A few years ago we decided, in continuation of our commitment in DHIF, to also engage in individual sponsorships of top athletes within disability sport. So far we have had five “Keep Living ambassadors” affiliated. By setting new, exiting goals these athletes continuously challenge themselves as well as the conventional understanding of the surroundings of what is possible. Each athlete illustrates and complements the values of Pressalit as the sponsorships relate the attitude of life and performances of the disabled athletes to especially the products of Pressalit Care. At the same time, we are happy to participate in supporting these athletes in order for them to be able to focus 100% on their practice and goals.
Below you can read more about our current sponsorship of Anders Olsson, as well as you can read about the top athletes we have sponsored in the past.
Anders Olsson - Sweden
If you type in "jarnmannen" (Swedish for "iron man") in your webbrowser, you will enter the site for the Swedish top athlete Anders Olsson. It is far from a coincidence that Olsson carries the byname “The Iron Man”. Since initiating his active athletics career as a handicap athlete in 2002, Anders Olsson has achieved impressive results in only a few years: He has won gold medals at the Paralympics in 2004 as well as 2008, he currently holds 10 world records – and he has beaten his own records no less than 52 times during the last few years. Apart from swimming, Anders Olsson has also devoted interest to triathlon, and currently he is working towards qualifying for an Ironman in Hawaii. In brief, it is a genuine fighter who has agreed to become the new Keep Living-ambassador.
From crippled to champion
Considering the impressive achievements, it might appear as if Ander Olsson is a born handicap athlete. However, as is the case with so many other handicap athletes, there is a particular story behind. It was far from bliss in 1996 and 1997, when Anders Olsson had to undergo several operations and, as a result of several complications, became paralysed from the waste down. His lung capacity was reduced by 50 percent, and because of severe pain, he became addicted to strong anodynes for almost five years. The worst part, however, was that he, an active sportsman for all of his life, was now confined to the bed for most of the time.
The decisive change took place in 2002, when a friend gave him a challenge, a challenge that turned out to become a turning point in Anders Olsson’s life. The challenge was for him to, despite being paralysed, complete one of Sweden’s largest outdoor swimming competitions, “Vansbrosimningen”, where more than 7000 contestants normally participate. The distance was three kilometres. Anders Olsson completed the competition – and decided for this to be the offset for a new, active career within handicap athletics. Since then, the iron man has had lots of training and lots of new challenges. For instance, in 2005, where he, by means of a sledge and sticks completed the 90 kilometre distance in the great skiing competition “Vasaloppet”. “Vansbrosimningen”, however, still has a special place in his heart, and he has completed the course several times since the first try in 2002. In 2008 he finished as number 9 amongst all the contestants – of which most of them were capable of using both arms and legs when swimming. And now Hawaii is the next goal.
Paralympic gold with a failing shoulder
Although Anders Olsson initiated his career in handicap athletics rather late, and he today is 43 years old, he is at his peak and full of ambitions. PL 2008 was a high point, yet for every coming season, Olsson is setting new goals aimed at top results at World- and European Championships. The 2009 season, however, was off for a cautious start, seeing that Olsson had to undergo an operation in his shoulder after having dislocated a muscle during a hard course of training. Before competing in Beijing, he had to cover his shoulder in tape, as well as he tells that he screamed under the water due to pain from each stroke. Despite this, he still won two Gold- and one Silver medal. Now the muscle is in place, and Anders Olsson expects to regain full power during the summer.
Anders Olssons story is also described in the book ”Det finns ingen gräns” (There are no limitations), which was published in 2006. You can also learn more about Anders Olsson from the webpage www.andersolsson.se.
Former Keep Living-ambassadors
Karen Jacobsen - Denmark
In recent years we have been sponsoring the Danish cyclist Karen Jacobsen. She has been spastic all her life and in her childhood she was informed that she would never be able to ride a bike. At the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004, Karen won gold in the timetrial and two years later she won a gold, a silver and a bronze medal at the World Championships in Switzerland. Deservedly she received Pressalit Cares Keep Living award in 2006 - not only because of her achievements, but especially because of her great charm and winner mentality. Karen has a great attitude to life, which cannot avoid infecting all others. That is why Karen is the perfect example of a Keep Living-ambassador.
René Nielsen - Denmark
René Nielsen was the first disabled athlete to be appointed Keep Living ambassador, and during a number of years we have established a close and fruitful co-operation. René is missing both legs due to a train accident but is none the less a European champion, a Danish champion, a world champion and has set world records within so different sports as water skiing, wheel chair basket and tennis. Lately, he won three PL-medals in athletics. René Nielsen is a man, who does not accept limitations of any kind, and his next project is to become the first disabled person to complete an “Ironman” on Hawaii – a very ambitious project that requires a performance out of the ordinary. However, we are strongly convinced that René will accomplice this challenge also.
Besides his sport activities René studies Sports at the University of Copenhagen and acts as a coach and a consultant through his own company, “Uncool coaching”.
Cato Zahl Pedersen - Norway
In 2005, Pressalit entered into a sponsorship agreement with the Norwegian Cato Zahl and his “Cho Oyu Unarmed Expedition”. An expedition with the goal to climb the sixth highest mountain of the Himalayas, Cho Oyu (8.201 meters). On 1 October 2005 he obtained this goal.
In 1973, Cato Zahl lost both his arms in a high voltage accident. He overcame the limitations of his disability and became one of Norway’s most successful disabled athletes with 14 Paralympic medals during the years 1980-1994. Besides these achievements, Cato Zahl has also been the CEO of several large Norwegian companies, and in 1994 he took part in an expedition with the aim of reaching the South Pole on ski – a trip of 1.400 km.
Cato Zahl is used to extraordinary performances as he continuously moves boundaries for what is possible and is also a much requested lecturer. Cato Zahl has, like René Nielsen, participated in various Pressalit Care arrangements.
Manuela Schmermund - Germany
Latest we entered into an agreement with the German marksman, Manuela Schmermund, who since 1999 has shown impressive international results within disabled shooting. Among her triumphs are several European championships, first place at the world league table in air rifle, and two PL-medals. Manuela Schmermund is paralysed from the waist down after a traffic accident in 1992. But her level of ambition is undamaged. Next goal is gold in both air and sports rifle at PL in Beijing in 2008 - and preferably a new world record.
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