At the Opening Ceremony, Annika Hutsler briefly threw moderator Steven Gätjen off when she listed her vast array of sporting activities. Now she is eagerly collecting successes at the INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing. The 27-year-old really amazes you.
The first impression is deceiving. The young lady with the freckles and the red, white and blue painted fingernails is wearing a red shirt with the Union Jack on it. There is also a French team backpack hanging from the back of her wheelchair. And Annika Hutsler also speaks excellent German, has family roots in the Philippines, but belongs to the US team.
The multi-talented woman has already bagged four medals. At just 27, she is one of the youngest participants in the INVICTUS GAMES 23 presented by Boeing – and loves the idea of an international meeting in Düsseldorf on the Rhine.
She had never been to Europe before and German was unfamiliar to her, then while she was skateboarding on Venice Beach, she met an Austrian and an sportsman from Bavaria. “I learnt a bit of German from them,” Annika says with a smile. She is obviously a gifted linguist. “Learning the words, that’s not so hard. Only the grammar…” – and she does indeed form sentences perfectly.
She is open, reaches out to people and has already exchanged pins with participants from all over the world. “ Language-wise, it’s only more complicated with the athletes from Georgia and Jordan,” says Annika, who was born in Colorado and currently lives in Los Angeles.
In that case, communication just works out with hands and feet. Somehow people always come to an agreement. And Annika has already exchanged ideas with a deaf competitor from Canada: she is fluent in sign language.
After a week in Washington DC, training together with the 59-strong US team, she enjoys competing and interacting with participants from all over the world. She is a versatile and successful sportswoman. She missed gold in the 100 metres by four hundredths of a second, came first in her competition class in the 200 metres thanks to a carbon prothesis, and won silver in the discus.
Sport dominates her life not only during the intense days at the Invictus Games. “Sometimes I get up in the morning and think: today I feel like climbing. Or surfing. Then I just do that.” Plus, of course, athletics and swimming. “It’s overall important to forget about things that aren’t going so great in life,” the former Marine Corps member says. She has also modelled for Tommy Hilfiger. Very busy, in fact.
The United States Marine veteran also made a special appearance at the opening ceremony on Saturday. She spoke about her life story and how it changed when she lost her foot due to a tumour. Thanks to a good portion of humour and self-irony, Annika Hutsler inspires other people as an influencer via social media in addition to encouraging others as a motivational speaker. It seems incredible, but she describes the loss of her foot as a way back to a better life. One believes her.
Her next sports plans are already set, combined with a relocation. She will soon be moving from California to Salt Lake City, where the conditions for winter sports are much better than in sunny California. A very logical decision. Because the versatile American wants to compete in the Milan-Cortina Paralympics in 2026 as a downhill skier.
A video shows how she easily curves down a slope. Very elegant, very skilful, on a ski: winter sports soon. But first Annika still has sports goals in Düsseldorf. She will compete in swimming on Wednesday and in table tennis singles on Thursday. By then her collection of international pins should be complete. And perhaps her collection of medals as well.
Author: Oliver Bitter
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