2018 race another challenge for Paralympic legend

Munich: Germany`s 12-time Paralympic Winter Games champion Verena Bentele has overcome many challenges in life and stated that the race for the hosting of the 2018 edition is just another one.

The 29-year-old biathlete and cross-country skier, who won five of her golds at last year`s Vancouver Paralympics and became only the second athlete to achieve such a feat, is an integral part of the Munich bid.

The German city is attempting to become the first venue to host both the Summer (1972) and Winter Games and is up against Korean favourite Pyeongchang, runner-up on the last two occasions, and the French alpine town of Annecy.

For Bentele, brought up in Baden Wurtemberg but who has spent a large part of her life in Munich, it would be a dream for the Games to get the approval of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) here on Wednesday.

"I love to have a challenge and cross the borders, especially for a blind person like myself, because you have to trust your guide completely," she said. "I like that a lot.

"The Munich bid is just like competing in another competition. You can train and we have trained a lot and under very, very good conditions, but you also need a bit of luck along the way. So it`s wonderful to be in the final."

Bentele, who received a Masters in German Literature and Language earlier this year from Munich University, said that she would consider carrying on competing.

"Everyone asks if I would extend my career to compete in Munich," said Bentele, who is searching for a new guide as the previous one has changed jobs and cannot devote enough time to her training.

"It would be wonderful to compete in what I regard as my home town. I would have to stay fit for seven years but my will is very strong.

"Munich hosting the Games would be a dream."

Bentele says initial fears over the Munich Games not being ecologically sound were ill founded.

"I grew up on my parents` organic farm," she said.

"They are a couple who have taken care of nature and its surroundings. So as a girl from an organic farm background, I can safely say all the ingredients are there in Munich in terms of not harming the environment."

Bentele, one of whose two brothers is also a blind Paralympian, said that the high profile and massive popularity of disabled people`s sports events in Germany should also be a factor in the bid`s favour.

"I competed just once in a championships in Germany, a lot of course in the World Cup events, but these ones were the worlds in the Black Forest in 2003," she said.

"They were very well attended, as indeed are all those competitions, and the venues are also excellent for fans and athletes alike.

"As a result the German media have raised the profile of these events in the past few years and you now have ready access on TV, internet etc. The recent European swimming championships in Berlin are a case in point.

"It is very important it has such a profile."

Bentele also believes a Munich Games would give the city another opportunity to dispell the age-old stereotype that Germany is a joyless country.

"Look at the enthusiasm Germany and Germans showed in hosting the 2006 (football) World Cup," said Bentele.

"They were warm and welcoming and showed they are not just a boring, hard-working people."

Bureau Report

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