After a disappointing Olympics in Beijing, Germany's Paul Biedermann hopes to have a better outing in London. The Olympian is one of Germany's most famous athletes, but must unseat his American rival to medal.
Swimmer Paul Biedermann is one of Germany's strongest medal hopes heading into this summer's Olympics in London. The 200 and 400-meter freestyle specialist is the current record holder in both events, but unseating the American Ryan Lochte will be a mammoth task.
Nicknamed "Supermann," the 25-year-old has established himself as one of the world's elite swimmers after a slow start to his career. He is a star in his country, and even calls legendary Formula One driver and fellow German Michael Schumacher a close friend.
Establishing a rivalry
The 2008 Olympics in Beijing did not go exactly as planned for Biedermann. Coming in fifth in the 200 and 17th in the 400 meant he finished with no medals. The German rebounded in 2009 at the World Aquatics Championships in Rome, setting world records in both events. He was subsequently named "German Sportsman of the Year."
It was in the Italian capital that Biedermann became the first swimmer to defeat legendary American swimmer Michael Phelps in four years, but some saw his record as unfair. His victory came while wearing a version of what have been called "super suits."
At that summer's championships, an astonishing 43 world records were set by competitors wearing the high-end swimwear. USA Swim Coach Mark Schubert called the event the "plastic meet." The "super suits" have since been banned, but Biedermann's records remain.
The 'world-record-holding couple'
The accomplished swimmer has support in girlfriend and fellow German Olympian Britta Steffen. Biedermann acknowledged the benefit of Steffen's support after his success at the World Aquatics Championship 2009.
"Britta told me before the race that she really believed in me and that I could beat Phelps," said Biedermann after the race. "I want to thank her for this win."
The two made their relationship public in 2010, becoming swimming's "world-record-holding couple." Steffen holds the record for fastest time in the 50 and 100.
Looking toward London
Biedermann came close to glory at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, narrowly losing to Lochte and Phelps in the 200m freestyle. He also finished third in the 400.
Heading into London, Biedermann is ready for a dramatic showdown with his American rival. Phelps pulled out of the 200, setting up a head-to-head race between Lochte and Biedermann. In the 400, Biedermann must out-swim 20-year-old Chinese phenomenon Sun Yang.
Author: David Raish
Editor: Matt Zuvela