Elegance on the Gymnastics Mat

By Ernst Podeswa

Sports in the GDR    Over six months lay between two encounters with Angelika Hellmann -- a period during which much had changed for her.  While at the first talk she gave the impression of an almost shy, reserved young girl, by the second talk she had become a self-assured mature athlete who obviously enjoyed giving well-reasoned answers to journalists' questions.

What events caused her to change so much in such a comparatively short period of time?  Angelika had replaced her club-mate, Olympic champion Karin Janz, as GDR champion in 1973.  In London she won the honors of becoming European champion, and at home was appointed captain of the women's national team, and also proved herself in matriculation examinations.

As a child she was so good at sports that gymnastics soon became her favorite subject.  At the age of eight she was introduced to trainers of SC Dynamo and took up regular gymnastics training; a completely unromantic beginning for a successful career, that is, as might have been the same with many athletes in many countries.  Is there a decisive juncture to be found in her career which cannot be found anywhere?  "Yes, for instance the Spartakiad," replied Angelika.  "My trainer at that time, Soviet trainer Baulina-Rittberger, told me more than once that I could achieve more in gymnastics.  I didn't quite believe her, because I was so slim and lanky.  Then came the competitions at the GDR's 2nd Spartakiad of Children and Young People, where I was overjoyed to win two gold and three silver medals.  This was the confirmation for my trainer's words.  Now I knew that I should take gymnastics seriously."

Two years later followed Angelika Hellmann's international debut.  After the world gymnastics championships in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, you could read interesting assessments of the newcomer to the GDR team who came tenth at first go in the individual rating.  Angelika Hellmann is a young athlete who is deeply committed to gymnastics and emanates fascination through the harmony of bearing and required degree of sporting difficulty.  "I have no inhibitions to practice down to the last detail certain movements and exercises.  This is why I particularly like the floor exercise.  Here, no movement is limited by an implement, everything can be fully executed.  I don't like gymnasts who try to catch attention through spectacular individual elements, but everything performed with bad bearing.  I strive for exercises corresponding to international standard, and then I try to perform them in proper bearing and with corresponding expression.  In my opinion, this is the ideal synthesis, mastered excellently by Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut and GDR gymnast Karin Janz."

Angelika Hellmann trained for years with the double Olympic champion and European champion Karin Janz in her club and in the national team.  She took over from her the principle to always use all her strength during training.  Among human qualities she particularly likes humor which helps more than everything else to overcome critical situations.

A journalist once asked her whether it disturbs her when her father watches her compete.  Her answer was a clear "No", adding that, after all, it was not he but she herself who had to show the judges what she can achieve.  Her father, by the way, is no less known in GDR sport than the European champion.  Rudi Hellmann has been the head of the Sports Department in the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED) for many years, and is Vice President of the National Olympic Committee of the GDR.

Naturally father Hellmann is proud of his daughter's sporting achievements.  Sport, in general, is a free time activity very popular with the Hellmann family, even if no great victories are at stake.  The younger daughter Karin is very fond of equestrian sport, while father Hellmann's weekly exercises are swimming, running and sometimes also football.

Thumbnail Portrait of Angelika Hellmann

Born: 10th April 1954 in Halle
Height:  1.64m
Weight:  48 kg.
Occupation:  Sports student
Trainer: Nina Bauline-Rittberger, now Jurgen Heritz
Active since:  1963 for the SC Dynamo Berlin Club
Sporting successes: 
1973 European championships:  1st V, 3rd UB, 5th AA
1972 Olympic Games:  2nd in the team rating, 6th AA
1971 European championships:  3rd UB, 6th AA
1970 world championships:  3rd UB, 6th AA
1973 GDR multi-event champion
1968 Spartakiad double winner

This page was created on April 31, 2002.
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