News Archive

News Archive

ATHEN 2004 – Résumé – Historic Olympics and the Favourites

In each of the segments of our two 11-part series on the XXVIII Olympic Games

in Athens we dealt with the favourites for the running races starting at 800 m

for both the men and the women, as well as looked at the 104 years of Olympic

history since 1896 in Athens, with a special look at the participation and

successes of the German athletes.

How the favourites can turn into a heap of despair

was demonstrated by the women’s marathon with Paula Radcliffe. The

Olympics are simply different—once again, the now 108 years of legends

and stories about the men’s marathon gained a new dramatic

story—this time about Vanderlei da Lima from Brazil, who led the marathon

until 37 km, but suffered a dramatic finish.

Deranged 57-year-old Cornelius Horan

The deranged 57-year-old Cornelius Horan, a former Catholic priest from Ireland

and repeat offender, pushed the leading runner off the course to the side of

the road. Horan received one year of prison on probation and a 3000 Euro fine.

But that does not get Lima the gold medal which he might have won, who

proceeded after the attack to win bronze.

If we continue to list the successes and rankings of the German athletes

since 1896 in our historic Olympic series, the Games in ATHENS will not supply

much positive news to be included. The results were more than disappointing for

the German runners, even if one had already been relatively pessimistic going

into the Games.

Here are all of the events of the men and women German participants

starting at 800 m:


800 m: Claudia Gesell – 4th in the first heat in 2:03.87,


1500m: No German participants

5000 m: Finals: 7th Irena Mikitenko - 15:03.36

10.000 m: Finals: 15th Sabrina Mockenhaupt - 32:00.85

Marathon: 18th Luminita Zaituc 2:36:45

Ulrike Maisch dropped out


800 m: René Herms – 8th in the semi-finals 1:47,68

1500 m: Wolfram Müller – eliminated in the first heat in


5000 m: No German participants

10.000 m: No German participants

Marathon: No German participants

3000 m Steeplechase: No German participants

79 German track and field athletes were nominated, 71 competed (of a total

of 452 German athletes in Athens). There were 2 silver medals, in shot put by

Nadine Kleinert and in javelin by Steffi Nerius – and that was it.

That was the worst performance since Stockholm in 1912 (where Germany also won

2 silver medals by Hans Liesche in the high jump and Hanns Braun in the 400 m).

The Swedish track and field came with 12 athletes and left with three gold


Germany thus lies together with South Africa in 24th place behind


This is somewhat relative when you look at the famous motherland of the sport,

Great Britain, who only won 4 medals (of which 3 were gold, however), and

France who went home empty handed.

But even when the German “pea counters“ traditionally include up to

10th place, the German results this year do not look much better.

And after watching the German athletes completely embarrassed themselves

verbally with their answers to the idiotic interview questions of the reporters

one minute after their finishes, one has to ask oneself why they were permitted

to go to ATHENS at all.

The runners of the DLV (German Athletics Association)

”shined” with one 7th place finish by Irena Mikitenko in the 5000


For those who still have the success stories from the “Olympic Historic

Series” of the German runners over the past 104 years in their heads, it

is enough to make them cry — or they see ATHENS as a negative exception

to the motto: “the others should have a chance to win too.”

But this attitude could prove devastating if one is interested in the further

development of elite athletes in track and field in Germany.

“It could always be worse“ was the caption of

the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper over the total results of the German track

and field. DLV vice-president Rüdiger Nickel already stepped down, which

is certainly the noble thing to do, but that does not make the athletes better

and faster, and it does not excuse the poor performances and in part odd

attitudes by some of the athletes about the climax of their athletic


“Just being there“ is no longer everything. That was

earlier. Now the motto is “Being at the top“.

The Americans also had not won any medals in the marathon for decades, since

1984 in Atlanta (Benoit) – even though the USA is a stronghold of joggers

and large running events. And now they suddenly have two shining running idols

in the marathon.


Kastor (photo r.) won the bronze medal for the women. And as chance would have

it, I ran into Dave Martin, whose book “The Olympic Marathon“ was

often cited in the Olympic Historical Series, on Saturday before the

men’s marathon in the Olympic stadium.

