After months of dedicated practice, and with the help of motorsport technology, German athlete Andrea Eskau will take on the challenge of the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang this week, with a remarkable target in mind.
Andrea, 46, has won medals at the last five Paralympic Games, summer and winter, including gold medals in the last three. Now, a decade on from her first Paralympic appearance, she heads to South Korea in peak condition and with the benefit of a high-tech ski sled, inspired by top-level motorsport.
The new ski sled, produced by TOYOTA Motorsport GmbH (TMG) using technology developed for the Le Mans 24 Hours, will be used over a variety of distances by Andrea in two disciplines at PyeongChang, biathlon and cross-country skiing, which begin on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
As one of 11 women on the 20-strong Germany team, Andrea is the most experienced of her compatriots and is well prepared to challenge for more medals, despite illness disrupting preparations for many of the German para skiers during the recent World Cup event.
She says: “I had a very good preparation over the last month, despite the virus most of our German team had to face during the last World Cup in Oberried, but I had the chance to compete in the German Cup in Oberried again. My times have given me a lot of confidence. Now I’m very motivated and happy to start the Paralympic Games in PyeongChang.”
Andrea’s gold-winning performance at Oberried highlighted several advantages with her ski sled, such as a 30% weight reduction compared to her previous model and improved stability and ergonomics intended to make the overall handling and, particularly, the shooting section of the biathlon easier.
“My biggest hope is that the TMG-built sledge can help me to improve my downhill times – this is the part where I need to most confidence from the sledge and I do have it now, so I expect and hope to be quicker than in the past,” explains Andrea, whose biathlon challenge begins with the women’s 6km race on Saturday at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre.
“The shooting improved a lot with the stabiliser that we added to the sled so I hope that I can show that in PyeongChang. I'm really looking forward to the competitions and want to be as relaxed as possible and with full confidence to enjoy it the most.”
Andrea, who suffered life-changing spinal injuries in a 1998 cycling accident, has worked with TMG since 2012. At the beginning of the partnership, a group of employees in Cologne worked to support her in their spare time but the cooperation has developed into official support, inspired by her determination and will to win, values TMG’s shares in its motorsport projects.
TMG’s project leader Norbert Schäfer says: “Andrea has a very good technical understanding and a lot of ideas, so at each meeting we created good solutions together. Her approach is clearly improvement-related in order to get the most possible performance out of the athlete and her tools, in this case her ski sled. This is exactly how we operate in motorsport as well.”
In addition to Andrea, Toyota Motor Corporation is supporting Japanese para skier Taiki Morii. A group of engineers from Toyota Motor Corporation as well as colleagues from Nissin Medical Industries, developed a new sit ski for Morii. TMG sends its best wishes for a successful Paralympics to "Team Morii". FInd out more here: https://newsroom.toyota.co.jp/en/corporate/21382249.html