First Since 1932: No Medals For Germany
Aug 4, 2012 - Craig Lord
Among several nations to underperform as the United States claimed a third of all medals in the pool at London 2012, Germany's tale is truly woeful. Not since 1932 have German swimmers failed to win a medal at the Games in swimming.
Change is promised (and not for the first time in recent years) on the way to Rio 2016.
The best of Germany win 2012 was to some extent the best of Germany in 2012: double gold medallist last time round, Britta Steffen missed the 100m final and finished 4th by 0.07sec in the 50m dash.
"We take a step backwards from one Olympic Games to the next," said former world champion Mark Warnecke, who described Germany's week in London as "embarrassing".
The position of head coach has been vacant since head coach Dirk Lange walked away after he and the federation (DSV) were at loggerheads over who should run true national team's performance programme.
Former world champion and multiple Olympic medallist Franziska van Almsick told reporters: "It is not only about the personnel. It is a problem we have already had for a long time. Our swimmers aren't able to go flat out twice per day. In the past, one or two successes have hidden the real problem. It would be nice if now a new beginning is made. Changes must come, work needs to be done to lead the way over the next four years."
Steffen was joined in that most frustrating of places, 4th, by Steffen Deibler, in the 100m butterfly, while her boyfriend Paul Biedermann missed the 400m final and was one of two world champions (past and present) over 200m to fall shy in the four-lap final in 5th behind Ryan Lochte (USA), the medals going to Frenchman Yannick Agnel and Asian rivals Sun Yang (CHN) and Park Tae hwan (KOR), joint second.
The number of Germans making finals did not reach double figures, while more than half the team fell shy of best times. "The coaches are now being asking, what are the reasons?," said Germany's performance director Lutz Buschkow. "There are some results here which have given us a bit of hope for the future."
As performance head, he may wish to provide some answers himself.
A few short answers were given to the British media asking the same questions of Michael Scott after Britain fell well shy of its promise at a home Games.
Britain took just three medals, Michael Jamieson's fabulous swim in the 200m breaststroke for silver topping the two bronze medals won in fine efforts by Beijing double gold medallist Rebecca Adlington. Elsewhere there was a mix of good to acceptable-mid-season to outright under-performance in the team but team director Scott put a gloss on that.
Asked to assess Britain's performance, Scott said: "There has been a lot of unexpected results in this meet: world record holders not making heats, Michael Phelps not making the podium… It has been a very fast meet and we have had a good meet but to get on the podium here you have to be great."
He added: "We have had more finalists here than ever before at an Olympics." Just one more in fact than the 18 of Beijing 2008, when the medal tally was also three but included Rebecca Adlington's two gold medals.
"We have had two fourths, five fifths but we haven’t been able to convert those final positions into medals," said Scott. "So that is something that we have to focus on going forward. I’m very proud of the way the swimmers kept on fighting and never gave up until the last race. But at the end of the day we are judged on medals. We have three medals in the pool - which matches Beijing but it is below what we expected."
He did not mention that there were only a handful of best times, not that the vast majority of swimmers swam well below best, nor that the term "kept fighting" would surely have been stretching it for a fair few who never got past heats.
On funding ramifications - for a sport that gets about £1.3million a year and a federation pumped with £15m of British Gas resources over six years in private-sector sponsorship - Scott said: "UK Sport will make those decisions in December but there are two key criteria that they use. One is medal performance in London and the second is medal potential for Rio. Our medal targets with UK Sport were a base target of five and a stretch target of seven. We are still in the mix to get our base target."
Keri-Anne Payne and Daniel Fogg will race the 10km marathon on Thursday and Friday this week coming.
"Theoretically the door is still open. Keri-Anne Payne is an Olympic silver medallist and world champion and obviously a medal contender while Daniel Fogg is the second quickest 1500m swimmer in the open water," said Scott. "I’m always an optimist and I’ll be that until the door is closed. Having said that, I’d have liked to achieved more podium performances, definitely."
No two ways about it. He cited 12 shots at podium on the eve of competition, six of those very solid shots, three of them missed because the swimmer did not match their best time of the season.