Sports gives German war veteran new hope

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By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Sports gives Tim Focken new confidence to start a new life after a significant stroke of fate.

In 2010, the former German paratrooper was heavily wounded in Afghanistan and now is the first German war veteran to compete at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

After seven years of intense training, the sports shooter seems aware of the challenge as he claims the current turbulence in Afghanistan again hit his mind before taking off for Japan as one of 133 German athletes.

"I somehow felt in a hopeless situation. But sports helped me to gain new confidence and discover my options I still have," the 36-year-old said.

Since being badly wounded, Focken's left arm and shoulder remain paralyzed.

"Others," he added, "have lost their lives, I was lucky to survive. I still have my family. Since I took up sports life has changed and I regained professional satisfaction."

At home, the sports soldier keeps several war mementos such as the bullet that damaged his shoulder.

Despite being the first German war veteran competing, the athlete doesn't want to be seen as a figurehead despite the growing number of war veterans at the Paralympics.

In the United States, reportedly more than 15,000 veterans took up sports.

Official surveys expect up to 15 percent of war veterans in the field of Paralympics participants shortly.

"Ok, I am the first German case. Perfect. But now we must go on. I regard myself as just one among many who have got over lives up's and down's," he stated before trying to achieve an Olympic medal with his rifle in three shooting events such as air rifle and small-bore rifle.

Within five years, Focken made his way into the world's top. In 2019 he ended up fourth at the World Championships.

He chose shooting and skipped swimming as "I could do it near my home and the age doesn't play a bigger role in these sports."

After a 17-hour-long emergency operation in a German hospital, Focken joined a special recovery program set up by the German army.

Two years later, he won the all-around competition at the Wounded Warrior Games in the U.S. as the first European athlete after eight years.

In advance of the Tokyo Games, he set up new goals for his sports career. Trying to keep the current situation out of his mind, Focken is geared in direction of a medal.

"For every sportsman the goal must be the final round. To just be part of the Games isn't enough, I have lost that feeling for a while," he said, adding "I can be part of the leading athletes."

The promising way back to a fairly normal life, he mentions, "is to get cloudy thoughts out of your head and concentrate on your chances. It took a while for me to forget about what I went through. At first, I was devastated, but sports made me turn things around." Enditem

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