Annika Zeyen’s signature now sits alongside those of Pope John Paul II, Queen Elizabeth and the Dalai Lama after the German Paralympic and world champion signed the City of Bonn’s Golden Book on Tuesday (7 January).
At the Old Town Hall in the former German capital, the 34-year-old athlete was celebrated by her birthplace that also houses the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), where she has worked since 2013 in the brand and design team.
Bonn Mayor Ashok Sridharan described the occasion as one of the “greatest honours we can give to people living here in Bonn.”
“Bonn had been the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany for 50 years and that is why many crowned and uncrowned celebrities were here and signed our Golden Book, which I think is one of the best Golden Books ever because we have Pope John Paul, we do have Queen Elizabeth, John F. Kennedy, and many Queens, Kings, Heads of States sign this book, and also quite a lot of sports people,” Sridharan said.
Introduced in 1926, the Golden Book is like a time-lapse; recording the extent to which the Federal Republic of Germany has gained international renown by including well-known personalities from around the world and locally who have shaped the city and contributed to Bonn’s reputation.
“It’s a great honour to sign the Golden Book of the City of Bonn especially because I was born in Bonn,” Zeyen said. “I have a very special connection to Bonn. I work in Bonn, I train in Bonn. My club team (SSF Bonn) is in Bonn. I spend a lot of time in Bonn, so it’s a great honour.”
In 1998, former IPC President Dr. Robert D. Steadward too penned his signature into the Book. However, Sridharan believes Zeyen is the first Para athlete to ever sign the Book.
Zeyen inked her name into Bonn history after winning the women’s handbike road race at the 2019 Para Cycling World Championship in September. It was her first world title in the sport, but her athletic accomplishments go farther back.
The four-time Paralympian helped the German women’s wheelchair basketball team capture gold at the London 2012 Games. She returned to the finals at Rio 2016 but fell short of a consecutive gold medal. Zeyen then switched to wheelchair racing with high hopes in the long distances and appeared at the 2017 World Championships. But she had to pull out of her home 2018 European Championships in Berlin due to injury.
She described that year of injury as the "toughest of my sports career."
Zeyen quietly switched to Para cycling and stunned to victory in the women’s H3 field at the World Championships in Emmen, Netherlands. She won amid a foot injury incurred during training a few days earlier.
On Tuesday, her family, friends and colleagues shared the joys of her journey.
Addressing the invited guests, Sridharan added he is keeping his fingers crossed for Zeyen to medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
“Because of Annika’s World Championship, I invited her to sign the Golden Book. And I very much appreciate that she accepted the invitation,” he said.
More on the City of Bonn’s Golden Book can be found online.