When a door is closed somewhere, there are many other doors opening
Sports can offer new possibilities and help to overcome barriers
It all happens during the Winter Olympic Games in Turin in 2006. A thirty-year-old South Tyrolean man from Caldaro starts for Italy. It’s his first Olympics. He participates in giant slalom and finally wants to prove himself and the world that he can make it and that the hard training of the last three years wasn’t in vain. There are only a few seconds left until the start…3-2-1…go! No more time for thinking, Michael has to concentrate on the track. No more time for self-doubts or the pleasant anticipation that accompanied Michael during the last months. And, above all, no more time for bearing his almost surreal but nevertheless naked reality in mind. Now that he descends the steep slope in Piedmont’s Borgata with more than 80 km/h, this is no longer important to him.
That he played football four years ago and was just a hobby skier and not part of the Italian national team, that he has never been in Piedmont before except for watching matches of his favorite team Juventus… this no longer counts. Concentration, Michael, concentration. His coach is equally excited. Left, right, left…His breath follows the heartbeat and both are on Michael’s side. When arriving at the finish line, he’s absolutely thrilled. It’s no podium place, but everything good. The winner is a German followed by a Japanese and an Austrian. Michael Stampfer places 7th. Everything good, his mono ski has done its service and he has just made a great race. Laurels are now waiting for him at home: of his family, friends and at the South Tyrolean sports ball. Everything good for the former carpenter from Caldaro who suffered serious injuries at a tragic accident at work in 2002 and has since been confined to a wheelchair.
His association, the sports group for physically disabled in South Tyrol (GSDA), welcomes him with full honors. Everybody is enthusiastic about his sporting performance but especially about the short time that Michael needed to become one of the best. The sports group assists more than 100 members in different matters and promotes both top sport and popular sport. This is why the financial support through sponsors plays a fundamental role for the sports group.
„Without a partner such as the Val Venosta Cooperatives Association (VI.P) all of this wouldn’t be possible. The province and membership fees only cover a very small part of the funds required. Together with VI.P we have moved in the same direction for more than 10 years. VI.P is our most important partner.“ GSDA and VI.P have a lot in common: they were both founded in 1990 and are non-profit organizations. „I think that the cooperation of these two associations is virtually ideal,” says Michael.
„VI.P has always had a sympathetic ear for our association activities and concerns. We support each other in public, medially and in the heart. We somehow share the same values." The sports group offers a forum to physically disabled athletes in South Tyrol and supports their activities. While coaches and assistants get a salary, the board members work in an honorary capacity. Michael is one of two CEOs of a famous South Tyrolean producer of skis, plates and bindings. This door opened to the former carpenter from Caldaro a few years after his accident. Probably no coincidence. Because the former professional skier knows a lot about skis and bindings. He meets clients worldwide in his job and seems to like his many journeys.
Michael finished his sports career years ago. Today he has a three-year old son. „My son should not be worried about his father when he skis down with his mono ski with more than 120 km/h. When I couldn’t think of anything else, I knew that it was time to set new priorities!“ smiles Michael.
Empathy is the key word. Michael feels the same empathy in the sports group as between the GSDA and VI.P. Membership is precious. Michael, who has been vice president since 2015, knows that well. „It’s difficult to talk about certain problems with friends who don’t need a wheelchair. That’s normal. They can’t know. They can’t imagine what it means to drag the legs along with every movement of the arms.“ The GSDA advises you when it comes to choosing training materials or the right equipment, planning trips or avoiding troublesome barriers. This social exchange, which goes well beyond finding solutions to operational matters, is the essence of the sports group. Thanks to the GSDA Michael could find a new purpose in life after his accident. The GSDA will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2020. The group has been led by president Markus Kompatscher for more than 25 years. „What makes GSDA so great but also difficult is the fact that our members come from all around South Tyrol. Every meeting represents a logistic barrier.“ Due to the organization in sections (Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, hockey, bike, sitting volley and tennis) the association is able to somehow deal with the logistic problem, but it’s not easy.
The next weekend is again under the banner of sports. With a hand bike with VI.P’s logo.