Paralympic star Mathias Mester (35) faces the sporting challenge as a candidate for the RTL dance show “Let’s Dance” (February 18, 8:15 p.m. or via RTL+). At the age of 18, the 1.42 m tall athlete started parasports and was able to celebrate successes in the track and field disciplines javelin throw, shot put and discus throw.
He was multiple German, European and World Champion and won silver in the shot put at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing. In June 2021 he announced the end of his career and shortly thereafter published his book “Start small, make it big: My crazy life at 142.5 cm”. In an interview with the news agency spot on news, Mester reveals why he is taking part in “Let’s Dance”, what will be the biggest challenge for him and how he assesses his competition.
Why did you decide to take part in “Let’s Dance”?
Mathias Mester: I’m just so keen on this challenge on terrain that’s relatively unknown to me. Last year we sat down with RTL and the production company of “Let’s Dance” and talked about whether I could basically imagine it and whether I dare to do it. When the Go came, I was really happy. And I’m still really happy about that.
What is your connection to dancing?
Mester: Dancing has always been incredibly impressive for me and a real high-performance sport. Especially with regard to “Let’s Dance” I have always found it remarkable what kind of development so many participants have made in such a short time. Personally, however, I have had very few points of contact with the topic so far. I was once asked in secondary school if I would like to take a dance class, but at the time it wasn’t an option for me. Later on, like probably most of us, I swung my legs in discos from time to time. But that has nothing to do with this sophisticated dancing, as is the case with “Let’s Dance”.
How did those around you react to taking part?
Mester: Everyone was very happy for me. Also because people know that after the end of my professional track and field career last year, I am extremely keen on a new sporting challenge.
In your introductory video you already mentioned that in the dance the man is usually taller and the woman leads. How different is the training for you?
Mester: I can’t say that yet because I don’t know who I’m actually going to dance with. We all only find out in the big introductory show. I’m really excited to see who it will be… But the bottom line is that I don’t think the training will be very different, because I’m convinced that I’ll dance with my dance partner – no matter who it is – on an equal footing.
Aside from that, what do you find most challenging about dancing?
Mester: Remembering the choreography, quite clearly. That will be the biggest challenge for me personally and a really tough nut to crack.
Are you particularly jittery before a dance?
Mester: Let’s put it this way: Since every dance needs to be well choreographed, every dance has the potential to make me a bit jittery. Maybe I’m lucky enough to start with a slow waltz (laughs).
Next to which professional dancer would you feel most comfortable, what does she have to bring with her?
Master: Patience. And I hope that as a professional she will work with me on my weaknesses. But I’m pretty optimistic that we’ll get through this together.
To what extent does your career as an athlete help you to take part in “Let’s Dance”?
Mester: It totally helps me. Discipline was always very important. And staying power. I need both now. Just like a feeling for the right timing and the right pace, that was always essential for me in athletics.
Do you think the jury can rate you like any other candidate?
Mester: I absolutely assume so.
How does the training change your everyday life?
Mester: No question: The training will not only change my everyday life, it will determine it. I’ve set aside plenty of time for this. But that’s not a problem and a condition that I know very well from my time as an active athlete.
Paralympic champion Heinrich Popow was also a participant. Did you follow his performances, did you take him as a role model?
Master: Definitely. Heinrich is a good buddy of mine. And I suffered a lot when he had to leave “Let’s Dance” prematurely due to injury. I now want to enjoy the show the way he did.
What do you say to your fellow campaigners and who do you think your strongest competitors are?
Mester: Well, I think we’re a strong group in general. I see everyone who is taking part this year as very dynamic and as people who know what they want. Everyone, including me, has the same goal in mind: to become “Dancing Star 2022”. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to our journey together.