From a black tunnel to becoming a champion: Sandra Stöckli has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of 15 – today she is one of the best paracycling athletes in the world. Sandra put her skills to the test at the 2022 World Championships in Quebec, where she won a medal in the road race and time trial. But her success is no coincidence. In the interview, Sandra talks about her life, her successes and her goals.
Sandra Stöckli won the overall World Cup in paracycling in August 2022. However, her life story was not marked by success in the beginning, but by a severe blow of fate: Only 15 years old, Sandra had an unfortunate fall from a wall bar during a physiotherapy class and severely injured her back, leaving her paraplegic. That accident changed her daily routines and her life.
After her fall, Sandra found it difficult to get back into everyday life. She had to relearn all the things she took for granted, like tying her shoes or getting dressed.
Before the accident, Sandra was very active in sports. But after the accident, she was no longer interested in sporting activities. It was only after a sports camp, in which she took part reluctantly, that she was able to find a new enthusiasm for sport.
«It was a never-ending, pitch-black tunnel and it took me a very long time to discover a small flicker at the end of the tunnel that led me out of it – back to a normal, happy and content life»
Following the sports camp, she enrolled in a track and field training course for wheelchair users. She trained in Nottwil with a training group consisting of track and field athletes and handcyclists. But she herself never thought of reclining in a handbike.
After suffering a broken rib in 2013, the cramped conditions of the racing wheelchair made it unbearable for her. For Sandra, however, that was no reason to take a break: She gave the handbike a try, and the change in position resulted in less pain. And she especially liked the handbike because she could ride like a cyclist. A piece of freedom. “I caught the cycling bug in no time at all,” Sandra tells us in the interview. It was from that moment that she really kicked it into gear. After only a few years, she had already achieved many successes, but probably her biggest victory came in August 2022.
The Union Cycliste Internationale World Championships were held in Canada in August 2022. Sandra won the overall World Cup in paracycling and also took bronze at the World Championships in the time trial and road race disciplines.
The next but one World Cycling and Paracycling Championships will take place in Zurich in 2024. There, for the first time, the paracycling races will be integrated into the World Championships for non-disabled athletes and will not be held separately in terms of time and location as is usually the case. They will all compete for the coveted rainbow jersey, which is awarded to the winner of each category. Sandra Stöckli has been looking forward to these competitions on her home turf for a long time.
«She is a perfect match for our goals and values. She takes responsibility, is personable, cooperative and unbelievably inspiring»