This is because of a pretty serious accident at work, right? Can you tell us what happened?
I worked in civil engineering and during a welding job a spark ignited the oxygen around me. Then my whole body caught fire. All my clothes burned. 88% of my body was burnt. Parts of my skin had burst open. I could barely understand what had happened. I was in shock. I knew only that either the end had come, or something life-changing had taken place. Luckily it was the latter.
That must have been very difficult to overcome?
The doctors gave me barely any chance of survival. I think they said 9%. But my mind stayed strong. My determination was able to fight back against the pain, somehow.
After the initial trauma and shock, my biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to get outside and be active again. That was so sad to consider. I’d loved extreme sports all my life but I knew, as I recovered, that I wouldn’t be able to do everything again.
Philipp's Choice: The All-New Cloudflyer
“It feels very secure. The new Cloudflyer gives me the comfort I need for long training sessions, as well as the support and safety that makes me feel comfortable. And, best of all, I feel faster.“
Who supported you along the way?
My family and my friends, no doubt about it. They were so important. Without them I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. The courage and energy I got from them was unbelievable.
Then, of course, the intensive care team, who did everything they could to get me back to a fulfilling life. And all the doctors, the nurses, and especially my sports physiotherapist, Francesca Brenni. They all gave me strength. Or, even better than that: they believed in my own strength. That was a special experience. That changed me. Maybe more than anything. Knowing that people believed in me.
What drives you on to do more?
I think it’s a lot about self-perception. When I focus on being and succeeding as an athlete, that defines me – not the person with the burns, with all that scar tissue.
With my sporting endeavours, it’s all about performance, personal bests, goals, and not my appearance, not how the world sees me. Sport allows me to feel good in my new skin. I am a person of movement, not a victim.
As a triathlete, I get to set myself competition goals, goals that I can achieve. Faster times, new competitions – it doesn’t have to be medals. Every training session is a victory for me.