Q&A with Johannes Mallow, two-time World Memory Champion.
Johannes Mallow is a top athlete. When he trains, he doesn't have to leave his apartment or change his clothes. He is a memory champion. But while his mental abilities grow, his physical strength declines.When we think of sports, we think of sweat, shortness of breath and physical exertion. You're a memory athlete, so your discipline doesn't involve any of that. What makes it a sport?
Why do we do sports at all? It's about wanting to improve our performance, to do something for our health, to compete with others, to beat our opponent or to win with our team. In this respect, mental sports are not so different from physical sports.
And memory sports are also physically demanding. The brain eats up 20% of our energy. I am totally burnt out after 6 hours of competition.
As a boy, you always hear that you have to be strong. But while the other boys at school were all growing muscles at some point, I kept deteriorating physically. After I was diagnosed at fourteen, I spent a lot of time in the hospital.
I used to be quite athletic. I played table tennis in a club, and soccer with friends. It was a lot of fun. At some point I couldn't get up the stairs properly and couldn't do any physical sports. I went to a nightclub one time and fell over in front of everyone in the middle of the dance floor.