Germany’s Eskau sidelines cycling for gold in Sochi

German Nordic skier Andrea Eskau dreams of adding a gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games to her two gold medals from the London 2012 Paralympics. 01 Mar 2013
A woman in the wheelchair at the biathlon track

Andrea Eskau of Germany is one of the top competitors in the women's nordic skiing sitting events.

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“I want to take everyone to Sochi that has supported me on my way. I took my family to Beijing, I had almost my own fan club in London – I financed their travel and everything as a little Thank You."

After winning two gold medals in hand cycling and the London 2012 Parlaympic Games, Germany’s Andrea Eskau is now putting her heart and soul into Nordic skiing, with the aim of winning gold at Sochi 2014.

“I am willing to work hard and invest a lot of personal time, resources and money,” the 41-year-old told, the International Paralympic Committee’s official website.

If I don’t get that gold, my life won’t be over. I know that I cannot expect it, but such a success would be really, really nice.”

The German will face tough competition in Sochi, which is more apparent then ever at the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, where she has won one gold medal in the women’s cross-country skiing 12km sitting race.

“In Sochi the Russian skiers will definitely be the ones to watch, if only because of their knowledge of the course. Plus it is a very young team and there is still lots of potential to develop.

“Other than that I definitely have to say Ukraine’s Lyudmila Vauchok – she is also doing summer and winter sports – then Mariann Marthinsen from Norway, and my teammate Anja Wicker. She is also still very young, so she also has much potential.”

Eskau first got involved in sports for people with a disability after a cycling accident in 1998 left her paralysed.

“After such an accident, you always have to do sport in rehabilitation, and you usually start with wheelchair basketball. But I did not really enjoy it: I have never been much of a team sport person.

“In 2002 I then got a handbike. And it’s kind of a funny story, because I got it mainly to be able to walk my guide dog. He became pretty fat, as I am living in a hilly area. So I got a handbike to go for a walk with him, and then I took part in a competition, just for fun.

“By 2003 I was already amongst the top hand cyclists in the world.”

Eskau continued competing in handcycling events and went on to take part in her first Paralympic Games in 2008 in Beijing, where she won her first Paralympic gold medal in the women’s individual road race.

It was only after Beijing that the German started competing in Nordic skiing events, winning two medals at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, a silver in the cross-country skiing 5km race, and a bronze in the biathlon 10km race.

At the 2011 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, Eskau added two gold and three bronze medals to her collection before she stopped doing Nordic skiing to fully concentrate on the London 2012 Paralympics.

“I wanted to be consistent, and that’s why I took a break from winter sports after the World Championships in 2011 and fully concentrated on London.

“For more than 10 months I prepared myself for London and did everything within my power – material-wise, training-wise – and I tried to optimise every little bit.”

And this consistency paid off, Eskau reached the peak of her handcycling career, winning two out of two gold medals: the individual road race and the individual time trial.

“Now my focus is completely on Sochi and handcycling has moved to the back,” Eskau said.

“I want to take everyone to Sochi that has supported me on my way. I took my family to Beijing, I had almost my own fan club in London – I financed their travel and everything as a little Thank You.

“And now I want that everyone who helped me over the past years to come to Sochi, as this will be the conclusion, not of my career as a whole, but of my winter sport career.

“I’ll leave it open, but Rio could then be the sunny end.”

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