Comeback Queen Steffen finds gold in pool

August 15th, 2008 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 15 (DPA) As a 15-year-old, Britta Steffen won six titles at the European Youth Championships in 1999 and everybody thought the German had a great swimming career ahead of her. She arrived at the 2000 Olympics as a great hope for German swimming but failed to deliver what she promised and was even scratched from the German relay team after simply forgetting to jump into the water after the swimmer before her touched the pad.

“I stood on the block for a second. It was so embarrassing. All I wanted to do was go home.”

Four years later in Athens Steffen again failed to do well, but at least managed a bronze medal after swimming in the heats for the German 4×100m relay team.

She then decided that she had had enough and gave up swimming to concentrate on her studies.

In 2006, after nearly a one-year lay off, she decided to return to the pool and won four golds and a silver at the European championships. At the time, she also broke the world 100m freestyle record.

In the 2007 world championships in Melbourne she was one of the favourites to win the 100m freestyle, but finished third behind Libby Lenton (now Trickett) and Marlene Veldhuis.

Again, talk of the swimmer who could simply not perform when she really needed to made its rounds, although Steffen on Friday said that she did not really think that was the case.

“To win a bronze medal at the world championships is not really a failure, I would think,” she said.

Undoubtedly though, Steffen finally came of age Friday in the Beijing Water Cube, when she won the women’s 100m freestyle gold medal at the Olympics, beating world record holder Trickett and American Natalie Coughlin into second and third place.

It took a remarkable comeback during the race to win as she was lying in last place at the turn.

“Before the race my coach told me you need to swim your own race and that the others would start very fast. I decided to close my eyes and just go for it and I think it worked quite well.”

After touching the pad in a time of 53.12, she did not turn around to look at the results board, embracing Trickett, who had swum in the lane next to hers instead.

“At that moment I did not really know what had happened. I just wanted to enjoy the moment and I thought that even if I did not win a medal, I swam a wonderful race.

“But then when I looked at the board I saw that I had won and everything was brilliant.”

Steffen said after her victory that credit must go to psychologist Friederike Janofske, with whom she has been working for a long time. “She has managed to bring out the best in me.”

The 24-year-old said that she thinks it also helped her that the German swim team had-so far-bombed out at the Olympics. “There was very little pressure on me. My world record was gone, I had not done well in the relay and nobody really thought I was going to win a medal.

“But I had some very good help from my psychological coach and she helped me to get my focus right for the swim and it obviously worked.”

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