Birgit Fischer: Olympic Legend | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 03.09.2004
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Birgit Fischer: Olympic Legend

Three years after she ended her career a second time, Birgit Fischer is back in the boat and racing for gold in the double and quadruple women's flatwater kayak races.


Fisher has been winning gold since before her competitors were born

Fischer won her first Olympic event when she was just 18, making her the youngest ever Olympic kayak winner. At 42, she's still among the favorites in the Athens events.

"I don't win races with power anymore, instead I use my head," she said. "I can count on the fact that I can pull out everything when the deciding moment comes."

Birgit Fischer

The woman just loves gold

Whether she earned them with her head or sheer muscle, Fischer's seven gold and three silver medals over a span of 20 years make her Germany's most successful Olympian ever. The Atlanta Games in 1996, where she placed fourth, were the only time the 27-time world champion didn't come home with a medal.

Eight months ago, when Fischer' started her second comeback, she shocked the kayaking world. She stopped racing once in 1988 after the birth of her second child and again after the Sydney Games in 2000, but has always been pulled back to kayaking by the allure of the Olympics.

Even after a three-year break and at her age -- her 19-year-old partner in the double kayak, Carolin Leonhardt, is 23 years younger -- Fischer's trainer Josef Capousek has confidence in her ability.

Birgit Fischer

Fischer's success has earned her a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records

"When she resolves to do something, she does it all the way," he told Bunte magazine. "Thanks to her talent, her emotion and her will power, anything is possible."

Making Olympic History

According to Capousek, Fischer's younger competitors are "really annoyed" about her comeback, but maybe it's the fact that she's just as ambition as before that has them worried.

"Two gold medals in the team boats, that would be a dream," Fischer said -- it's a dream doubles partner Leonhardt, and Maike Nollen and Katrin Wagner, who climb into the quadruple kayak with Fischer and Leonhardt, would like to see come true.

Should Fischer win, she would equal the record as the most successful woman athlete in the history of the Olympic Games and pull level with Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina who also collected nine golds, AFP news agency reported.

At the same time, she will have accomplished winning 12 Olympic medals in total where she would be second in the all-time list behind Latynina who picked up 18 medals.

On Monday and Tuesday Fischer and her team mates came one step closer to gold, qualifying for the finals in both team races, which will take place at the end of the week.

Life after Athens

Although Fischer's plans for after the competition aren't quite as well defined as her Olympic goals, the mother of two children, Ulla, 14, and Ole, 18, has plenty of options plans to stay on the water.


The golden streak my not be over

The public will be able to find her continuing her engagements for KanuFisch, a company in the German state Brandenburg that works to bring the active lifestyle trend together with respect for the environment. She also want to keep helping train young kayakers and hasn't ruled out continuing her racing career.

"I don't want to scare anybody," Fischer said. "But I can imagine a lot of things."