröger
Para Sailor Spotlight Championship, Q&A with Heiko Kröger
Fifty-six-year-old Heiko Kröger has enjoyed a long and illustrious career. He is a 10-time World Champion, two-time Olympic medallist with a gold from Sydney 2000 and silver from London 2012, and a 15-time national German champion. He recently finished third at the 2.4mR European Championships, the class he serves as President for, and will soon be returning to home waters once again for Kieler Woche where he will be aiming for a twelfth victory.
Born without a left forearm, Heiko first started sailing at the age of seven on a small lake with his parents every weekend, and racing in the Optimist two years later. He won his first regatta aged 19 in 1985, and still holds the same passion for sailing as he always had.
Heiko is supporting World Sailing’s Backthe Bid Sailto LA campaign and is even targeting a third Paralympic sailing medal if the sport is reinstated by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
What would it mean to you if sailing was reinstated as a Paralympic sport and would you campaign?
It is very important because all the sailing programmes depend on it being in the Paralympics over the last 20 years. Meanwhile we have some other organisations and clubs that support sailing for disabled sailors but I think the Paralympics will be a big step forward again. And, yes, I am still really young so I can do this! (laughs).
What do you think Paralympic sailing offers in terms of accessibility and inclusivity?
Sailing is very inclusive – it allows sailors of different abilities to get in the boats where they can sail at the same level.
When you look back at your career, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement so far?
I think it was the gold medal in Sydney and silver medal in London but also to grow the sport in Germany for disabled sailors, and it has been good to see other people trying the sport.
Who’s been your biggest supporter?
First my parents, of course, but then I had some sponsors and coaches when I started Para Sailing so they have made me the sailor I am now.
What do you consider your greatest strength and your biggest weakness?
If I want something, I will keep on going and going and trying and trying. I take my time. That is definitely a strength, but sometimes I don’t practice enough. I should do more right now!
How important do you think Para Sailing’s inclusion is in the Paralympics to the sport’s development?
As I said, it is very important. If we have the Paralympics, it is a different kind of support. The federations will support the sailors at a different level. It is much easier for the sailors to join the sport and compete at big events.
What would you say to anyone looking to start Para Sailing?
Go for it! It is the perfect sport for lots of people with disabilities. It is much easier to sail than it looks. Sail fast, it’s different, but to start with sailing is a great sport.
A few words to encourage people to BackTheBid?
Tell everybody and post on social media that we need to be reinstated at the Paralympics and let’s do it!