Learning to drive, passing the practical driving test, taking delivery of his new customized car, driving off the yard; these were the next challenges for swimmer Josia Topf after the Paralympics in Tokyo. Now he is mobile and can get into his BMW 118D himself and just drive off. It's a whole new way of life for the 18-year-old. "Driving enriches me in every area of my life," says Josia Topf. "Now I can just drive to the doctor's office by myself, to friends' houses, to practice or to competitions. I can go wherever I want, on the spur of the moment." That wasn't possible before. He used to have to be taken everywhere. Most of the time, his mother was the chauffeur. "Now it works the other way around, I'm the chauffeur for my mom. I can drive my mom anywhere."
"Turn left," Josia says, "stop," driving instructor Horst Hilsenbeck, he has seen a car in the mirror, "look properly in the mirror admonishes the teacher. Josia completed three weeks of practice marathon at the PARAVAN driving school in the Swabian Alb, then came the big moment and it was "Exam passed". A decisive step towards mobile independence for Josia Topf. Beforehand, the PARAVAN driving school Sprinter was optimally adjusted to his needs. The swimmer was born with the so-called TAR syndrome, he is missing both arms and has stiff legs of different lengths. He will therefore drive with two joysticks and the Space Drive driving and steering system - steering on the left, accelerator and brake on the right.
"The first time I sat in the car, I thought it was impressive, but also respectful - moving something that big at high speed with just a joystick," Josia says. His training began with practice drives in Pfronstetten-Aichelau. Then, with driving instructor Horst Hilsenbeck, he slowly felt his way into the surrounding area and the next town. At the beginning, it was more difficult than I thought," he reports in retrospect. The fluid constant driving, concentrated in harmony with the traffic rules, that was a challenge for the learner driver at the beginning. "But it's like learning to walk, some steps go easier than others. Experience and practice is important, then the routine comes by itself."
Then at the end of October was the big day. The fitting for his own vehicle was on the agenda. The PARAVAN technicians did a great job and were challenged. Opening the tailgate in particular was a challenge. "We installed a belt pulley in the tailgate so that Josia can reach it again to close it," explains PARAVAN technician Daniel Haberbosch. "If you unhook the belt, you can also open the flap completely."
Josia Topf's cockpit looks a bit spacey: he will control the vehicle using joysticks and Space Drive. He steers with his left hand and operates the gas and brake with his right. "Tests have shown that it's so much better for me because I'm left-handed. I can plan the throttle and brake controls better," he says. In addition, the joysticks are tilted toward him. "The more tilted they are, the better I get on with it, as the first test drives clearly showed." Once someone else is at the wheel, the joystick can be folded away.
He will operate the secondary functions via PARAVAN Touch and Voice, including the sun visor. "I can't reach anywhere," he says. He can get into the car independently. There are seat belts everywhere so that he can, for example, also pull the door shut independently. The seatbelt buckle was also customized for him and relocated to the right-hand joystick.
After delivery, Josia immediately took his first trip to the award ceremony for the Central Franconian Sports Prize 2021 in Triesdorf, 80 kilometers away, where he received the prize in the category "athletic performance - adults. "The absolute highlight for the ambitious athlete was the journey in his own converted car," a report on the event said afterwards.