Germany’s Schoenfelder Tabbed Best Male Athlete by IPC Voters13 Jan 2012
At 41 years old, Germany’s Gerd Schoenfelder is the most decorated alpine skier in the history of the Paralympic Winter Games and was named the Best Male Athlete for the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) 2011 Paralympic Sport Awards.
The award, proudly partnered by the IPC’s international partner Allianz, was presented to Schoenfelder during the Paralympic Awards Gala on 10 December in the Intercontinental Hotel ballroom in Beijing, China.
Schoenfelder beat out four other finalists for the award: Russian biathlete and cross-country skier Irek Zaripov; Slovakian alpine skier Jakub Krako; Canadian biathlete and cross-country skier Brian McKeever; and New Zealand alpine skier Adam Hall.
“It feels really good,” Schoenfelder said of winning the award. “It is certainly a big honour to get this wonderful award. After 20 years of serious sport, this award is the perfect culmination.”
The downhill racer picked up five medals in his sixth Paralympic Winter Games appearance at Vancouver 2010. He won gold in Downhill, Super G, Giant Slalom and Super Combined and silver in Slalom, increasing his total Paralympic Games medal haul to 22 and 16 golds.
Schoenfelder won his last Paralympic race – the Super Combined – at the same exact time his son was born back home.
Talk about miracles.
“That was unbelievable and one of the biggest moments of my life,” he proudly stated.
Schoenfelder then followed that up with a top performance at the 2011 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in Sestriere, Italy, taking two golds, a silver and a bronze.
Then, after 20-plus years in the sport without a single injury – aside from the accident that originally propelled him into the sport – he decided to retire following the 2011 season.
“The priorities have been shifted,” Schoenfelder said, referring to taking care of his two children and juggling his marketing and coaching careers.
“To win so many medals was not my previous goal,” Schoenfelder added. “After my accident in 1989, sport was very important and a good possibility to get back my self-confidence. It started with soccer and skiing, what I had done before.”
Schoenfelder said his career was inspired by German compatriot and gold-medal Paralympic skier Alexander Spitz.
He read about Spitz’s successes on the international stage in 1990 while rehabilitating from losing his right arm in an accident, and just a year later, Spitz was showing him the ropes on the slopes and pushing him to become a successful Paralympic athlete.
Twenty years later, Schoenfelder finds himself leaving the sport a hero, and now he is the one showing others how it is done.