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What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

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  • What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

    Anyone know what these superstars did after their athletics careers ended? I was wondering what kind of state they're in now.

  • #2
    Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

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    • #3
      Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

      I know Kratochvilova is now a coach. Her biggest caoching success was taking Formanova to a world championship double (indoors and out) in 1999.
      Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

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      • #4
        Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

        Rob,

        Thank you for providing that information on Marita Koch. I was a huge fan of the GDR team as a kid in the 1980s, however as a resident of the UK their athletes had a kind of anonymous - enigmatic, even - air about them. TV coverage didn't feature interviews with them, nor did the likes of Athletics Weekly, apart from a couple of interviews with Heike Drechsler and Sabine Busch. I thought at the time that the GDR Political System did not permit their athletes this level of free association, however since then I have seen copies of Track & Field News dating from that time that contain a lot more in the way of quotes and biographical material. Anyway, it is great to finally get a bit more background on them through the internet, albeit many years overdue!

        Rob, I have been reading your posts on the T&F and IAAF websites, and you are obviously familiar with them as people. I've often wondered how these great stars - the likes of Marita Koch, Marlies Gohr and Barbel Wockel - have coped with the transition from being superstars of the GDR to mere citizens of a United Germany. Has their status and prestige been affected at all? The impression I get is that many Western fans are rather quick to downplay their achievements, attributing them to drugs etc, rather than just accept and acknowledge their success. It seems to me that there's a fair degree of scapegoating going on, and that the East Germans are easy targets. Specifically, I have noticed that at the European Championships they routinely have former greats present new medallists with their awards, yet apart from Barbel Wockel in 2002 the East Germans never seemed to be invited to undertake this honour.

        Anyway, the query I have is this - how have the athletes themselves coped with the loss of their status as privileged citizens of the GDR, and how are they affected by all the controversy surrounding them now?

        Many thanks,

        Rog

        PS I was sorry to hear today of the death of Fanny Blankers Koen. We have truly lost one of the all time greats.

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        • #5
          Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

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          • #6
            Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

            Rob,

            Thank you for your insight, it's much apreciated. Had any of the East German Greats been British, no doubt now they would be clogging up games shows, daytime TV and Big Brother, so at least they still have their dignity!

            Surely, however, it would make sense for German Athletics to try to capitalise on their experience and knowledge, since for example none of the current German stars appears to have technique remotely comparable - think of Marita Koch's action as opposed to their current sprinters. Even adoption or adaptation of the East German mental approach could prove beneficial - one of their great strengths was their ability to peak physically and focus mentally at the championships, which as a British athletics fan I noticed wasn't one of our team's particular claims to fame!

            I remember watching Sabine Busch in the 80s - I thought surely she would be crowned Olympic 400m hurdles champion in 1988, but she seemed to have a bad year, in keeping with most of the East German track runners, which was most apparent when compared to their successes at the 1987 World Championships. Have you any idea why they suffered this unexpected reversal of fortune?Indeed, I can't help wondering if a reversion to the 400m flat in Seoul wouldn't have yielded the individual medal (silver?) that Sabine failed to win over the hurdles.

            Rog

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            • #7
              Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

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              • #8
                What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

                Thank you for the wonderful discussion you folks have shared with us.

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                • #9
                  Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

                  >Today, the thing that strikes me most is how 'normal' they are - and how anonymously they are treated by society. I have walked around Erfurt with Sabine (her home town) and was amazed that nobody recognised her or said anything. Same story with Renate Stecher, Marlies Göhr and Petra Felke in Jena, as well as Katrin Krabbe in
                  Neubrandenburg. Having said that, they were brought up in a communist society, and so have no great expectations with regard to their 'status'. Bärbel Wöckel is the Director for Youth Sports Development at the DLV (Deutscher
                  Leichtathletik-Verband) in Darmstadt, and I believe it was for this reason that she has more public 'exposure' than the others.<

                  There are several reasons why these athletes are not recognized when the walk down the street. For one thing, I think the same is true of many athletes in many sports in many countries. How many are widely recognizes decades after their careers are over? If you walked down the streets of any American city with Michael Conley, Bob Beamon, Valerie Brisco, Joan Benoit, and/or Evelyn Ashford do you think a lot of people would recognize them as Olympic heroes? I doubt it. I suspect, in fact, that the same would be true of a lot of top baseball and football players of the '80's. And I think the same would also be true in many other countries in sports that produce many well-known athletes.

