We are delighted to welcome back Mareike Miller as an IWBF blogger, she will be sharing her experiences of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with us! Here’s her first blog about how she got here in the first place and how the German team have been preparing!
Hello! My name is Mareike Miller. About five years ago, heading to the first-ever U25 Women’s World Championships and my first Paralympic Games in 2012, I was asked to blog for the IWBF. A long time, or should we say a whole Paralympic cycle ago that was! Needless to say but I’m back to report to you from the Paralympic Games 2016.
For those who weren’t around years ago, let me first tell you a bit more about myself:
I am a member of the German women’s wheelchair basketball team and have been since 2010. I started playing wheelchair basketball in 2008, when I still had no clue what the Paralympic Games where. After several severe knee injuries in High School, I was devastated to be told I couldn’t be an athlete anymore. Fortunate enough to be able to continue to walk in everyday life, I didn’t know adaptive sports were an option for me at first. So when finally having no chance but to give up my favorite sport of basketball, I got lucky having a Physical Education teacher, Martin Otto, who was heavily involved in the game of wheelchair basketball. As a national team member and not requiring a wheelchair for everyday life either, he got me to check it out and I loved it since the first second I tried. Wheelchair basketball is a tremendous sport that I have never heard anyone to dislike or not at least enjoy watching. The athleticism, strength and coordination skills necessary to play at the highest level are as unthinkable as with what ease Steph Curry shoots from half court for many that don’t play the sport. It takes a lot of training, many years for most to be able to control a sports chair and manoeuvre across the court with control and purpose in this sport at the highest speeds.
Having fallen in love with wheelchair basketball and being a Senior in High School in Bad Honnef, Germany, I had to find a way to play while moving on to college. Luckily, I had some great teammates in Edina Müller and Adam Lancia, both Paralympians themselves, who were able to help me find the best opportunities to do so: US Intercollegiate Wheelchair Athletics. After lots of discussions with several universities, I chose the known University of Wisconsin-Whitewater program. The women’s team was only in its second year of existence, when I started my freshman year to pursue a business degree and play wheelchair basketball daily. Or to be exact all day long, every day. With a young team and programme, but lots of great personalities to work with we managed to become back-to-back-to-back National Champions at the end of my five years with the programme. An accomplishment that stems from the endless hard work our athletes and coaches put into the team.
While developing and having the needed opportunities to get into a gym any time of the day or night, I also was able to make the German women’s wheelchair basketball national team. Taking every opportunity I could get also with our national team programme, I jumped at the chance of also joining our junior national teams for additional tournaments.
Today, after 6 years with the national team, I am blessed to represent Germany again in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is an honor and pleasure that goes beyond measure, hard to describe but I hope to be able to capture for you in my upcoming blogs.
Now to the current situation:
We are only one week away from our team heading to Rio but to do so, I first have to fly from my hometown Milwaukee, USA (Because yes, after college I got stuck enjoying life in the U.S. and love my new job opportunities with the Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association making it possible for me to go to the Paralympic Games in the first place.) to Hamburg, Germany. In Hamburg, our team will train and play games against the Chinese women’s national team for one last preparation weekend finishing out the same way as we
did when winning Gold at London. I’m not usually superstitious but it is kind of nice having a known finish to our preparation that was very successful four years ago.
I’d love to say we stick to the superstition and do the same and aim to be undefeated just like in London. But I have to say for many reasons this year we are only one of three favorites and nobody is sure of what will happen in Rio. Preparation tournaments have been all over the place, everyone has beaten everyone at some point and I strongly believe the question is who can be consistently at their best in Rio. Little things like sickness, injury or equipment issues can happen, we have seen a lot over the summer to influence some up and down in all teams’ performances. As the defending gold medalist it’d be sad if I didn’t say I’m going to win again but yet I’d like to stay humble and say it was a major accomplishment for us to make that happen the way we did in London and I’d prefer to see what our game results are before saying where we will stand at the end of this tournament. We are competitors, we like winning and we will aim to win every game we play, but to really know, join me in finding out if we can rather than asking me to predict. One thing I can promise you, there will be fierce, high level competitions that will leave you at awe for this sport and might even give you more close games with highlight finishes than the Olympics did for both, the men and women.
You will be able to keep up to date on Mareike’s Rio 2016 journey via her IWBF blog. As well as following her on her own social media channels to get regular updates.