He said to me: “Only one kilometre more and Kastor would have won, and

tomorrow there will be an American on the podium as well.“ When I asked

unbelievingly “Who will that be?“, he explained how the US marathon

runners had trained especially for the heat in ATHENS and had learned how to

drink appropriately.

Dr. Dave Martin was right. Up to the half marathon point there was no

American to be seen on the large screen in the historic Olympic stadium, but

shortly thereafter an American with the unpronounceable name Mebrahtom

Keflezighi suddenly moved up.

Up until 30 km the world record holder from the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON, Paul

Tergat, was also still in the race, 4th in the leading group.

Insiders later found out that Tergat, the favourite, missed his own drink at

25 km and drank something else instead, got stomach cramps and fell back. He

ran the last 5 km in 16.02 – the 5 km from 30 to 35 km in 14.47, and the

last 2.195 km in 8.06 minutes.

Paul Tergat’s only comments on the race were: “Hard, very


Of 101 marathon runners, 81 finished, many with tears in their eyes, out of

reverence for the Panathinaikon Stadium from 1896 and full of emotion from the

race on the historical course. The winning time by Stefano Baldini (ITA) in

2:10:55 on the difficult, hilly, sunny and endlessly straight course is an

amazing performance. Lima celebrated his bronze medal like a

gold, and the spectators in the stadium applauded him even louder than

the champion.

Lima also received the Pierre-de-Coubertin Fairplay Medal for his

sportsmanlike conduct. The predicted podium spot for the US American

Kegflezighi in 2:11:29 brings the running world in the United Stated back onto

a straight course of further development in long distance running, something

one would have wished for Germany as well.

But if no one competes for Germany, there will not be any role models in the

future either!

The high and symbolic status of the marathon in this world of


The awards ceremony for the marathon during the great closing ceremony in the

Olympic stadium by the IOC president Jacques Rogge and the IAAF president

Lamine Diack demonstrates the high and symbolic status of the marathon in this

world of sports.

Allan Steinfeld of the New York Marathon had the right idea putting Deena

Kastor on the cover of his running magazine as a new role model for the

marathon, even before she became the bronze medal winner in ATHENS.

Not only the New York Marathon was represented in ATHENS, but the marathons

in Chicago, London and Berlin as well, where they could directly experience the

disappointments, as well as the thrilling achievements of the


Thank you to all of the unnamed volunteers

“Unforgettable, dreamlike Games“ were the words of the IOC

president Rogge at the closing ceremony, which brought the Games to an end in

ATHENS at the foot of the Acropolis. He meant not only the athletic

achievements of the participants, which your average spectator now doubts more

and more, but he also certainly spoke with these words a modest verbal thank

you to all of the unnamed volunteers who helped make it possible. The

volunteers of the Games made up the heart of the gigantic sport machinery, and

it was they who brought light to the human face of sport in the ancient site

through their hospitality and friendliness to all of the international


Peking 2008

The sights are now set on Peking 2008, and like already quietly proclaimed

through the 110m hurdles victory by Liu Xiang (CHN) and Xing Huina (CHN) in the

women’s 10000m, it will not only be more difficult for the German

athletes to find space at the front, but the traditional running nations will

also be astounded at how not only Africa, but also Asia will share the medals

among themselves in the future.

In the future, the German track athletes, as well as the media and sport

publicity, will have to get used to being pleased with good rankings and stop

hoping to count the medals.

Horst Milde

The series on the Olympic favourites can be found in our Olympic archives

from July-August. Whether or not our tip was correct you can see in the

chronologically following article in the archives.

If you would like to get cheered up with the successes and rankings of the

German athletes in the past, you can read about the 104 years of Olympic

History here.

Womens 800m (Historic Olympic Series I):

Mens 1500m (Historic Olympic Series II:)

Mens 800m (Historic Olympic Series III):

Womens 1500m (Historic Olympic Series IV):

Womens 5000m (Historic Olympic Series V):

Mens 5000m (Historic Olympic Series VI):

Womens 10.000m (Historic Olympic Series VII):

Mens 10.000m (Historic Olympic Series VIII):

Mens 3000m steeplechase (Historic Olympic Series IX):

Womens marathon (Historic Olympic Series X):

Mens Marathon (Historic Olympic Series XI):