Sure, things could have been worse. After all, they were worse last year in London when the Germans went home empty-handed. But that had been seen as a one-off, a momentary blip in the long-standing tradition of powerhouse German swimming.
But then Barcelona happened.
The Germans would secure one medal in the pool in Barcelona – a silver – via Marko Koch in the 200 metre breaststroke. Although he did swim well, what is most disconcerting for the Germans is that Koch had been training on his own, electing not to train at the national centre facilities in Darmstadt.
Steffen Deibler, the current world record holder for the 50 metre butterfly (SCM), seemed like a sure bet to win a medal in the 100 metre butterfly. In April at German Nationals he dominated his countrymen, posting the fastest time in the world with a 51.19. Not only was it a national record and the fastest time in the world, it was also two-one-hundredths faster than Michael Phelps winning time in London the year prior.
In the final, he turned first, well ahead of the field in 23.60. Deibler would fade in the last 25 metres as Olympic silver medalist Chad Le Clos would power past the field to touch first in 51.06. Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh would touch second in 51.45, one-one-hundredth ahead of Poland’s Konrad Czerniak. Deibler, who had the slowest second 50m of everyone in the final, would place a 4th.
Veteran Britta Steffen, who has won the 100m freestyle twice at Worlds, intimated that she was reconsidering her future in the sport after a disappointing week, declining to commit to participating in the European Championships that are taking place in Berlin in 2014.
“I have to let things sink in,” said the 29 year old Steffen. “I’m only human after all.”
Lutz Buschkow, the head coach of the once vaunted German swim team, didn’t mince words when reflecting on their Barcelona performance: “Things have not improved for us. We still have the same problems.”
Buschkow even intimiated towards swimmers being punished financially in view of their performance, adding, “There will be far-reaching changes for the swim team.”
What exactly those changes are, and how they plan to address them, are for the Germans to figure out as they move forward to Rio in 2016.
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