Nordic skiers named German Athletes of the Year

PyeongChang 2018 stars recognised at ceremony in Dusseldorf

A woman and a man in wheelchairs holding a trophy and a certificate Andrea Eskau and Martin Fleig were voted 2018's best female and male Para athletes in Germany © • Ralf Kuckuck/DBS

Para Nordic skiers grabbed most of the prizes at Germany’s Para Athlete of the Year Awards Gala hosted by the German Paralympic Committee (NPC Germany) on Saturday (24 November) in Dusseldorf.

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics medallists triumphed in three categories with Andrea Eskau, Martin Fleig and the Para Nordic Skiing team.

There also was a special praise for the recently retired Para athletics sprinter Heinrich Popow for his extraordinary career achievements.

The winners were chosen by an expert’s panel and by public vote – with equal value – among five candidates.

Eskau won the Best Female Para Athlete of the Year prize following her six medals in seven events in PyeongChang, including two golds, and another two medals (a gold and a silver) at the Maniago Para Cycling Road World Championships.

The 47-year-old was followed by two-time Para alpine skiing Paralympic winner Anna Schaffelhuber. Cyclist Denise Schindler finished third with Para alpine skiers Anna-Lena Forster and Andrea Rothfuss respectively in fourth and fifth place.

Fleig became Germany’s first male athlete to take a Paralympic Winter Games gold medal since 2010 when he won the biathlon 15 km sitting event in South Korea.

He beat Para athletics stars Markus Rehm and Felix Streng, who finished second and third in the voting. Para triathlete Martin Schulz ended in fourth place followed by cyclist Pierre Senska.

Honour for Popow

Eskau went back to the stage to receive the Team award together with Alexander Ehler and Steffen Lehmker. The trio won bronze in PyeongChang in the cross-country 4x2.5 km mixed relay, the first relay medal for the country since Nagano 1998.

Para swimmer Denise Grahl won the Young Para Athlete of the Year prize after her three gold medals at the European Championships in Dublin.

After 18 years competing, German sprinter Popow brought the curtain down on a successful career at the Berlin Para Athletics European Championships in August.

But the honour prize he received was not only because of the achievements in four Paralympic Games and four World Championships. Popow is an ambassador for the Paralympic movement and continues his work to promote sport for people with disabilities.

"He inspires people around the world, teaching them how to run with prosthetic legs, leaving them with bright eyes and happy faces. Heinrich [Popow] can emotionally infect people with his passion for sports almost than any other [person],” said NPC Germany President Friedhelm Julius Beucher.