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Germany

German sports academy puts young athletes to the test

Young Germans interested in pursuing a career in sports know to get a degree from the German Sports Academy in Cologne. But before students are even considered for admittance, they've got pass a rigorous physical test.

Vera Kremer spins a basketball on her finger

For a gymnast, Vera Kremer is not bad on the hardwood

Vera Kremer is one of the hopefuls at the most recent physical admissions test at the German Sports Academy in Cologne.

Young Germans know that the Academy is the best place to go for a degree related to a career in sports, which is why the 17-year-old has made the five-hour drive from Bavaria with her family to take the test.

She hopes to get her teacher certification from the Sports Academy in physical education, just like her parents and sister before her. The academy has around 5,000 students, studying programs from sports management to physical therapy, and of course physical education teaching certification.

But before the students are even considered for admittance, they've got to pass the rigorous physical entrance exam. On average, fewer than 40 percent of the students who take the entrance exam actually pass.

A group of students recieves instructions from the judges

Passing or failing is often decided by the judges

From basketball to badminton

As a gymnast, Kremer is quite athletic but this test is designed to examine a wide range of disciplines. There are 20 events, including gymnastics, swimming, team sports, track and field and racquet sports. Of these tests, 19 must be completed successfully, meeting a time, distance or competency standard.

"I'm pretty nervous about badminton, and about the running at the end, but I think it'll be alright," Kremer said.

Up first is Kremer's team sports exam in basketball. As she goes through ball-handling drills on the court, her father Heinz nervously looks on. He's a physical education teacher, and completed a test just like this one over 30 years ago.

"I nearly failed in swimming," he said. "In the timed breaststroke event, my time was only just good enough to get through."

But the swimming event posed no problem to his daughter, and although she was the shortest player on the court, Kremer displayed enough know-how on the hardwood to pass basketball.

But then there’s the event she is most nervous about - the racquet sports test, where she'll try her hand at badminton.

Fabian Messmer gets ready for the shot put

Is that shot regulation weight?

Swapping shots

Kremer leaves the basketball court and heads across the campus to the badminton courts. The test is given twice a year, and costs 60 euros ($78) to take. On this exam day, around 500 contestants are divided into six groups that rotate through the events in a different order. Each group is accompanied by a student volunteer from the academy who leads them around the campus from one event to the next.

Some events finish early, but to keep the groups on the same schedule, none of the events are moved forward, which makes for lots of down time for the contestants.

The day started off cloudy in Cologne, so all the events have been moved indoors - including the track and field test, where 20-year-old Fabian Messmer has just met the time standard in the 100-meter dash.

The young man from outside of Freiburg near the Swiss border barely broke a sweat in meeting the time standard. But his next event is admittedly his worst: the shot put.

"If I fail, it's not my fault," he says as a disclaimer. "The shot is too heavy."

And sure enough, all three of his attempts fall short of the 7.6 meter mark. That is Messmer's one failed discipline for the admissions test - if he gets another one, he's out.

All about technique

It ends up being the swimming test that ends Messmer's entrance exam. He failed to impress the judge with his crawl stroke technique, meaning he recorded one too many deficits to continue.

Fabian Messmer on the bar excercise

As a former gymnast, Messmer had no problem on the bars - just in the pool

"I'm a little bit disappointed but it was my fault," said Messmer, taking the defeat in stride. "I took a breath when my head was in front of the water, and you have to take a breath when it's on the side, and that's my fault."

Messmer will give it another go in a week's time at a different sports academy near his hometown. In the meantime, he has a lot of time to kill before his overnight train back home, so he decides to head over to the track and watch the other competitors in the final test of the day - the long distance run.

Five laps to go

The sun has finally poked through the clouds and the conditions are perfect for running a distance race. Vera Kremer has made it all the way through to the end of the day. She's been on her feet for about 10 hours, with long breaks between events.

Vera Kremer runs around a track

Just a few more laps before Kremer has the test under her belt

"I feel very tired," she said. "I actually don't want to walk anymore, but I have to, and I'll give my very best."

Her final test is a 2 kilometer run - five laps around the track - in 10 minutes. Passing the endurance test is a must for all students, even if they have perfect marks coming in.

Through four laps, Kremer is on pace to pass but isn't leaving much room for error. She kicks in the final curve, churns her arms and legs down the home stretch and crosses the finish line with 15 seconds to spare.

She slumps against a chain-link fence - exhausted, but grinning from ear to ear. She's a step closer to landing a spot at one of Europe's top sports academies.

Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Rob Turner

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