                  But in the GDR, there was something more at work. I don't think the GDR sports machine was developed to make the population of the country feel good. I had the impression that their program was much more focused on creating a positive image of the country internationally. Being in a Communist society, they might not have had any reason to have a lot of domestic PR for their athletes. They weren't trying to sell tickets or commercial sponsorhips--they were trying to win medals, so the rest of the world would respect their country. If you went to Olympics and World/Euro championships in those days, there were always groups of foreign tourist sports fans cheering for their. You never saw large tour groups (in fact I'm not sure I ever saw any tour groups) from the GDR, or anywhere else behind the Iron Curtain for that matter. So it's understandable that the retired athletes of that era are not still recognized when they walk down the street in ordinary clothing. It's possible they never really were.


                  >>Personally I find it very sad that they are not given more credit, but the current (west) German 'system' seems determined to eradicate the legacy of the GDR athletes, which I find very narrow-minded.<<

                  It's sad, in a way, but very understandable. It is well documented that the use of steroids was an important element of the GDR training system. I'm not even sure that there could have been any exceptions, given the control that the the state had over its athletes. The athletes themselves, of course, were victims of this regimen in a number of ways, one of which is that their athletic achievements will always be stigmatized. This is particularly unfortunate for those who either were exceptions and did not take drugs (if this was possible) or who were such great athletes that with all of the training support they had apart from the drugs, they could have been champions anyway. We'll never know what the facts are for any given athlete.

                  But in view of the unchallenged documentary evidence of systematic cheating by the GDR, I fully understand why the West-dominated post-wall Germany should be less than enthusiastic in celebrating the athletic legacy of the GDR. They (and most other countries) are still struggling to eliminate the scourge of doping. It does not help the fight against doping or the national image of Germany to lionize a group of athletes who, as a group, whether willingly or unwittingly, were part of a program that based its success at least in part on performance enhancement through the administration of steroids.

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                  • #10
                    Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

                    >For one thing, I think the same is true of many
                    >athletes in many sports in many countries. How many are widely recognizes
                    >decades after their careers are over? If you walked down the streets of any
                    >American city with Michael Conley, Bob Beamon, Valerie Brisco, Joan Benoit,
                    >and/or Evelyn Ashford do you think a lot of people would recognize them as
                    >Olympic heroes? I doubt it.




                    I can't speak for the US, because athletics isn't as big over there as it is in some European countries. But, if the likes of Daley Thompson, Tessa Sanderson, Fatima Whitbread, Seb Coe, Steve Cram, and Steve Ovett were walking down a street in the UK, chances are that they'd be recognised pretty quickly.

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                    • #11
                      Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

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                      • #12
                        Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

                        Rob I think your perspectives are very interesting.... please continue to tell us any and everything you think is informative.

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                        • #13
                          Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

                          Well Rob, as a coach/official/team physician for voried Czechoslovak youth teams, my experience with the East Germans were a lot less cordial than what you describe. They behaved like übermensch, cheated right and left such as their team members would be evidently older than what the tournament would allow, sending their elite (sometimes national) teams disguised as club teams and so on. You are loyal to your friends, which is fine. You however see a different side of them than what the competitors within the Soviet block countries did. In one thread you mentioned that they "hated the Russians". So did we, but we hated the East German even more.
                          "A beautiful theory killed by an ugly fact."
                          by Thomas Henry Huxley

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                          • #14
                            Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

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                            • #15
                              Re: What are Jarmila and Marita up to today?

                              This is such an unusual discussion: people who actually know what they are talking about from first hand experience, points of view that encompass a broadly based perspective, logical ideas clearly expressed... bravo, and thanks!

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