Firefit European Championships 2021
Temperatures exceeding 35 degrees, firefighting equipment weighing around 40 kilos and a 20-kilo hose package. The above are the headline data for the FireFit European Championship, which in 2021 was staged in Hanover for the first time as part of the Interschutz Community Days. The only way to cool down on these hotter than hot days: water from the fire hose. And that was certainly made use of every single day. Whether tandem, relay, or individual run - the men and women firefighters demonstrated just what this firefighting competition is all about at the Hanover exhibition center.
Extreme conditions, extreme results
A shrill bleep sounds three times. This is the starting signal for each race. Laden with a hose package and wearing full respiratory protection gear, the competitors ascend the 60 steps of the HAIX Tower. Shouts are then heard from a height of twelve meters. “Pull, pull, pull!” The hose package dangling from the tower shoots upwards. And then the participants run back down. Quick feet!”, is the key motto here. The next activity points are already waiting. The force machine, the slalom and extinguishing a fire. Then an encounter with the final opponent. This is Randy the dummy, who weighs around 90 kilos. He needs to be dragged backwards across the red and yellow course for a distance of 30 meters. Finally, a bang on the finishing mat indicates that the challenge has been completed.
The course is something special, but then again, so are the athletes who take part. The fastest man over the weekend was Tomasz Grzelak from Team Warsaw, who recorded a time of 01:23.81. The HAIX representative Meghann Krüger emerged as the quickest woman after achieving a personal best of 02:20.36. Together with fellow HAIX athlete Pascal Dülge, she se-cured a further European Title in the Tandem Mixed with a joint time of 01:44.74. What is Meghann’s formula for success? Dead lifting, knee bends and plenty of mental training. She also points out the importance of achieving an exponential increase in training intensity. Just like Pas-cal, Meghann performs interval runs in order to prepare for competition. “First in sports gear, then in uniform and then once again carrying the respiratory protection device on my back,” Meghann explains.
Finally fighting with each other again
Over 400 firefighters have convened in Hanover this week. They have arrived from a wide range of countries including Poland, the Czech Republic and France. The event is like a large family gathering, and everyone has been looking forward to it immensely. Even an Iranian team is taking part. The longest journey has been undertaken by Sean Sullivan from Frankfort, Kentucky. “I wanted to seize the opportunity to pit myself against Europe’s best firefighters. Not many of them come to the American competitions, so this was a challenge which particularly appealed to me,” explained the 47-year old Sullivan. His ambition is rewarded as he achieves a time of 01:29.46 and secures first place in his age class.
“I didn’t have any prior expectations, primarily because of the break caused by coronavirus,” says Pascal, the HAIX athlete. In his final run, Pascal is up against Adam Spychała, one of the top favorites. He probably also did not expect this race to turn out to be one of the most thrilling of any in the competition. “I was one step ahead of Adam on the rope when we reached the top of tower. That gave me a huge push!” The mood and atmosphere over the rest of the course also gave Pascal a real boost. “I didn’t see that Adam had gone down much too early until I fell over the finishing line with the dummy.” In true sporting fashion, Pascal expresses sympathy for his opponent: “He was probably under enormous pressure at this point in time.”
Not nearly enough
Scarcely a week after the European Championships, many of the sportsmen and women made their way to Toruń in Poland for the next FireFit event. At least a further five dates are scheduled for this year. Venues include Dortmund, Saxony-Anhalt, South Tyrol and Croatia. Those who missed out in Hanover should definitely try to make it to one of these upcoming clashes. There will be plenty to enjoy, both for hardcore firefighter fans and for those who simply like exciting competition.