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Combining Sports and Studies

TUC graduate Marco Thomä is a two-time world champion in the bike trial and received the support from the program "Partnerhochschule des Spitzensports" during his studies

In the past two decades, Marco Thomä brought home a total of 17 medals, including two world titles. The 27-year-old is an athlete in the field of bike trial – one of the most modern forms of cycling of today`s time. The basic requirements in the bike trial are balance, concentration, bike and body control, as well as physical fitness, because the objective of this sport is to overcome obstacles on a bike similar to a mountain bike. Stones, trenches, steps, huge tree trunks or roofs are then to cross in a balancing act - without putting a foot on the ground. In September 1997, Thomä participated in his first competition, but the passion began much earlier. “My uncle was a professional trial athlete and introduced me to the sports. At our place, there was a training area next to the playground on which my cousin, a buddy and I have resided every day“, recalls the native Saxon and adds: “At the beginning, it was a recreational hobby that made a lot of fun. But the ambition to achieve something, grew with the time.“ At the latest after the success at the World Championship in 2002, it was clear that the trial sport will lead the then 14-year-old to a professional career. Marco Thomä`s parents have been supporting him in all times. The conventional family car has been exchanged for a camping van and the annual vacations were switched to competition trips to New Zealand, Japan, Spain, Italy and many other countries. So it was possible for the school student to bring sports and school under one roof.

After graduation in 2006, and the following basic military service, Thomä began studying Bachelor`s program in Sports Engineering at TU Chemnitz. Since the beginning of his studies, he experienced the support of the “Partnerhochschule des Spitzensports“ program for the combination of the sports career and academic training. The program was initiated by the association of Allgemeiner Deutscher Hochschulsportverband e.V. and is in collaboration with TU Chemnitz since July 2003. The agreement is designed to prevent discrimination in the study due to the sporting commitment, support the student athletes in all matters relating to sports, studying and exams, so that they can implement examination contents of the desired degree in the framework of the regular requirements. “The program offers a series of measures to support the athletes. For me the possibility of a charge-free use of the University Sports` facilities was a highlight. I could train at the Zentrum für Fitness und Gesundheit free of charge according to desire and mood. But even at the university level, the program has provided me with substantial assistance, as I could plan my studies very flexible in order to meet competition or training times. In Mathematics, I have even been set aside a student tutor, who supervised me for two semesters“, says Thomä.

Besides the great success, Thomä got to know the dark side of high-performance sports. In 2008, he began to feel the physical efforts of recent years. These began with muscular problems at the back – a moment later the athlete severely injured his ankle. Then followed numerous treatments, physiotherapy and rehabilitation. He largely ceased his participation in the competition, but at the university he felt not down – mainly due to the extensive support provided by the funding. Meanwhile Thomä is mostly rehabilitated and is working hard on his comeback.

His grades never suffered from the combination of studies and sports, so Thomä decided to take the Master`s degree in Mechanical Engineering after the successful completion of his Bachelor`s program. He specialized in substances and materials in the field of lightweight construction. “At least, if something breaks on my bike, I can repair it with my own hands“, Thomä explains with a grin. In October 2014, he submitted his Master`s thesis and began to work as scientific research assistant at the Professorship of Composite Materials of TU Chemnitz. Alongside his work, Thomä continues to practice diligently for sporting success and is committed to the association of MSC Thalheim e.V., the Saxon stronghold for bike trial. There he passes on his experience and enjoys working with young trial athletes. At the same time, he discovered his penchant for trial shows. “It`s fun to impress the audience with my skills. I would like to focus on such shows in the future. Competitions and the accompanying tough training have become difficult to reconcile with my work. In addition, I have not only reached my athletic goals, but even exceeded them in the recent years“, said the two-time world champion.

Information about the ”Partnerhochschule des Spitzensports“ program:

(Author: Katharina Preuß, Translation: Nataliia Boiko)

Katharina Thehos

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