Basketball silver medal winner Laura Fuerst in the faculty building of Mechanical Engineering

Basketball silver medal winner Laura Fuerst in the faculty building of Mechanical Engineering (Image: Uli Benz / TUM)

Alumni athletes
Wheelchair basketball player Laura Fürst
“We Play Mixed Games in the League: Men and Women, People with and without Disabilities”
08. Mar 2018
Reading time Min.
Laura Fürst is in a wheelchair and therefore spends most of her life sitting down. Nevertheless, the TUM alumna is very active. She works at BMW as a system designer for high-voltage batteries, and as a wheelchair basketball player she is currently in the process of winning the next medal for the German team at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
TUM Alumni Laura Fürst loves sports. During a school exchange year in the USA she had an accident with a snowmobile and since then she has been partially paraplegic. When she returned to Germany she spent almost five months at the accident clinic in Murnau. There she learned everything she needed for everyday life in a wheelchair. “We’ve made several trips, for example, going with a sports therapist to Munich to learn to ride an escalator and get around on the subway.”

And she found a new sport for herself. A group of wheelchair basketball players trains every week in the clinic. To be able to take part in it, Fürst has achieved a lot: “It really keeps you fit. When you train in a sport, you get fitter every day.” At the beginning in particular, sport and everyday life cost a lot of energy, which has to be built up: “Because you are not accustomed to the power you need with and from your arms.”

“Time to start living again”

What Laura Fürst likes best about basketball to this day is that it is a team sport. That was something she already learned to appreciate in the clinic. During her initial period in a wheelchair in particular, it was important to be able to deal with the new situation. “You meet people who give you clever tips. This automatically creates a valuable network.” The sports also helped her to leave the clinic and feel good about it, and to cope well with her wheelchair alone in everyday life. “But I had to get to that point at some time where I said: “Enough with convalescence, time to start living again!”

Able-bodied and wheelchair users already played together 30 years ago.

Laura Fürst

The alumni remained loyal to the sport even after her return to everyday life and is now a member of the national team and the Bundesliga team of the RBB Munich. The special thing about wheelchair basketball is that very different people play together. For Laura Fürst, wheelchair basketball is the most inclusive sport of all, even though she doesn’t really like that word and doesn’t use it herself. But the special mixture she enjoys in basketball is actually a rare thing: people of different nationalities, women and men, wheelchair users and walkers play together as a team and fight together for victory. “On the basketball court you can just compete with everyone, and then one player gets out of his wheelchair and walks into the cabin, while another takes his wheelchair into the cabin with him. And there’s hardly any other sport where that happens.”

Singing and dancing in Rio

Although wheelchair basketball is one of the best-known and most widespread team sports for disabled people, the sport is still not well known. Often only about 100 spectators turn up to watch the Bundesliga matches, with up to 1000 at some games. At the Paralympics in Rio 2016, however, there were a few more. We had our opening match against Brazil, and the hall was full. That was 15,000 people, all of them against us at first”, Laura Fürst remembers.

But in the end, the fans were really fair: during the game against us, but after that everyone came to congratulate us. They were dancing and singing, and there was a completely different atmosphere than in Germany.” In the finale, her team had to admit defeat to the Americans, but returned to Germany with the success of a silver medal. For Laura Fürst, Rio was a very special experience and she talks about it enthusiastically. “The whole event was very exciting for me and so many new impressions were gathered. The fact that we made it to the final was due to a great team performance. Of course it’s bitter to lose the final, but the joy of winning the silver medal quickly outweighed it and still gives me the creeps when I think about it.”

The German wheelchair basketball national team at the Women's Gold Medal Match in the Barra Riocentro (Image: Andreas Joneck)

In addition to her first team in the Bundesliga, Laura Fürst has also set up a women’s team: “This is kind of my baby, which I raised so that we can play in the mixed league with a purely female team”. Playing in a women’s team is different. And it helps in the role she plays in the national team throughout the year. “It’s just a different way of playing, and it’s good to have both.”

A car for the sub-Saharan region

Besides sports, Laura Fürst loves her work as an engineer. In her master’s thesis, which she handed in in 2018, she processed test data from Ghana collected for the aCar, an electric vehicle for sub-Saharan Africa, and worked out the resulting effects for the e-machine and battery. “It was such a nice mix of theory – the data analysis – and a real-world project. That’s what I liked about it.”

She finds it particularly exciting that the routes and roads in Ghana place completely different demands on the vehicles than here in Germany. “People simply don’t drive as fast there as they do here, because the roads don’t allow it.” With the help of the test data, she defined the different conditions and thus further developed the project. After graduating, she joined BMW as a systems designer. “I’ve already dabbled in various things and wrote my bachelor’s thesis at a StartUp about a wave power plant, but I already really like vehicle engineering.”

Laura Fürst in a match

Laura Fürst in a match (Image: MSSP)

Laura Fürst

B.Sc. Power and Process Engineering 2015


Combining top-class sport and studies is not really a problem for Laura Fürst, as she is able to put together her own timetable and does not have much compulsory attendance.

For a year in the USA she received a sports scholarship and took two vacation semesters. In this way, she was able to choose the subjects that interested her most and use the wide range of sports on offer. “It was exciting to get to know another university and study in English.”