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    Taliso Engel is in the final of the 400 meter freestyle

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    Every headline a new world record, a new personal best or a won competition – Taliso Engel is in the fast lane. The para swimmer wins one success after another. Even his greatest opponent, the Belarusian swimmer Ihar Boki, he beat in May at the European Championships in Madeira by almost two seconds. Can the 19-year-old competitive athlete even improve? “Of course there is still room for improvement,” says Engel. He is ambitious and is at the beginning of his sports career, but he also admits quite openly: “In the spring I had some competitions that were really bad.”

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    Before the Paralympics in Tokyo, the swimmer gives an insight into his life by video call: Engel is sitting in his room, he is wearing on-ear headphones, a black shirt and his brown hair is slightly wavy. On the wall behind him hang blue and black, red and gold ribbons – medals, the evidence of his success. If he is asked about it, he grins and dimples form around the corners of his mouth.

    Between high school and competitive sports

    Taliso Engel stayed on the ground. The swimmer has just finished his high school diploma, but instead of resting, he is taking a Spanish course and working on his seminar paper, because after the Paralympics is before the full high school diploma. In addition, there are up to nine training units six days a week – full of swimming and strength exercises. “Do you ever get sore muscles with so much training?” – Sure, says Engel. But for his dream of participating in the Paralympics, he accepts that.

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    As early as 2018, when Engel was 15 years old, the games in Tokyo were the subject of an interview. “It is a blatant feeling when you have been working towards something for so many years and then just about to do it,” reveals the swimmer. Nevertheless, he tries to put little pressure on himself, his goal: swim top performances and – if possible – make it into the top three. He also does not underestimate his opponents, such as the eleven-time gold medal winner Ihar Boki: “I don’t think that my age gives me an advantage over Boki. Of course I really want to win my first Paralympic medal, but his successes give him a lot of security and he always comes across as very calm, ”said Engel.

    Team spirit in individual sport

    At the Paralympics there are four competitions for swimmers with visual impairments. On Friday, Engel already reached the final of the 400 meter freestyle in the S13 starting class. A medal in this race is unlikely, however, for a place on the podium, Engel would have to swim ten seconds faster than in the run-up. He has a medal chance especially on Wednesday, September 1st over the 100 meter chest. In addition, he competes in the 50 meter freestyle and 200 meter medley. With coach Jochen Stetina, racing tactics and various technical aspects in particular were on the training schedule in his club, 1. FC Nuremberg Swimming, in the weeks leading up to the games. “Taliso is focused and ambitious. Sure, he is also fun for everyone, but the first team of the FCN is a performance class, all of our athletes are determined and Taliso fits in well with the group, ”says Stetina.

    Engel likes to train together with his team – it is more difficult for him alone, he says. In addition, many teammates are long-time friends. “Many think that the team spirit is not so pronounced in swimming because it is an individual sport, but we support each other and cheer each other on for competitions,” said the swimmer. Shortly before he starts a competition, he listens to music – to calm down or to push, depending on what he needs. In the race itself he doesn’t think about anything, he relies more on his feelings. “You can feel whether things are going well or not,” says the athlete. “In addition, with only 100 meters you don’t have much time to think about it,” he adds.

    Sauna in the basement helps you relax

    Because his mother wanted him to learn to swim properly, she already registered him as a child in the swimming club – today, with the start of the Paralympics, Taliso Engel is hoping for a German medal. A lot of stress for the athlete who was born in the Pegnitz in 2002? “Taliso has a very good sense of the extent to which he can strain himself. For his technical diploma his priority was school, now it is back in Tokyo, ”says mother Cosima Engel. The swimmer himself says that he can relax best when he meets with friends – which is not easy after training – otherwise “we now have a sauna in the basement,” adds Taliso Engel with a grin. Even when the pressure increases, Engel tries not to be disturbed. If he manages to keep a cool head at the Paralympics, more headlines of his success should soon fill the newspapers.

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