Olympic Competitors in 1976:
Their Thoughts Today

Sports in the GDR, 4-5/84    The GDR gymnasts won bronze in the team competition at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976.

Angelika Keilig (nee Hellmann), captain of the women's national team, silver medalist in the 1972 Olympic Games; fifth on balance beam in 1976; 30 years old; married, two children: Robert (4 years), Franziska (3); PE teacher, working as a coach for the Dynamo Berlin Sports Club (top gymnasts):  We all are still in contact with sports, some have taken up coaching.  Many are linked in friendship, as for instance between Kerstin Kurrat and myself.  For our present jobs we can use the experience we made during our years in active sports and our memories of such highlights as the Olympic Games.  I don't know whether the children we are coaching now will turn out aces one day, but one thing is sure: that we have instilled in them the love for sports.  To preserve the character of international friendship of the Olympic movement is what is close to my heart as a coach of outstanding gymnasts.

Gitta Sommer (nee Escher), sixth overall, 27 years, married, two children: Nicole (5 years) and Robert (3); PE teacher, working as a coach for the Chemie Halle Sports Club (9- to 10-year-old gymnasts):  I've always derived great pleasure from sports and I couldn't imagine a life without it.  My involvement in sports has taught me courage, persistence, to be hard on myself, self-assurance and self-discipline, without which success is unthinkable.  Training requires of the athlete creativity and cooperation.  This helps me now at work and in my private life.

Richarda Hartmann (nee Schmeisser), silver medalist at the 1972 Olympic Games; 29 years, married, one child: Dan (4 years); PE teacher, working as a coach (choreographer) for the Chemie Halle Sports Club (11- to 12-year-old gymnasts):  Surveying the year 1984, I'm most concerned about the issue of peace.  I hope that in the future the athletes of the GDR and the other socialist countries and, in fact, from all peaceful countries, will by their sporting achievements help to further develop the Olympic movement in the spirit meant by Pierre de Coubertin.  Both times I participated in the Olympic Games I noticed the athletes' firm determination to safeguard the Olympic ideal.

Carola Jost (nee Dombeck), horse vault silver medalist, 24 years, married, one child: Mandy (4 years), works as a teacher in Merseburg:  My favorite event as a competitive gymnast was the vault -- the silver medal in Montreal Olympic Games in 1976 was my greatest achievement.  I'm now working as a teacher for mathematics, German and physical education in a school in Merseburg, an industrial center in the south of the GDR.  I try to instill in my pupils the love for sport and to develop in them all the valuable characteristics which are enhanced by sports activity.

Steffi Kraker, silver medalist in the 1980 Olympic Games (vaulting), bronze on the uneven parallel bars; 24 years old, a student at the German College for Physical Culture in Leipzig, wants to work in sports science after graduation:  In my view, sports activity molds people.  I, for one, have learned through sports to pursue an aim with perseverance.  Going to Montreal made my great dream come true -- and I was even nominated again for the Olympic Games four years later.  Gymnastics has rapidly developed during recent years and new complicated elements have been introduced.  Gymnastics has an appeal for both gymnasts and spectators.  All people should do their bit to preserve world peace.

Kerstin Kurrat (nee Gerschau), ninth overall; 26 years old, married to the sprinter, Klaus-Dieter Kurrat (7th in the 100m sprint in Montreal), two children: Tina (5 years) and Maria (2); PE teacher, working as a coach for the Vorwärts Potsdam Army Sports Club, responsible for gymnastics training and choreography for gymnasts of various ages:  Gymnast is and remains my hobby.  I was always very fond of gymnastics and wished to make my hobby my profession.  My parents and our whole family were active in sport and now work as coaches.  Now I want to share my experiences.  But I also try to involve especially women in sports activities in their spare time.  I owe a great deal to my father who coached and educated me throughout the decisive years.  Today, he can still help me in my work with his advice.

Marion Kische, eighth overall, fourth on the uneven parallel bars; 26 years old; single, one child: Konstantin (six months old); psychologist, working as psychotherapist for children at the Leipzig district hospital:  Although I'm no longer linked to sports in my work, I can build in the perseverance acquired during sports training, which during my studies came in very handy added to a healthy portion of ambition.  I'm still friends with many of my former coaches and fellow gymnasts.  As for international gymnastics, I admire those who execute the most difficult elements which one could hardly imagine at the time when I was still active in gymnastics.

