Interview Felix
I had no idea
I had a disability

Paralympic champion is used to sprinting with carbon in his foot.

Athletes inspire us. But Invictus competitors touch us. Felix Streng is the official ambassador of INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing and can easily empathise with both worlds.

I arrive late for the interview of the day with the Invictus Games Ambassador. He smiles at me and says: “a pity, but now we have to hurry up a bit. Let’s go!”

These calm and kind words come from him. At 28 years old, he looks like a smart, top-fit start-up entrepreneur. However, he is quite humble, relaxed, mindful and totally on the ball. He is immediately 100% engrossed in our conversation while my own concentration lags behind.

Originally, I wanted to discuss stage fright, ambition and gold medals, but perhaps also discuss sprints with a carbon prosthetic foot. But Felix quickly knocks against his artificial limb and from then on chooses the topics, eloquently taking the lead in the conversation: “did you know that we Paralympic competitors speak our own language? All of us here are in touch with each other. We recognise each other and share emotions and even thoughts. It is that unique spirit that you feel everywhere here.

Interview Felix

The spirit of the competitors with disabilities here sends a powerful message around the world and Felix wants to be their spokesman: which he already is! He quickly goes on to say: “It was other children who made me realise that not having a right foot is something special. My parents never said or let me think this. But I could ask them why not? To me, it is important that they think and feel that he will go his own way and knows that we are there for him.” He speaks about this lovingly and in such a calm way that one might think that he was talking about the time he scratched his knee while in kindergarten.

But now Felix becomes passionate and sweeps me along. We have now come to the boundaries that challenge him. The word itself has clout when repeated by him. Boundaries appeal to him, goad him and make his eyes sparkle: “I want to get across there, I can do it and then I actually go across there. Up to the next boundary, and then I start afresh (Note: Felix Streng pauses briefly). But what I detest are the boundaries that others want to talk us into.” Were there a table here, he probably would have thumped it.

Message received? Good. The sprinter becomes very quiet and suddenly appears almost shy – and no longer like the holder of the 12 gold medals he has at home. The next big question creeps up, namely the question as to his next personal boundary. For him, only the ultimate peak performance in his sporting discipline remains to be achieved. He looks away for a moment, remains silent and smiles across at me. In this silence, the unspoken language of the Invictus Games also speaks to me for the first time: we will meet in Paris.

“Sorry, is that everything?” asks Felix and looks at his watch for the first time. And then, bang on time, he leaps to the next interview with a camera team. I lunge full length after him in order to thank him. “That’s Ok”, he said, but would like a few more answers from me. So we will soon need another interview. Then he jumps in front of a camera: this wise old man trapped in a student’s body.

Author: Emil Salzeder