Before the German athletics athletes compete in Munich on Monday, they spend their pre-camp at the Sepp Brenninger Stadium in Erding. Already in the morning, the athletes of the different disciplines train in the stadium. The athletes' focus is entirely on the exercises, so that the spectators pay little attention.
Hammer thrower Samantha Borutta swings the hammer in fascinating figure-eight circles around her body, accelerates and then hurls it forward with full force, where the hammer comes down in the dusty grass. At the same time, the women's relay is practicing. Gina Lückenkemper runs at top speed towards Rebekka Haase. She is already in the starting position, bent forward in a slight lunge, arms stretched in opposite directions, and also begins to accelerate at full throttle. Lückenkemper catches up with her and yells a loud "Hep!". Haase stretches her arm back, Lückenkemper puts the baton in her hand and she sprints on. Meanwhile, on the other side of the stadium, 400-meter runner Corinna Schwab runs 200 meters at her fastest possible pace, cheered on by her teammates with a loud "Let's go, Corinna!"
After the training in the morning, the athletes go to lunch. Afterwards, some of the medal hopefuls are interviewed by numerous journalists from various media. The most interesting answers are summarized below.
Olympic and World Champion in long jump, Malaika Mihambo, who had just suffered a corona disease and until Friday did not know at all if she will compete safely at the competition, describes her current health condition: "At the beginning I still felt it in my lungs, it's not like that now. But when I have a long day with a lot of appointments, I still notice that I get tired quickly, where otherwise I don't have such problems. Also, I need longer to regenerate, but I think that's fortunately not the biggest problem in the long jump, because I always have enough time between the jumps. And also the qualification and the final are two days apart."
She also talks about how important mental strength was during the quarantine: "For me, it was mainly about not writing off the European Championships in advance and believing in myself. But I also noticed how difficult it is to prepare when you can't really assess the extent of the illness. However, I haven't lost that much substance. I can certainly still jump over seven meters. You have to tell yourself that every day again and also have confidence in it."
However, her anticipation of the European Championships is a little clouded by the COVID-19 disease, as a feeling of uncertainty about her own performance capacity remains.
400-meter runner Alica Schmidt draws a final conclusion about the World Championships and what she could improve again for the European Championships: "We hoped for more and we can do more. But we learned from our mistakes and talked a lot with our national coach about what we can still improve. I hope we can show that now at the European Championships. Now on site we will just train the changes to optimize them and then everyone will give his best in the race." She has set her sights on the semifinals as her goal for the singles, in which Alica Schmidt is competing for the first time.
In addition, Schmidt comments on the system of promotion in athletics: "I'm still a young athlete and it's not easy when you come from the youth to fit in with the active athletes. That's why it's good that the U23s exist, so that you can make the connection. If you are successful, you also have good support. But athletes are still often dependent on finding sponsors themselves in order to be able to afford a living. For many, it's not easy to focus one hundred percent on the sport, which of course is difficult in competitive sports."
Owen Ansah, who is nominated for the 100 meters, 200 meters and relay for the first time at a European Championship, describes the ritual he performs before the start: "When I hear 'On your marks,' I do a quick prayer, point to the finish line briefly with my index finger, and then go down."
In addition, he describes the relationship with teammate Lucas Ansah-Prepah, with whom he trains almost daily at the same club: "We are in the same room every time we compete. When we get on the court, we are not friends and everyone is focused on their run. We high-five each other and then everyone is in their tunnel. But after the run, we congratulate each other and support each other when things didn't go so well."
When asked when the ten seconds will drop in his 100-meter sprint, Owen humorously replied, "maybe now in Munich."
Lucas Ansah-Prepah, who is also nominated for the 100 meters individual and the 100-meter relay, reacts relaxed when asked when he will fall below the ten seconds: "They fall when they want to fall. My goal is clearly to break the ten-second mark, but I'm not worried about when that will be."
Following Lucas gave a brief insight into training together with Owen Ansah: "We push each other. We're not always the training champions, there are days when we could lift more weight or run faster. But we provoke each other, have fun together and give everything in competition for that."
100-meter runner Gina Lückenkemper says of her current performance status, "This year has been the most successful year of my career because I have managed to run such consistent times as never before. For that reason alone, no matter how it goes in the end at the European Championships, this season is a very big win. But of course I still hope that I can crown it all with the European Championships."
After Lückenkemper publicly criticized the German support system after the World Championships, she describes how the reaction has been: "The feedback was very good. I had a lot of exchange with athletes from other sports, but also with parents of children from other sports. There are also more and more people from the DLV side who are ready for a dialogue. Julian Reus (DLV performance sports officer, editor's note) has already announced that he wants to sit down with me and a few other athletes to clarify what the federation can do to better support us. I'm happy that we're being listened to and that they're willing to make a change."
100-meter runner Rebekka Haase explains why she and her relay teammates work so well as a team: "We know each other. Within the last seven to eight years we have gotten to know each other and we appreciate each other. Everyone has their own idiosyncrasies, their own individual rhythm, their own lifestyle, but we accept that and enjoy that we are so different. And no one is pressed into a scheme, because we know we function the way we are. Each one brings their strength and their individuality, so it's a really good fit for us."
Haase also points out a serious issue in her interview, which she also uses to explain the "poor" performances at the World Championships: "It's really difficult to be back on the track one year after the Olympics. I know a lot of athletes, and I include myself in that, who suffer from post-Olympic depression. You are no longer able to do anything because you are disoriented. Even though you know Olympia is coming back, in the first moment it takes away everything you've been working on. And it is very difficult to understand that. Tanja Damaske, the DLV psychologist, supports me. I started working intensively with her after the Olympics. I skipped the indoor season because I couldn't do it mentally anymore. To get out of it, I worked hard with Tanja Damaske and looked for the cause. In addition, my environment supported me. It wasn't until March that I was able to start running again to prepare for the summer season. Many athletes can go over such a point, especially the young ones, but you are facing a highlight, like the European Championships, a year after the Olympics, and you are not actually ready for it. I think that's hard for an outsider to understand."
Text: Luisa Peintner
Photos: Melanie Langenwalter