We asked Daniel Anlauf, Otto Bock HealthCare Deutschland GmbH
The Paralympic Games in Tokyo were different than originally planned – not only for the athletes, but also for the technicians and other experts who helped turn the Tokyo athletic event into a success. Daniel Anlauf was on location as a technician of Ottobock– the official technical service partner of the Paralympics. The 41-year-old spoke to REHACARE.com about his experience at the Games and revealed his hopes for future Paralympics.
Wheelchairs account for about 70 percent of the approximately 2,000 repairs during the Paralympic Games. This year, Daniel Anlauf was on site in Tokyo as a technician for Ottobock.
Mr. Anlauf, what was your job at the official workshop of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games?
Daniel Anlauf: As a wheelchair specialist, I am responsible to service all types of wheelchairs during the Paralympic Games – no matter what brand or function. It means I repair both the sports wheelchairs – for competitions in wheelchair rugby, basketball, or tennis – and wheelchairs for everyday use since the athletes must be able to get around between competitions as well. They could not do so with a defective wheelchair. As a welder, I can repair a broken wheelchair frame if needed.
You have been with Ottobock for the past 21 years. How many Games have you been a part of including Tokyo?
Anlauf: The Paralympics in Tokyo marked the third time I took part as a technician for Ottobock. I supported the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics and the 2018 Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang / South Korea and now I joined the Games in Tokyo. However, I've been servicing Paralympic sports since 2005: I was a technician in track and field athletics, rugby and sledge hockey at multiple World and European championships.
How would you describe the vibe on location at these Games?
Anlauf: The mood in Tokyo was rather unique and unusual. Since there were no spectators, the competition sites were much more quiet than the venues in Rio for example. There was also less hustle and bustle in the workshop because group visits or journalists were not allowed.
How did the COVID-19 safety measures affect your work on location?
Anlauf: We missed the close communication with the athletes. It's so much nicer when you can discuss the repairs with the athletes or coaches directly. During previous Games, the athletes would visit us after the competitions to give feedback and sometimes show us their medals. Thanks to the COVID-19 safety measures, that did not happen very often this time around. Since you had to always wear a mask, follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines, commit to daily COVID-19 tests, and lived in a "bubble", the mood – even among the team – was not that as carefree as in previous events. That being said, the Japanese took great pains to make accommodations, were always friendly and tried to assist wherever they could to make our lives easier.
For a wheelchair specialist like Daniel Anlauf, everything to do with the sports equipment is naturally part of his job when it comes to repairs. But when it comes to welding work, the experienced technician can score extra points with his expertise.
What were your personal highlights of the Olympic Games and Tokyo?
Anlauf: I attended the Games for 14 days. Since there was also a 14-day quarantine period, it meant I was only allowed to stay in my “bubble". Unfortunately, I saw little of Japan and Tokyo and actually only saw the city from the car while driving to the workshop or the various stadiums, which is a shame.
Can you tell us an anecdote about your work in Tokyo that you will tell your family and friends upon your return from the Games?
Anlauf: I will definitely point out that the Japanese are incredibly friendly and nice. Despite the difficult circumstances, they truly put together amazing Games and did everything they could to make sure we have a great, yet safe time. From what I have seen, Tokyo is also the cleanest big city I've ever been to.
But above all else, it's always a good feeling to know your work makes it possible for athletes to compete in the first place. An athlete from the Dutch team had issues with his tennis wheelchair. The wheelchair frame had broken in several places during airline transportation. We welded the frame and made it possible for the athlete to take part in competition.
What are your hopes for the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris?
Anlauf: For the Games in Paris, I hope the coronavirus pandemic will finally be over and that we get to experience the Paralympics like we last did in Rio – with spectators cheering on the athletes and many people inside the workshop. I hope by then, we once again get to hang out as a team after our shift is over and explore Paris on our off days. I am so delighted to be part of this amazing team!
For now, I am looking forward to the upcoming 2022 Winter Games in Beijing!