Brazilian para-athlete Flavio Reitz‘s story is among the most inspirational ones in the world of sport. Even after having his left leg amputated at the age of 16 due to the presence of a tumor, Reitz did not let his love for sports dwindle. Taking to various sports soon after, he finally zeroed in on high jump and since then, there has been no looking back. The Brazilian has gone from strength to strength and become a terrific competitor in the world of para athletics.
Even as Reitz has been bombarded with challenge after challenge in the nature of injuries, he hasn’t let them deter him. He has taken them in his stride and come back stronger. This has in turn led to a plethora of achievements. The high jumper’s career high came when he won a silver medal at the Parapan Games in 2015. For his excellent showings, he was also named the Best Male Para Athlete of the year in 2018 in Santa Catarina, Brazil.
It is thus evident that Flavio Reitz is a man of sheer will and determination who will only keep improving. Reitz spoke to firstsportz.com in an exclusive interview about why he took up high jump, inspirations in his life and career, mantra for success and so much more.
Excerpts from the exclusive interview with Flavio Reitz
What inspired you to become an athlete? Was there one particular moment where you realized that you were going to become one or was it something that you were always considering?
After the amputation of the left leg I went to live a common life: study, work, university, parties. Only at the age of 23, 5 years after the amputation I was invited to meet and be part of a Paralympic team. I met, fell in love, and never stopped.
Why did you take up high jump? Is there a particular reason for it? Did you think of taking up any other sport?
Actually I think it was the high jump that chose me. Before I started jumping, I met other sports such as handball and wheelchair basketball, swimming and athletics throwing events. It was through a challenge of my technique at the time that I tried to jump. Besides realizing that I had talent, I was enchanted by the immense challenge that jumping required for me, having only one leg.
The pandemic situation has been difficult for a lot of people. How have you managed to train during this period?
I couldn’t train for a good period. I went almost 100 days without any training. It was hard to stay home locked up, but I decided to look at it as a forced vacation. I took the opportunity to rest and recover from minor injuries due to the load and volume of training. When the lockdown became softer, I was able to return to the gym and gradually to the track.
What do you do before a tournament or a big event? How do you get over the pressure and the nerves? Do you have a ritual or a superstition that you follow?
I always get nervous and anxious before any competition, no matter the size. I’ve had a long pre-competition ritual that has kept changing and decreasing as I gained experience. Currently, I focus on repeating the actions and attitudes of everyday life – mainly trying to decrease the heartbeat and anxiety.
Is there a fixed schedule that you follow while training everyday? How much time do you dedicate per day for the same?
Yes, I have an extensive training schedule, which can reach 6 hours a day, distributed between gym and track.
Who is your inspiration or hero? Why?
Closer to me, my inspiration is my coach Sidney Reinhold (he is a former high jump athlete and was champion for 15 years in the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil). Overall, I have F1 driver Ayrton Senna as an idol.
Who is the most influential person in your career? Why?
First, my first technique of high jump – Prof. Aline Rita de Barros, who is currently my wife. Then my current coach, Sidney. We have been in this partnership since 2014 and have evolved a lot together.
Out of all the laurels that you’ve won, which is your favorite?
My favorite achievement was the silver medal at the Parapan Games in Toronto, Canada, because I jumped with different class athletes.
What is your mantra for success? What motivated you throughout your career to keep working harder and harder?
I believe that my main motivation was my ability to put myself in great challenges. Facing them head-on has always been a priority for me. I wanted to prove to myself that I have enough skills to do what I’m told, regardless of whether I have only one leg or not.
Can you give a piece of advice for young and aspiring athletes and Para athletes around the world?
Do not give up on your goals, however far or difficult they may seem. The human being has an immense capacity for adaptation and we must use this to our advantage. Believe in your potential, invest time, study and commit. You will see that your dedication will be rewarded.