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Culture

German "Senior" Swimmer Makes History

After a disappointing Olympic Games in Athens last year, the German swim team was looking for redemption at this month's World Aquatic Championships in Montreal. They found it in the unlikely victory of Mark Warnecke.

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Can Mark Warnecke inspire Germany's younger swimmers?

At 35, most top swimmers have already retired. But in an age-defying performance, German doctor Mark Warnecke pulled off a shock win in the men's 50m breaststroke final at Montreal, becoming the oldest world champion in history.

Warnecke took gold in the breaststroke with a time of 27.63 seconds, beating Mark Gangloff of the United States, 12 years his junior, who clocked in at 27.71.

"People have been asking me for 15 years now when I'm going to quit," the traumatologist said after his historic win. "Maybe another 20 years?"

"When I do quit this will be the medal that I'll be most proud of," he added.

Warnecke's record has helped put a smile back on the faces of those at the helm of the German Swimming Federation (DSV). President Christa Thiel called his performance "sensational," while head coach Ralf Beckmann could only describe it as "crazy…outshining everything."

Silver for Buschschulte

The other bright spot for the German team in Montreal came when Antje Buschschulte took the silver medal in her favorite event, the women's 100m backstroke. With the exception of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Buschschulte has won a medal in the event at every major competition since 1995. And even though this time it wasn't gold, she celebrated like it was.

Antje Buschschulte gewinnt über 100m in Montreal

Antje Buschschulte swims in a women's 100 meter backstroke heat at the World Aquatics Championships Monday, July 25, 2005 in Montreal.

"I didn't defend my title, but I'm totally happy with second place," the 26-year-old said.

She also earned high praise from Beckmann, who was pleased with "yet another world class performance."

Tomorrow's talent?

With Warnecke and Buschschulte, the German swim team can justly be pleased with its showing in Montreal. But it hardly marks a return to the glory days when Franziska von Almsick and Hannah Stockbauer, in particular, captivated the nation with their star power.

At their ages, Warnecke and Buschschulte are, without a doubt, veteran swimmers. In comparison, the top American swimmers at Montreal -- Kate Ziegler, Katie Hoff and Jessica Hardy -- are all still in their teens. The US team's "veteran" female swimmer is 22-year-old Natalie Coughlin.

The German team's younger swimmers turned in average to disappointing performances during the opening days of the Montreal championships -- something Buschschulte struggles to understand.

"As a younger swimmer, you can be much more easygoing about it," she said. "Just look at the Americans. They stand on the starting blocks, and then swim to a world record. They don't even think about what they're doing."

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