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Culture

Sport the Tonic for Ailing Germany

It may have been the country's Annus Horribilis but Germans can look back on 2002 and take heart that, while all around them was crumbling, their superstars were dominating sport.

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Germany enjoyed that winning feeling in 2002

As 2002 nears its conclusion, Germans will look back on 12 months of natural and man-made disasters and hope for better days in the New Year. But if they're looking for rays of sunshine in a year that saw the literal black clouds of torrential rain and the figurative ones of economic recession loom over them, they can bask in the knowledge that their sportsmen and women stockpiled honors around the world.

Michael Schumacher

Schummi celebrates his fifth world title.

It was once again Michael Schumacher's year. The German Formula One ace left everyone else choking on his exhaust fumes as he romped home to claim his fifth World Championship title. The German anthem rang out and the flag was raised so often during his latest record breaking season, he might as well have been racing at home every time. Schummi took the checkered flag on an astounding 11 occasions throughout the season, wrapping the championship up with races to spare.

If the car continues to perform well next time out, who would bet against Michael enjoying numerous champagne showers on the way to his sixth title? Maybe his ever improving brother Ralph will have something to say about that...and let's not forget, he's German too of course.

Golden haul crowns Winter Olympic successes

Claudia Pechstein

Olympic gold medallist Claudia Pechstein

From a one man winning machine to a team effort worthy of praise. Germany went to Salt Lake City in the United States for the Winter Olympics and came home as the medal league's top outfit. The skaters, the skiers, the toboganists - in every event, German athletes combined in an astonishing performance that pipped the home country to the top spot by one medal. There were many heroes, including Claudia Pechstein, the east German speed skating star who took home 2 gold medals in the 5000 meter and 3000 meter disciplines, in which she broke her own world record.

Further Olympic success came in the form of the German Paralympic team who collected a total of 17 gold medals in their Winter Games and finished ahead of the pack in the race for medals.

Dogged approach takes soccer team to World Cup Final

From the snow and ice of Salt Lake City to the oppressive heat and monsoon storms of Japan and Korea. State-of-the-art soccer stadiums, fanatical supporters and the world's best teams combined to make the first Asian World Cup Finals a colorful success. To everyone's surprise, including their own, the German national eleven overcame a crisis of belief to reach the final. At times it was not pretty to watch, at others a delight but through sheer determination, typical German efficiency and more than a hint of luck, Rudi Völler's boys battered their way to Yokohama to face the Brazilians.

Die deutsche Fussballnationalmannschaft ist zurück

The German national soccer team celebrate on their return.

Unfortunately, their luck ran out in the form of a rejuvenated Ronaldo, scoring twice past a despairing Oliver Kahn to clinch the title for the South Americans. The German team, however, still came home to a hero's reception.

German domestic football could also hold its head high despite falling at the last hurdle. Both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund took the Bundesliga to the pinnacle of the European stage by reaching the finals of the European Champions League and UEFA Cup respectively. Leverkusen, after stomping on a number of prestigious reputations on the way, lost to Real Madrid while Dortmund's dominant run unraveled against PSV Eindhoven.

Franzi leads by example as swimmers clean up at home

As well as claiming victories across the globe, Germany commanded in their own backyard. At the European Swimming Championships in Berlin, the Germans won a total of 36 medals, 15 of them gold. No other country came close to Germany’s medal tally as the team advanced to the status of Europe's number 1 nation in swimming and diving.

Franziska van Almsick im Goldrausch

Franziska van Almsick tests the gold.

The championships heralded the return to form of German swimming sensation Franziska van Almsick who collected a personal horde of 5 gold medals while setting two new world records. After poor form, injuries and personal problems, 'Franzi' was back as the darling of the German public.

Elsewhere, the German basketball team astounded everyone by coming third in the World Championships and the handball team went one further by finishing as runners-up in their competition.

More to come?

So whatever the next year may bring in terms of the economy, unemployment and political upheaval, the Germans can look forward to another year of sporting achievements.

It could be the 771 million euro ($790m) investment in sport by the government; it may be the fruit of the east/west reunion or it may be just the Germans habit of not giving up - whatever inspired the sports stars of Germany to such success in 2002, it is unlikely to dwindle away again in the coming year. You have been warned.

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