As a blind biathlete, I need someone to guide me through the cross-country ski runs. But in my private life, I want to live independently.
My desire for free mobility and autonomy came right after my high school degree as until then I had grown up in the countryside. On reflection, that was the best thing that could have happened to me since it was in the country that I discovered skiing.
When I was just four years old, my parents were already taking my two older brothers and me to go alpine skiing. That is the foundation of my sporting ability today.
Biathlon and cross-country skiing have allowed me to experience unforgettable moments in my life and I've been lucky enough to win many Paralympic medals.
Growing up in the countryside taught me how to move confidently and how to play sport. At the age of 20 though, I wanted to experience the freedom of a large city. I decided to go to Munich. The chance to combine professional biathlon with the independence of living in a large city and studying in a world-renowned university convinced me to move to the Bavarian capital.
Munich offered everything I needed. Apart from its close location to the mountains, it is home to a university that offers individual solutions for everyone wishing to study there. I just handed in my Masters thesis some weeks ago and I'm revising for my final exams right now. I'm confident that I'll get a good degree that will enable me to find an interesting job and to stay grounded after my sports career.
Another important aspect was the ease of travelling independently thanks to Munich's barrier-free public transportation system. Well-organised train stations with spoken announcements, platforms all on one level, and easily accessible trains allow for an independent orientation without mobility restrictions.
As much as the perception changes in some respects, it stays the same in others. My favourite spot in Munich for example is the Olympic Park. As a student I used to live in the former Olympic Village of 1972.
Student life there was fantastic. Thanks to the diverse range of top facilities at the Olympic Park, I also had the chance to run countless kilometres there. The Olympic Park offers everything I like to do in my spare time: attending great sports, music and cultural events in the Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Hall or the Olympic Park, or simply having barbecues with friends on warm summer nights.
Verena Bentele is a visually-impaired German Paralympic biathlete and cross-country skier as well as a Munich 2018 sport ambassador. She has won a total of 16 Winter Paralympic medals, 12 gold, across four Paralympics Games.