It's 40th years since the first of Kornelia Ender's 23 solo world records in the pool. In 2:23.01 over 200m medley in East Berlin, the 14-year-old took down the 2:23.07 world record in which Shane Gould (AUS) had claimed one of three gold and five medals in all - a tally that remains the record for solo scores in Olympic waters - at the Munich 1972 Games.
Ender, a 13-year-old super talent hand-picked and honed since she was six years old, had finished second to Gould in Munich. Her rise coincided with true use of systematic doping under State Plan 14:25. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989, an estimated 10,000 athletes across all sports had been doped by their guardians.
Records show systematic use of performance-enhancing drugs such as testosterone, with some substances used in domestic swimmers who never made it to international waters: they were the guinea pigs on which drugs never trialled with lab animals were tested.
The dominant woman athlete of the 1976 Olympic Games, with four gold medals all won in world-record times, Ender was the first Wundermadchen of the German Democratic Republic's swimming medals machine, the currency of the country the Ost-Mark, the currency of sport gold medals at almost all costs. Of the 29 world records that she established between 1973 and 1976, 6 fell in relays, 14 on freestyle, 1 on backstroke, 6 on butterfly and 2 on medley. Only breaststroke escaped. It is a record of records unparalleled in swimming history.
At the helm of it all was Ender’s stunning progress over 100m freestyle: from the 58.25 clocked on July 13, 1975, Ender set 10 world records, becoming the first woman to break 58, 57 and 56 seconds, the 55.65 at which she left the mark in Montreal on July 19, 1976 marking a 2.85sec gain on the clock since Gould’s 58.5 in 1972.
Even with shiny suits and a world record of 52 flat on the 100m free books, the world is still waiting for a leap comparable to Ender's. It took 14 years for Dawn Fraser and Gould to achieve that progress before Ender.
On July 22 in Montreal, Ender won the 100m butterfly and 200m freestyle titles (her triumph also marked the biggest winning margin in history) within 27 minutes of each other, both in world-record time. Born in Halle, Ender won four world titles and a silver at each of the 1973 and 1975 world championships.
When Ender wed Roland Matthes, quadruple Olympic backstroke champion of 1968 and 1972, in 1978, the event was described as “the world’s fastest marriage”. It lasted four years.
Their daughter Francesca is the offspring of parents who boast eight gold, six silver and two bronze medals at the Olympic Games; 11 gold, three silver and 1 bronze medal at world championships; and 49 world records. In the early 1990s confirmation of a secret state-run doping programme tainted GDR results from 1973 to the collapse of the republic from November 1989.