About an hour ago I watched the sports news. “Franzi is dead, long live Franziska” was today’s leitmotif. “Franzi”, or Franziska van Almsick, is a German heroine – hailing from east Berlin, she became the first common wunderkind after Germany’s reunification when she, then just fourteen years old, won four medals in the 1992 Olympic swimming competition.
She rose to the stars too quickly, far too early. And so she fell fast and deeply a few years later when she tried to cash in her early fame. Those were the days when she was seen on magazine covers and at fancy parties more often than in the swimming pool. Sydney 2000 therefor became the opposite of Barcelona ’92.
Most people thought her career was over. Another wunderkind who wasn’t able to keep up with the pressures of early success. But the humiliations of losing, ridicule and the subsequent media massacre apparently awakened the Phoenix in herself. And so she spread her wings, jumped back into the poola and began to swim. And now, after two years and a few million lanes she is back where she was once before – today she beat her own world record from 8 years ago.
But with the wisdom of years she had to pay for so dearly today’s success must have been much sweeter. And judging from the pictures of her tears after the race she must have felt the same way.
I really hope she hasn’t taken anything. If she has, her downfall will be faster and deeper than the first – and it will be permanent. If not, she will become a national icon for good. Let’s hope she’s our Lance.