Lutz Mack, captain of the men's national team, silver medalist in the 1980 Olympic Games; 31 years old, married, with one child Daniel (4 years), PE teacher, working as a coach for the Chemie Halle sports club (gymnastics coach for 12-year-olds):  Our whole team is professionally connected with gymnastics, or is still actively participating in competitive sports (Roland Bruckner and Michael Nikolay).  I, for one, was in competitive sport for 17 years, and consider it a great pleasure and an obligation to pass on my experiences.  This includes the experience I made, that a good relationship between the coach and the athlete is the basis for any sports success.  It's a great feeling to experience the nation-linking atmosphere of sport together with your teammates, and winning a medal and mounting the winner's rostrum is something unforgettable.  The GDR gymnasts had well prepared for the 1984 Olympic Games.  Their participation is impossible, however, because neither the athletes' safely not adherence to the Olympic Charter are guaranteed in Los Angeles.

Rainer Hanschke, 32 years, married, two children: Steffen (5 years), Jens (2); PE teacher, is a coach at the Cottbus Sports Club (gymnastics, 4- to 15-year-olds):   I've been committed to gymnastics since I was 11 years old, at first in sports lessons and in the "Einheit" Finsterwalde sports club, later at the special sports school and in the "Chemie" Halle sports club, then I studied it to degree level at the Leipzig Sports College and now I'm a gymnastics coach in Cottbus.  A coach who has experienced the ups and downs of training himself has, I believe, good prerequisites for leading his protegees to the top.  An athlete can only achieve something when he or she is on good terms with his or her coach and accepts his or her decisions.  The coach, on the other hand, must respect the athlete's achievements and must have an open ear for his or her protege's problems.  I was lucky enough to have had such a coach when I was still active, and I learned a great deal from Jens Milbradt.  I'm still benefitting from it.

Wolfgang Klotz, bronze medalist at the 1972 Olympic Games; 32 years old, married, two children: Alexander (10 years), Michael (3), PE teacher, working as a coach (16-year-old gymnasts):  I did sports with my father from early childhood on, was in competitive gymnastics for 15 years and cannot imagine life without sports.  I am so closely linked with gymnastics, partly through out international successes, that it was only logical for me to take up sports instruction as a profession.  Sports have contributed to the GDR's international recognition and are an important factor in striving for understanding and peace.

Ralph Bärthel, 30 years old, married, three children: Daniela (10 years), Isabel (9) and Andre (2); coach for the Chemie Halle Sports Club (10-year-old gymnasts):  During my years in competitive sport I learned never to give up and to learn from defeats.  You must know what you want in order to be successful.  And you must love sport -- the main reason why I chose this profession.  It's getting ever more difficult to win in sports, because the number of those who are able to win is growing.  This, I feel, makes sports even more interesting.

Roland Brückner, 1980 Olympic champion in floor exercise, fifth overall in 1980; 28 years old, married, two children: Sandra (6 years), Thomas (3); enrolled at the German College for Physical Culture in Leipzig, active in gymnastics for the Dynamo Berlin Sports Club:  I had hoped to represent the GDR successfully again at the Olympic games.  Unfortunately, the anti-Olympic atmosphere in the United States, the lack of any safety guarantees and other violations of the Olympic Charter deprive me of this opportunity.  The path to success is especially long and thorny in gymnastics.  I therefore think very highly of my club-mate Maxi Gnauck who has managed time and again to reach up to the top despite of many streaks of bad luck.

Michael Nikolay, silver medalist at the 1980 Olympic Games, 27 years old, married; Sergeant in the People's Police, competing for the Dynamo Berlin Sports Club:  The Olympic Games, in my view, are an event at which you can show what is in you and where you can measure your ability against that of the world's best.  I regard this as conducive to preserving peace.  It was my aim to be entered for the Olympic Games for the third time.  Because of the US Administration's actions preventing us athletes from the socialist countries from competing under conditions in accordance with the Olympic Charter, I'm unable to achieve this aim.

Bernd Jäger, fourth on parallel bars; 32 years old, married, three children: Andrea (14 years), Daniel (12) and Mathias (3); coach for the Vorwärts Potsdam Army Sports Club (top gymnasts):  Some things are indispensable if you want to be successful -- such as a positive outlook, a strong personality, a stable character, hard work and talent, to mentioin but a few.  The main thing is that you have to love your sport.  Work as a coach is versatile and interesting.  When I chose to take this road, I wanted to pass on my own experience and knowledge.

This page was created on September 26, 2001.
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