Kati Wilhelm
The limits
of a great

Walking with an Olympic champion.

The INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing are a festival of emotions. Everyone celebrates life here, everywhere and often with tears of joy. Ambassador Kati Wilhelm also experiences this. She opens up about her life.

Kati Wilhelm has etched herself into the history of the biathlon. More than 15 years have passed since her greatest victories, and yet: people approach Kati from all directions. This is certainly an advantage for her role as ambassador of the INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing. But it’s not the reason. Maybe it’s her signature feature, the bright red hair above the cheerful laugh? Let’s see if there is more to it.

So here she comes, tall and confident, yet modest. She takes her time and is genuinely happy when someone wants the umpteenth selfie with her. The competitors and guests at the Invictus Games in Düsseldorf are surprised by her warmth and openness. She listens; she talks like the neighbour to whom you gladly leave your keys and flowers while on holiday. One more reason why she is the official face of these Games: Kati cares.

“I did sport, I did it properly,” she says, “and now, I care about sport, about my two children and about others.” For the sake of completeness, the word “functionary” should now be mentioned. It doesn’t come easily from Kati’s lips. She does it because it’s part of the job. Except for the one-on-one conversation with Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, when even a general has to wait a moment. You can’t take care of everyone at the same time.

  • Kati Wilhelm

And children, she likes them most. She looks after them with an experienced shooter’s eye: “I have a message for all children, not just for my own: Success and progress need precision and endurance, especially in biathlon. But it is even more important that we accept our defeats, learn and deal with them. With the small ones and, yes, also the very big ones.”

Yes, even a three-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion fails. Her own restaurant ‘Heimatlon’ in the Thuringian Forest was initially mainstay after her sporting career came to an end. That went quite well. There was more than „good food“ and “nice ambience’’, if the reviews were to be believed. For dessert, there was even a piece of “Kati’s favourite’’ – a light, airy cake made with seasonal fruit, ice cream and cream. In her story now, she swallows briefly and takes a breath, as she did before her last shot: “Then, eight years later, I closed my Heimatlon”.

She analyses what happened like a true former athlete. She misjudged a single, but crucial thing: “I had zero experience in the catering trade, was totally dependent on others.’’ She was overwhelmed in this unfamiliar territory.
“And, even if it hurts to do so, you have to make a final decision or ask for help. That is how you really learn.”

She has new plans. But nothing more will be revealed just yet. For now, our time is at an end. She wants to get back out to enjoy the Invictus Games and her role as ambassador. That’s where she blossoms and where she belongs.

Author: Emil Salzender