Germany's former Paralympic athletics star Heinrich Popow said in a recent interview with Xinhua that he hoped the athletes competing at the Beijing Winter Paralympics would enjoy the games and show the world the spirit of solidarity and sportsmanship beyond their limits.
Popow, who competed at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and won a silver medal in the men's 100m, won gold in this event at London 2012 and won gold in the long jump event in Rio 2016.
Looking back on his experience at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, Popow described it as "incredible", "I was one of the youngest competitors and it's like the crowd was cheering and everyone was so happy for me."
Popow said, "after my race it took me six hours to leave the stadium because everyone wanted to have pictures and autographs. They were talking and celebrating with me my success. That was quite nice."
Popow told Xinhua that the beauty of sport is the ability to go beyond limits.
"Through sports I started to realize and to accept my disability. I started to prove the society that I'm capable of the goals I have," he said. "I never feel disabled when I do sport. So I think that is my psychological treatment."
Popow is now an orthotic and prosthetic professional with German prosthetics company Ottobock. Before the opening of the Beijing Winter Paralympic Games, he returned to Beijing and went to the event to provide on-site support for the athletes competing this year.
Popow said that although he will not be competing this time, he "would go to Beijing with lots of happiness and an open mindset and try to enjoy every minute with athletes there."
In his current job, Popow said he brings up real problems he and other disabled people face and then combines them with the expertise of his company's engineers to find solutions to improve the quality of sport and life for people with disabilities.
Popow believes that sports for the disabled should not be limited to the Paralympics. "Using a prosthetic limb or wheelchair in everyday life uses seven times more energy than an able-bodied person, which is a sport in itself."
Over the years, Popow has always been committed to promoting sports for the disabled. He has been teaching people with disabilities the skills and joy of sport by running sports workshops called 'running clinics' in various parts of the world.
"Beijing was my first workshop stop in China," Popow recalled.
"There were more than 100 applicants for the running program," he continued. "We showed some school children that with the help of a running prosthesis, everything is possible."
In the future, Popow said he wants to use digital technology to get more people with disabilities connected. "We are creating an online community platform called 'MOVAO' where all people who have experienced amputation can come together to support each other and share problems and solutions."
"I just want to raise the voice of people with the disability when it comes to normality. And this is an understanding I want to provide with the community," Popow said.