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The 2022 World Games may take place in the greater metropolis of Birmingham, but Cullman has made his own impression on the world stage by hosting and helping athletes prepare for international competition.

The Saint-Bernard retirement center has been welcoming teams from Germany since July 2. Sandy Bockhold, one of the directors of the retreat centre, said staff were immediately impressed with the courteous nature of the rescue team.

“They were very interesting and all very nice,” Bockhold said.

Visitors to the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center got a better understanding of the sport during the team’s practice sessions before they depart Thursday night to watch the opening ceremonies of the World Games. The lack of aquatic facilities available in Birmingham led organizers to seek nearby locations. The CWAC’s indoor pool was one of the main features that drew the German team to Cullman.

The German men’s and women’s canoe polo teams were also welcomed to Saint-Bernard. Unaware of the town’s German heritage, the team was surprised to learn of Cullman’s Oktoberfest and attractions like the German Christmas Pyramid. Team members said they appreciated the Southern hospitality.

“We haven’t been able to do much yet, but everyone we’ve met has been so nice and so friendly,” polo team member Jonas Gauselmann said Monday morning as the team was preparing from Saint Bernard.

The Hungarian Marathon Canoe Kayak Team trained at the Duck River Dam Reservoir on Thursday July 7…

While the female team members were surprised to learn that the American South was more than banjos and overalls, team member Hannah Kunz expressed her excitement for a certain stereotype that contains a some degree of truth.

“I love your cars here. They’re so big and loud and big,” Kunz said.

While their initial plan to use the CWAC fell through due to scheduling conflicts, the men’s team instead decided to use the “little lake” located next to St. Bernard Abbey for the enjoyment staff members.

“It was really exciting to see what they do. It was a great experience, I wish they could have stayed longer,” said Diane Brewer, director of the retreat center.

Germany wasn’t the only country to benefit from Cullman’s amenities. Hungary’s marathon canoe-kayak team lowered its boats into the waters of the Duck River Dam reservoir on Thursday. This gave the athletes a chance to acclimatize to the much higher temperatures of the southern United States than those seen in their home country.

“It was very useful for us to train a few days in Alabama before the competitions because the weather conditions are very different from the Hungarian conditions. The weather is really hot with high humidity, which is a big challenge for our athletes. “With the training camp in Duck River, we had the chance to get used to the weather conditions and help our athletes deal with the weather challenges during the competition,” said a representative of the Hungary team in an e-mail response to The temperature.

The men’s and women’s canoe polo teams are scheduled to face off Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

The Canoe Marthon event will take place on Monday and Tuesday.

Jan Malkowski, Nina Holt and Undine Lauerwald of the German lifesaving team all won gold in their events on Sunday.

Patrick Camp can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238


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