We spoke with Maximilian Kröber, #Berlin2023 staff member and table tennis athlete. We talked about the work in the LOC (Local Organizing Committee), his change of perspective as an athlete to move behind the scenes and the special nature of the Games for athletes.
When and how did you take up table tennis?
I only started when I was 16. So, quite late. Relatively much too late and then by chance, actually, because a coach asked me if I already played in a club and then I wanted to try it out.
What do you particularly enjoy about table tennis?
I enjoy verything that has to do with speed. I'm all about that and table tennis as a fast backstroke sport.
What were your greatest personal sportive successes?
In 2019, I became European runner-up with Team Germany at the Paralympics in Sweden.
Working at the LOC
How did you become part of the LOC?
I got to the LOC through my athletics coach. He is responsible for me in the disabled sports association. He then said: "Take a look at the website and apply". I applied and it worked out – in October 2021.
What are your tasks in the LOC and which do you like best?
I work in the HR department. I do basically everything, I'm an all-rounder. But I am mainly responsible for the registration of employees. I work part-time 20 hours in the LOC.
I like to be active and outdoors. That's why I particularly enjoy the task of registering our staff at the State Office for Immigration. But I also like to talk to people when they have problems.
You know sports events as an athlete and are now an organizer. What is it like for you to be involved behind the scenes now?
I always knew that there was a lot going on behind the scenes, but that the people or the FAs (functional areas) only deal with one particular topic, that was not clear to me. Also, I have developed more understanding when things take a little longer or problems cannot always be solved immediately.
What is important to you when working with colleagues?
Don't talk to people with disabilities in baby language, but treat them equally, or treat them the way you would like to be treated.
I think it's important to treat people equally. Instead of saying: "We have to address him gently." I had that for years and I didn't like it at all. So: don't talk to people with disabilities in baby language, but treat them equally, or treat them the way you would like to be treated.
That also means not saying, "He can't do it," but, "I'll do it with him." The second time, you can let him do it alone or look over his shoulder. It's also important to me not to be pigeonholed.
I know many people with autism who can really do a lot. Just because you don't know this type of being so well or haven't heard so much about it, you should not judge too quickly.
What are you personally most looking forward to at the Special Olympics World Games 2023?
I am a person who likes to watch things, especially how happy athletes are. I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone is up for it and that it doesn't matter if they win or lose.
For example, they score a goal and then the opposing team is also happy because it was a good shot or a great goal.
And of the other program highlights?
I am also looking forward to the Closing Ceremony. Above all, to see people who are simply happy to be there. I think that's the most important thing for me.
What do you think the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 mean for the athletes?
They set new stimuli! Many only know their surroundings, the way to the gym, to work. Getting out of your own bubble and comfort zone means developing as a person and athlete – whether at the Paralympics or Special Olympics.
And that they see that other people have the same fascination. And last but not least that new friendships will be made as they will spend over 9 days together.
Do you have professional and sportive goals for the future?
The sportive goal is clear: to get back into high-performance sport. I've neglected it for three years now, it's hard to make up for three years of training, but it's possible.
Work-wise: I still need to finish this journey and I really want to deliver good Games for all athletes and coaches. Those are the two goals for now.
Name: Maximilian Kroeber
Favourite sports: Cycling and weightlifting
Favourite city: Bacelona (Spain)
Favourite animal: Cat
Part of the Special Olympics family since: 2021
Thank you, Max!