The team Torpedo Ladenburg belongs to the best in the history of powerchair hockey, a kind of indoor hockey that is played by people with physical disabilities in power wheelchairs. This sport enables athletes to do what is quite natural to most people – to compete on equal terms with others and to be proud of one’s success.

Trainer Deniz Genc is lying on the floor. He shifts multicoloured magnets back and forth on a white board. “These are mistakes that must not happen,” he impresses on his team as he gives each player an intense look. The hockey team of Torpedo Ladenburg trains in the sports hall of the foundation Manfred-Sauer-Stiftung in Lobbach where ten athletes in power wheelchairs are chasing a white ball. They follow Deniz’ instructions intently: do not get pushed aside, close the gaps, do not leave the goal undefended. The trainer then blows his whistle. Wheels screeching, the players dart off. The floor roars under their wheels. They stop abruptly, spin around on their axis, speed forward and backward in no time, jostle each other – and, finally, the ball enters the goal. “Brilliant, Jessi,” Deniz applauds. The players high-five each other with their sticks.


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Very successful: the hockey team of Torpedo Ladenburg.

“It belongs to the rather robust kinds of sports,” Jörg Diehl says, as the team takes a break a short time later. Since 1999, he has been playing for Torpedo Ladenburg, one of the most successful clubs in the history of powerchair hockey, which emerged from an extracurricular sports club at the Martinsschule school in Ladenburg. “We are record holders in the national league of Germany,” Jörg explains listing their merits: German Champions eight times, winners of the Euro Cup six times, plus they won several other national and international tournaments. Right now, they are training for the next match day in the second national league. This season’s aim is to move up to the first league again where the Torpedoes played before the global pandemic. They changed to the Swiss national league in 2021 because it was initially unclear whether matches could be carried out during the pandemic in Germany. Now, they want to come back and fight their way up again.

“It was love at first sight,” Jörg remembers about his first game.

“I don’t like losing. Even when I play cards,” Jörg admits. He won the world championship together with the German national team in 2010, and he was German Champion nine times. “This sport has given me everything,” he stresses. People have been playing powerchair hockey in Germany since the 1980s. It is similar to floorball, a variant of indoor hockey. According to the strength of their trunk and the power of their arms, the players obtain a specific number of points ranging between 0.5 (severe impairments) and 4.5 (barely any impairments). Five people are on the court for each team – together they are allowed to receive a maximum of twelve points.

Jörg has a classification of 0.5. Because he cannot hold the hockey stick himself, he plays with a so-called T-stick – an extension that is attached to the front of the powerchair. Yet, he does not feel like a second-rate player in spite of the low classification. He ranks among the best players with a T-stick. “I hold all the records in my position. Although I am physically weak, I am very important for my team.”

This sport has given me everything

Jörg Diehl

Jörg was born in Mainz but lives in Mannheim today and works in the accounting department of the public broadcaster ZDF. He encountered electric wheelchair hockey, as it was then called, already when he was at school. Together with two schoolmates he played hockey as a team of three players during school breaks. Because he had just got a new electric wheelchair, his parents – both of them volleyball players – did not want him to go to training, fearing his wheelchair could get damaged. When he changed to a grammar school with business orientation, the Wirtschaftsgymnasium of the rehabilitation trust SRH in Neckargemünd, he went there after all – secretly that is. “It was love at first sight,” he remembers. He will never forget his first goal and his first tournament as well as the thrill of being on the court himself instead of just watching the match. What’s more, he also met his future wife through the Torpedoes. Olga Diehl is a goaltender. By now, hardly a day goes by without the two of them having something to do for the club, her husband recounts.

The players speed over the court at up to 15 kilometres per hour.

For instance, searching for sponsors – which unfortunately is quite an arduous undertaking. The numbers of spectators were too unattractive for companies operating nationwide in Germany, Jörg explains, whereas local companies were reluctant because at the most the team plays in the region only once a season. This is because – in contrast to the national football league – the powerchair hockey league meets somewhere every match day to hold a mini-tournament. Because the Torpedoes do not have a sponsor at the moment, the players often pay out of pocket for travel and accommodation. According to Jörg’s estimate, he has invested a middle-range five-figure amount in his hobby during the past 25 years, a big part of that in his wheelchair. Powerchairs cost round about 20,000 euros. They were constructed especially for this sport, have protectors near the feet and come with six wheels altogether. The two big ones are set at a slight angle so that the wheelchair does not tip over, since players are allowed to speed over the court at up to 15 kilometres per hour.

The powerchairs were constructed especially for this sport.

Health insurance providers usually do not bear the costs of such a piece of sports equipment. The club was able to finance a couple of wheelchairs through donations, sponsorships and crowdfunding. Since their foundation in 1988, the Torpedoes have not yet found a permanent sports hall either. “We are nomads,” Jörg says sorrowfully. Once a month, the hockey team holds training in the sports hall in Lobbach, and in the meantime usually in the hall of TSV Mannheim. Jörg explains that the sports hall situation is difficult even for athletes without disabilities, and halls with barrier-free access are hard to find. Approximately 60 members belong to the club right now. Nearly half of them are active players, most of which play hockey. The Torpedoes have also had a powerchair football division since 2022, which, according to Jörg, is a bit less challenging than the very fast-paced and complex hockey. “And apart from that, Germany is a football nation.” 

Jörg would love to see success once again with his football team. He wants to withdraw by and by from hockey, though, and engage even more in working with young athletes. The Torpedoes were able to gain six new junior players just recently. When Jörg observes what it means to them to be able to prove themselves on the court, it now pleases him at least as much as to win a match in the national league. That everyone can participate – and not just the most talented players – is of special importance to him. You do not get anything for free, though, when playing with the Torpedoes. “It has to run smoothly in the league,” the youth coach points out. “When you win, you also know: ‘I worked hard myself to get there.’ And I think that this is an important feeling.”


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