Germans licking their Olympics wounds

19th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

Once a leading sporting superpower, Germany has had a very grim start to the Olympics with a disappointing medals tally and some observers having already launched a post-mortem on the country's poor performance. John Bagratuni asks, what has gone wrong?

German swimming star Franziska van Almsick managed only fifth place

Loud disco music from the German club at the Athens Games echoed across the Olympic compound at 2am on Wednesday morning.

What they were celebrating, though, remained a mystery. A possible explanation could be that they were, like the dance band on the Titanic, playing on — irrespective of the catastrophe going on around them.

A few hours earlier Germany's frustrating showing at the Olympics continued when Franziska van Almsick managed only a fifth place finish in the 200m freestyle, instead of getting the desired gold for herself and the proud sports nation.

"It's quite nice that the whole of Germany is watching. But on the starting block I simply wanted this whole shit to be over soon," admitted the world record holder "Franzi" afterwards.

Franzi's burden was particularly heavy because apart from a gold by judoka Yvonne Boenisch the athletes have fared below par in the first days of Olympic competition.

*quote1*The swimmers were the most disappointing with not a single medal, cyclist Jan Ullrich failed to get a road race medal following his Sydney gold and the reliable shooters are also without a medal after four days of competition.

The fancied world champion Florian Wanner and Anna von Harnier remained without judo medals, table tennis ace Joerg Rosskopf was eliminated and the 2000 sailboard silver-medallist Amelie Lux lost further ground.

The fencers fear a debacle like in 1996 where they got just one bronze.

YvonneBoenisch won Germany's first gold medal in Athens

The trend continued when former world champions Marcel Hacker (rowing) and Astrid Kumbernuss (shot put) failed to make their finals.

Instead of making an early charge for the desired place in the top five like at Sydney 2000 in the medal standings (where they won 13 golds 17 silvers 26 bronze), Germany had just one gold, two silver and two bronze by midday Wednesday.

China, one of their principal rivals for the positions behind expected leaders United States and Russia, took early command of the medal standings with 10 gold, six silver and two bronze.

"Our expectations have not been met an all areas," admitted Joerg Ziegler, the deputy managing director of the umbrella sports organisation DSB.

German Olympic committee head Klaus Steinbach said on Wednesday: "It is too early to make an assessment. We are confident that we will reach a place in the top 5. We will win some surprise medals."

*quote2*A German analysis once indicated that a nation only reaches a high position in the medal standings if the swimmers and track and field team do well because they combined for 90 gold medals alone in the 301 events in Athens.

The 2004 athletics team has no real gold medal contender and those who were supposed to do well in the pool disappointed.

World champion Hannah Stockbauer crashed out in the 400m freestyle heats and van Almsick already indicated that she was not in top form when she managed no better than fourth with her teammates in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay which had entered the race as favourites and world record holders.

Tuesday's 200m race was the culmination of van Almsick's and Germany's agony in the pool.

"I must realise that I am not in top form. I never felt comfortable and did not feel well in the water," said van Almsick, whose very last career gold medal chance was in Wednesday's 4x200m relay.

Van Almsick also stands for the last hurrah of a number of athletes who were trained in East Germany before the collapse of the Communist state and German reunification in 1990.

The unified Germany achieved their best-ever Olympic results in 1992 in Barcelona with 82 medals (33 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze) and it has been downhill ever since.
August 2004


[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: German news, Olympics

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