Madsen: Where Germany Went Wrong
Sep 22, 2008
Craig Lord

Ørjan Madsen has pulled no punches as he prepares to leave the helm of German swimming after two and a half years of trying to show a nation that once showed Europe the way how to compete when the heat is on in world-class waters. In an interview with SwimNews Magazine, the double-gold success of Britta Steffen in Beijing served as a “plaster on a big wound”.

The Norwegian, who stepped in to help when Ralf Beckmann stepped down as German swimming’s sports director over disagreements with the DSV, says: "There is a culture here that is focussed on the problem, the excuse, the blame, there is mistrust, jealousy, navel-gazing, too much side-stepping on key issues, too many coaches repeating almost mantra-like that they feel disadvantaged. This type of thinking burns itself into the brains of athletes, subconsciously over time. In such a culture, there’s a danger that youngsters develop into athletes who shy away from the challenge come the big occasion”.

All is not lost and hope survives. Madsen looks forward to seeing the fruits of a longer-term plan that he helped to put in place before leaving his post, as he had always intended to do, at the end of October. Germany will this autumn establish between five and seven centres of excellence, with head coaches working under new sports director Lutz Buschkow as part of a plan to stem the tide of Germany’s demise in the pool and return it to a European superpower of the pool.

Madsen offers valuable insight as to what has gone wrong in Germany, insight valuable not only to Germans. He met German coaches for a last session between September 19 and 21 at an annual coaches clinic in Gottingen to assess Beijing.

Buschkow emerged from the Gottingen session to say that Germany "lacked race toughness" and that "the amount of training [being done] does not measure up to what the best in world are doing". He noted that Germany was not represented in many races at all in Beijing and that preparation and performance had been geared to performing at trials and not at the actual Games. He will launch a new action plan in January 2009, the DSV announced today.

Read the full interview with Dr. Ørjan Madsen in the latest issue of SwimNews Magazine.