For Sebastian Lenz, covering great distances is part of his everyday life. Lenz is a competitive athlete who can throw a 7.26-kilogram metal ball attached to a steel wire an extremely far distance – past the 60-meter mark, to be precise. In other words, he’s a hammer thrower. And a very good one at that: He’s won a number of titles at the Hessian championships,
and is considered a star on the German scene. What’s more, the 24-year-old track and field athlete is not only currently perfecting his hammer throwing technique, but also fine-tuning his skills in welding processes at the chassis construction facility in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
Lenz works as an intern there, gathering experience that he put towards his bachelor’s thesis at the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences. He’s planning on earning his master’s further down the line. “Plus,” says the aspiring mechanical engineer from Frankfurt-Unterliederbach, Germany, “I can see myself continuing my career here at Opel.”
Michael H. Schmidt from Central Professional Training Services feels that Lenz’s experience as a track and field athlete will be a boon to the auto manufacturer. After all, sports – like jobs – favor and foster qualities such as discipline, ambition, team spirit, and a winning attitude. “Opel benefits from all of those. That’s why our company continually supports competitive athletes who are interested in building careers with us.” Lenz was put in touch with Opel through the Olympic Support Center in Hessen (OSPH), a support and service institution for athletes run by the German Olympic Sports Association.
Opel has been working with the OSPH for 26 years now. “Our cooperation has continued to develop over the years through constant dialog,” reports Arnulf Rücker, who works in the Career Consulting division of OSPH and helps athletes balance their athletic careers with their educational and professional ones. “Opel has always been open to hearing what we have to say, and provides our protégés with training or internships that help them chart their long-term careers.” It’s a mutually beneficial partnership.
OPEL LETS ATHLETES GET THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Former hockey goalie Nicole Loeck, for instance, completed training at Opel to become a model builder, and now works as an engineer in that field. Judo practitioner Heiner Kleber completed an internship back when he was studying mechanical engineering, then came back for a work-study semester – and finally decided to stay at Opel for good. Sebastian Lenz is impressed by that approach: “I’d like to make the best of myself both academically and professionally,” he says, “and still be able to reach the highest possible level in the sport I’m passionate about.”
What fascinates Lenz about hammer throwing is the finely coordinated interplay between strength and technique. Hammer throwers are allowed to turn four times in a circle to build momentum, then they need to release the hammer in the perfect instant in order to achieve the optimum distance. “You need to have a perfect sense of timing. Your legs are really speeding up, but your upper body needs to stay relaxed – it’s the most complex kind of throwing discipline.”
HIS BEST IS YET TO COME
In 2009, back when he was 17, Lenz starting focusing more intensively on hammer throwing for the first time – instead of discus throwing, which had been his favorite type of sport up until then. He quickly earned fifth place in the German championships. One year later, the coach of the German national team nominated him for a spot on the squad. “In order to stay in peak form, you need to schedule in up to ten training sessions a week,” explains Lenz. That’s not possible if you want to become a mechanical engineer. He currently undergoes about five training sessions per week – “but my distances are still really good.”
Because of that, Lenz wants to compete in the Hessian and German championships next year. “The time will also definitely come when I can focus more intensively on hammer throwing.” The ideal age range for hammer throwers is from 28 to 30, anyway, plus “there are still people at the top who are over 35.”
Lenz thinks that rushing between sports and work and constantly giving your all to both is the completely wrong approach – that would take the fun out of it, for one. “And the key to success is actually really simple: You can only do something really well if you really like doing it.” That’s exactly what he brings to his work in chassis construction: “Opel is awesome.”