Anyone looking for gossipy information about a favorite athlete is bound to head for the internet. In Germany, Olympic hopefuls are bearing it all online.
"Sven, I'm 27 and single"
The Olympics wouldn’t be what they are today without the sports stars. Who’s forgotten the story of Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan?
While Germany may not have such highly publicized squabbles, it does have plenty of athletes focusing the spotlight on themselves.
And the internet is ideal for fans perusing the latest gossip on their Olympic heros. Almost every star has their own homepage or a fan website with their athletic and family history, favorite colors, foods and music.
And of course no athlete's website would be complete without pictures - lots of them. Just click around the speed skating, skiing and tobagonning scene, you'll find everything from childhood memories to triumphant Olympic moments.
In Germany the hottest young star athletes compete in the coldest sports: the ski jumpers Sven Hannawald and Martin Schmitt. With their "boy next door" looks, the two teammates are without a doubt the most fawned over male athletes in Germany's Olympic line-up.
A visit to the jumping boys' homepages reveals why young teenage girls are suddenly developing an interest in Olympic events.
Sven Hannawald, who is affectionately called "Hanni" (rhymes nicely with honey), has capitalized on his two best assets: his charm and his sporting success - in that order.
Hanni's webpage is full of juicy personal details covering everything from his favorite cake recipe to his dreams for building his own house. The site is full of the usual thoughts about the Olympics and future goals, but the real attraction is a full size poster of the skiing hero. Internet savvy female fans can download cut-outs of the poster and piece them together with others collected over three months. The result is a life size picture of the heart-throb in leather jacket.
Emotions run rampant on the 746-page Hanni forum, which is almost exclusively visited by idolizing girls. Here the true fan can share thoughts on Hanni's chances for the Olympics, his best skiing outfits, and whether or not he really does have a girlfriend (rumors say her name is Beate and she's from Freiburg).
If gushing praise for Hanni is not enough to bring the star-cult alive, internet surfers can visit Hanni's competitor’s page for even more ski jumping trivia.
The 24-year old Martin Schmitt pours on the charm with his sensative looks and regular web columns where he reveals his innermost thoughts.
Under the category "The other side of Martin", fans can read all about what topics really interest the athlete, such as the German childrens' cancer organization. Martin is actively involved in the non-profit group, and uses his popularity to direct public attention to the cause.
But fans needn't think the site is all serious. Like Hanni, Martin has a popular forum and chat group. And reading some of the entries, it’s obvious what German girls really want to know: "Can someone please tell me (two question marks)?? How you know, that Martin has a girlfriend (six question marks)??????"
Bearing it all
Germany's speed skater Anni Friesinger sprints during the 5,000 meter race
Less the internet and star-cults be accused of gender discrimination, the men are sure to get their full share with the speed skater Anni Friesinger.
The Olympic favorite appears on several professionally designed websites with comprehensive photo galleries. Alongside the numerous photos of Anni and her cat Snoopy, visitors get an eye full of Anni’s other talents: erotic modeling and nude speed skating.
When asked about why she chose to pose without her uniform, Anni said, "I'm proud of my body. It's my capitol."
It's no wonder that Anni was awarded second place in the athlete of the year contest for 2001.
Hilde Greg, "Wilde Hilde", as she's called in Germany, also brings her sport to life with a candid webpage. She doesn't quite bear it all, but the swimsuit shots aren't quite the typical clothing for the alpine skier.
In fun and light-hearted articles, Hilde tells her many fans how she overcame a severe leg injury and trained as hard as possible to regain her world-class position.
With a few insider tips, "Hilde's Tips", the skiing champion tells her fellow female athletes how they too can be successful.
For more objective reporting and background information, fans can always check out the official Olympic webpages. There's plenty of background information, biographies and profiles on the athletes most likely to take home a medal. Of course, they're not nearly as personable and would never include Sven Hannawald's favorite cake recipe.