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German Wheelchair Ultimate Team on the World Stage

German Wheelchair Ultimate Team on the World Stage

German Wheelchair Ultimate Team on the World Stage

In the world of sports, adaptability fuels progress, and in the Ultimate Community we are seeing promising movements towards creating a welcoming environment for athletes with physical disabilities. With a lot of work still ahead we look to understand the narrative of these athletes and help to break down these barriers together.

Monumental Event 

The first ever World Wheelchair Ultimate Championship took place September 29th-30th 2023 at the Bella Italia Efa Village in Lignano Sabbiadoro marking a huge milestone for wheelchair sports and the athletes involved. The championship brought together four teams, one from Germany, two from Italy, and one international team mostly from Japan. With anticipation that this event will double in size in 2025 the community is hopeful for what's to come for this developing sport.

Intro to Wheelchair Ultimate

The sport of Wheelchair Ultimate has some variations from standard ultimate frisbee to make it accessible for a range of physically disabled athletes to compete together. All athletes compete in manual wheelchairs, playing on a basketball court indoors, and players must meet a minimum disability criteria and be classified under the sport classification rules. The rest of the rules follow pretty closely in line with original Ultimate regulations maintaining the essence of the sport and the spirit of the game.

A Journey to Inclusivity

We took the time to follow the inspirational story of the German Wheelchair Ultimate National Team, A group of 13-18 year old boys that took on a big goal in uncharted territories. Tanja Gebert (coach) and Richard Burkart (classroom teacher) lead their team to the Wheelchair Ultimate Championships after a summer of true dedication. 

Team members include: Massimiliano Picariello (18), Semih Tamam (18), Ogultan Cimen (18), Emilio Zavatto (15), Christopher Greiner (15), Simon Busch (17), Phil Schäffer (17), Tuncay Rashid (15), Michael Schwarz (13), Linda Fahlbusch (physiotherapist) and Gabi Heßler-Stark (sports teacher).

“Tanja told me she had a special idea. She said it may sound crazy and there's not much time to prepare for it, but we have the opportunity to be the German National Team for Wheelchair Frisbee" says teacher Richard.

The German Wheelchair Ultimate Team's journey reached its first milestone when they got the Bronze medal at the championship tournament. Coming from a small school in Langen, Germany, they not only represented their nation but became inspirations for kids with disabilities worldwide. We met with the team just before they headed to Italy for the tournament to get their thoughts.

Ultimate Adaptivity

“We are excited and we are looking forward to it. But it is a pity that not many teams participate in the World Championship” shares student Christopher Greiner.

Ultimate Frisbee is a sport that has adapted remarkably well to include physically disabled players. However, adaptations are still needed, and the team suggests being open to some in-game changes that open the doors to even more athletes.

 “People must be open to new rules. For example, shortening playing time, and having more breaks.” says student Semih Tamam

The magic of Wheelchair Ultimate lies in the fact that everyone plays from a wheelchair, leveling the playing field. It's a lesson in inclusivity that extends beyond the game itself, but in the big picture this is just one area that was adapted with so many more improvements could be made for sports as a whole.

Understanding Diversity

The team's commitment to spreading awareness about athletes with disabilities by participating in this tournament is a testament to their character. 

“All in all, everyone should know that they are just normal people. They are people like you and me, they just have special needs. They have wishes and aims for their lives, just like any other normal person has. Richard Explains on behalf of the team.

Their message to the community is simple yet powerful: treat them like normal people. Instead of stares, approach them with questions or engage them in a conversation. It's all about respect and understanding.

Learning Ultimate

The team is still learning and adjusting to the nuances of the sport, but they are cherishing every moment of the experience and ready for the challenge.

“They put a lot of effort into something new without thinking oh I can’t do this I’m not good at this they just practiced, getting better and having a good time” Tanja explains

Student Massimiliano Picariello also explains We are still learning and unsure about the hand gestures and the rules. We have only a little time to train, but it is fun. We have known about the championship since June this year and have trained during the summer holidays.” 

The Future and Reality of Wheelchair Ultimate

Looking ahead, they hope for more teams participating in the World Championship. They’d love to see the sport expand and reach new heights. As a team they are actioning multiple initiatives to help boost awareness for Wheelchair Ultimate.

Student Ogultan Cimen shares “I hope that in five years more teams will participate in the World Championship. And of course we want to be at the next championship in Japan.” 

Tanja and the school are on a mission to continue to educate and inspire with additional programs at the school and in their community.

“We've got a project here at school with the neighboring school. It's a normal school and they come once a week and play with us in wheelchair sports. It's just a small project, but they're so happy. It's quite a new thing but it would be great if we could spread this” Tanja shares.

Supporting Players and Families

Now how can the average person help support these programs? At this stage awareness is a helpful start. The team hopes for more media coverage to raise awareness of their sport. 

“There should be more reports of our sports, especially on TV, so that more people become aware of us.” explains student Emilio Zavatto.

Inclusivity in sports is a big goal to tackle but everything helps contribute to the progress. The German Wheelchair Ultimate Frisbee Team's story is one of triumph over adversity that faces these challenges head on without hesitation. They are not just athletes; they are ambassadors of inclusivity and change-makers in the world of sports.