When he was 13 years old, Daniel Wagner was involved in a gymnastics accident, which caused him to lose one of his legs and acquire a prosthetic leg. With help from his network and great strength of will, Daniel was able to fight his way back to sports. Today, he is a professional para athlete and he has just won Pressalit's Keep Living-Award.
About 10% of the Danish public is living with a physical handicap. Out of them, approximately 13,200 people exercise in sports clubs, which are members of Parasport Denmark. Parasport Denmark is a special association, under the Sports Confederation of Denmark, which offers various branches of sports to handicapped people. One of these handicapped athletes is 24-year-old Daniel Wagner, who is a professional para athlete with a personal sponsorship from Pressalit. In addition, Daniel won Pressalit's Keep Living Award this year, which honours the parasports name of the year. In this interview, you can read about Daniel’s accident, his relationship with sports and about his insisting fight to come back to the sports world.
How did you become handicapped?
I was injured at a trampoline accident at a gym show in Vejle on 25 April 2007, when I was 13 years old. It happened, when I was doing a completely ordinary show together with Vejle-jumping-team. I had been on the team for a few years and I was very happy to be on it. I was supposed to do a jump on a mini-trampoline, which I had carried out several times before. The landing from the jump went wrong and my knee popped out of place. My knee went all the way up on my thigh and I was driven to the hospital, where they put the knee back in place. At the hospital, they accidentally tore a blood vessel, so my lower leg did not receive any blood and the body part started to die. I was driven to Kolding, where I had surgery for 13 hours by some of the countries’ best orthopaedic surgeons. As the body part was dying, it was excreting a lot of antibody, which can kill you. Thus, they had to choose between the leg and me. I was happy that they took the leg and not me.
What do you see as the biggest difference before and after you became handicapped?
Mentally, it made me stop and think about life in a new way. I became more mature. I learned to focus on the important things and not on the things that usually worry teenagers. The accident made me very strong mentally and I have never cried about it. I was forced to make some big choices at an early age and to look at my options instead of my limitations. I made some goals that I started reaching for. By achieving these goals, my confidence was strengthened and it motivated me to aim higher.
When did you start doing sports?
I have been doing sports my entire life. I started doing gymnastics when I was very little. Sport is part of my DNA. Sport is literally my entire life and without sport, I would not be Daniel. After the injury, I wanted to get back to sports as quickly as possible. It has been my goal from the beginning to come back. When I started succeeding, I was able to focus on other things. Going to a sports-continuation school is one of the best decisions, I have made in my life. At the continuation school, there was full speed ahead from the beginning. In the beginning, people were looking and asking about my leg, but after a couple of weeks nobody noticed it anymore.
When did your personal sponsorship with Pressalit start and what does it mean to you?
Pressalit started sponsoring me personally in 2016, just before the Olympics in Rio. I am incredibly happy and grateful for Pressalit. When you enter a partnership with someone, it must be a win-win situation for both parties. I do not want to enter a sponsorship just to receive money or something like that. I would like to give something back. Some companies that sponsor athletes do not really use the athletes. I would like to give something back and not just receive equipment. Pressalit is a good sponsor, because they are genuinely interested in the athletes and they want to use them and do something for them. They do this for example through initiatives like Pressalit Sports Academy. However, I have also given talks to Pressalit’s employees, taken pictures with them etc. This makes me want to do more for them. I think that is a good partnership. In addition, it is amazing to have a person like Dan Boyter representing Pressalit. Dan is not only interested but he actually travels with us to World Championships, European Championships and the Olympics. Nobody else has ever done that. It really means a lot that a busy person like him takes time out of his schedule to do that. This makes the sponsorship much more grounded. Sometimes, sponsorships can seem a bit superficial otherwise. I really admire his commitment.
What is you biggest achievement?
That would be when I won a gold medal at the World Championships. For a long time, I have won silver and bronze medals, but now I finally won a gold medal. Especially, because I felt like I had done as much as I possibly could in order for it to happen. It was completely surreal, when the national anthem was played and I received the medal.
Does your handicap keep you from doing things that you would otherwise want to do?
No. There is nothing I avoid doing due to my handicap.