“I am very proud to have the support of V-ZUG as my main sponsor. They pursue innovative ways to achieve maximum performance, just as I do.” Ambitious hand cyclist Sandra Stöckli gives us an insight into her life as a top athlete and chats to us about what lies behind her success.
During an active training phase, Sandra Stöckli is already back from her first handcycle training session by 7:30 a.m. No road is too long or too hard in her bid for success and the consistent top performances this requires. Flagging or even giving up is simply not an option for the 33-year-old paracycling athlete. She clearly has the necessary grit and healthy dose of ambition to be successful as a top athlete.
She faces challenges with confidence and incredible motivation: to climb to the top of a cliff requires stamina and the willingness to invest in things that might be unpleasant or which, at first glance, don’t seem that important. Sandra Stöckli compares it to a product innovation: “I’m sure that for a washing machine to achieve perfect results, countless tests, tweaks and enhancements are needed”, she says. It’s the same in elite sport. But that is exactly what will ultimately pay off, as the ambitious athlete found out first hand.
When Sandra Stöckli took part in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, a dream came true for her. She had always been a sports enthusiast and even as a child she had been very ambitious, but she had never thought of competing at the top level. And she did not yet know at the time that her ambition and single-mindedness would help her to deal with a heavy blow of fate.
When she was 15, Sandra Stöckli fell from a climbing wall and was left paraplegic. Her life was turned completely upside down. Sandra fought her way back into everyday life with the support of her parents and a fantastic team at the Swiss Paraplegic Centre in Nottwil. “It took me a while to accept that I can’t walk any more”, she tells us. At first she wanted to rebel. But then her strong willpower won through. “Suddenly something clicked, and the top of the mountain seemed within reach. Thanks to all the support I had, I could see the handholds on the cliff that would help me to make it. But one thing was clear: I would have to do the climbing myself.”
Sandra Stöckli successfully completed a commercial apprenticeship at the municipality of Jona and, at the same time, discovered her passion for sport. She started exploring this new world after a good friend registered her for a racing wheelchair training camp. Soon she found her way into athletics and took part in various competitions in her racing wheelchair, including the World Championships in New Zealand.
In 2013, Sandra Stöckli suffered an accident and broke a rib. Was it perhaps time to take a rest? This was not an option for Sandra. Instead, she wondered how she could stay fit despite the injury. Hand cycling appeared to be the answer. She tried it and caught the cycling bug immediately. By the end of the season, it was clear to Sandra that cycling was her new passion.
So at the age of 28, she took a very risky step for a top athlete and swapped the racing wheelchair for a handbike. “Sometimes one has to take a risk in life and do something crazy”, she says passionately. She has never regretted her decision for one second. Her phenomenal vertical start in paracycling proved that it had been absolutely spot on.
Sandra Stöckli started her very first hand cycling season in 2014. She went all out, investing a lot of time, sweat and money to get off to a successful start in the new discipline. Thanks to her tireless determination, she made incredibly quick progress: “Not only did I train a lot, I also studied the sport and the material extensively.” After all, she would want to be able to repair a flat tyre herself.
As a strong-willed athlete, she may have been destined to take part in the Olympics. But to earn her ticket to Rio 2016, the then 31-year-old would have to gather world cup points. A podium position at the World Cup in Belgium earned her these points and thus one of two quota places in the Womens’ Paracycling race. Her relentless training had paid off. Sandra, her husband and the entire team were thrilled.
What followed was an extensive and meticulously planned training phase with the team. Sandra Stöckli does not leave anything to chance. She studied photos of the Olympic village, prepared for conditions as close as possible to those of the actual race course and familiarized herself with all the eventualities: “I like to be prepared and hate having to give up control”, Sandra smiles.
In the Rio Paralympics time trials, Sandra Stöckli won 10th place. In the road race, she exceeded this and her own expectations even further, taking 8th place, and thus earning an Olympic Diploma. “That was the moment when it all paid off and I was rewarded for my relentless training”, Sandra Stöckli says proudly.
This tireless pursuit of perfection, top results and reliable, consistent performance is also what Sandra Stöckli shares with V-ZUG: “I grew up with V-ZUG devices. Just like me, V-ZUG continuously strives for improvement and to beat the odds through great achievement in order to bring the experience of Swiss perfection to the whole world.” Sandra is especially proud to have been supported by V-ZUG as her main sponsor since 2017. It is important to her that they share her values.
Sandra looks forward to her latest challenge with great excitement. For her there is no doubt, “I want to race in Tokyo in 2020. I’ll give my all for that.”