Berlin 2018: Marcel Hug happy to inspire

Wheelchair racer training the new generation ahead of Euros 07 Aug 2018
By IPC

“I’m doing the Berlin Marathon in September and that is on my mind. It’s not so easy to switch from track to marathons, it’s a challenge. But of course I have the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 on my mind too – that’s my big goal and that keeps me going."

One of the big names at this month’s World Para Athletics European Championships has given up part of his training schedule for the Berlin event – in order to nurture the next generation of wheelchair athletes. Switzerland’s Marcel Hug will be expected to add a European title or two to the vast array of medals and records he has accumulated over the years.

But the 32-year-old spent last week with some of the Hugs of the future at his “Silver Bullet” training camp at his home track in Nottwil.

Hug is still focused on winning in Berlin but wanted to help some younger Para athletes on their journeys to the top of the sport.

Hug explained: “On one hand it’s a big challenge to organise it and prepare and do all the training, but for me it’s also a good opportunity to train together with other athletes as we have some very good young athletes.

“So it’s good for me also for preparation. It’s a good thing and I get some very good feedback so I have had had fun organising it.”

In all, 36 wheelchair racers, from junior to elite level, were at the camp which Hug devised four years ago, along with his long-standing coach Paul Odermatt.

The fact that the camp was organised in the middle of his Berlin preparations does not concern Hug, who also says that the new wave of athletes coming through at his camp are not lacking in talent.

“We have many good young athletes; unfortunately not many from Switzerland that could follow me right now – there are some kids but they are very young and have a long way to go.

“But in other countries I see a lot of good athletes – we had people from nine countries coming from as far as Argentina,” Hug explained.

Less is more

The Swiss world and Paralympic champion has been relatively quiet on the circuit this year but did easily retain his Abbott World Marathon Majors series title earlier in 2018.

On the track, Hug has raced only a handful of occasions since the Nottwil Grand Prix in May, notably at the Lausanne Diamond League meeting.

“Lausanne went really well and it was good because I was up against a strong field,” said Hug, who won the men’s 1,500m T54 ahead of a world class field including Briton Richard Chiassaro, Frenchman Julien Casoli and German Alhassane Balde – all of whom line up in Berlin.

Despite his track record of dominance and success over the years, Hug believes that more of the same in Berlin is not a given, pointing to the calibre of the opposition in the German capital.

Hug especially pointed to the emergence of double world bronze medallist Balde: “I’ve known him a long time and we train together a lot, so I knew he had a lot of potential.

Marathon challenge

Although the European Championships are at the forefront of Hug’s mind, Berlin also plays a part in his other 2018 goals.

He explained: “I’m doing the Berlin Marathon in September and that is on my mind. It’s not so easy to switch from track to marathons, it’s a challenge.

“But of course I have the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020 on my mind too – that’s my big goal and that keeps me going. I try to improve everything I can.”

Ominous words for his rivals in Berlin.