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East German Athletes Look For Motivation

March 18, 1990|ANDREW WARSHAW | ASSOCIATED PRESS

LONDON — East German athletes are sharing their long-guarded secrets with the West. They also are searching for fresh motivation, now that the perks of sports stardom are gone in their homeland.

In one of the clearest examples of the impact on sports of the political changes sweeping Eastern Europe, two sprinters from East Germany have just completed a 12-day training course in Britain.

While Western athletes regularly train overseas, the visit of Frank Emmelmann and Steffan Gormer marks the first time runners from East Germany have been allowed to do the same.

"It's been a very valuable experience studying training methods of another country," said Juergen Ludewig, coach of the two sprinters. "Back home, we do much more weight training, here they do more jumping. At home, we train longer hours, but here everything is so much more intensive."

The most important difference, he said, was the motivation factor.

"I've found it amazing that people here do a hard day's work and then go to the track in the evening," Ludewig said. "There seems to be more commitment."

With attitudes changing and authorities in Eastern Europe no longer treating successful athletes as special cases, Ludewig said the will to win was being eroded.

At the European Indoor Track and Field Championships this month, not a single East German made the men's 200-meter final, a statistic experts said was unprecedented in the event.

"Motivation is going to be very difficult," Ludewig said. "Before, there was the possibility of social status and of traveling to compete abroad. Now, everyone can travel.

"We will have to emphasize the ideals of the sport much more and also teach them about professionalism, the ability to make money from track and field."

Competition from new sports also has created a problem, Ludewig said.

"In the past, only certain sports, like track and field, were paid for by the state. Water polo, for instance, used to be supressed for the sake of swimming," he said. "But now, sportsmen can go into a whole range of other leisure pursuits that will find sponsorship. The talent will be spread around much more."

Emmelmann, 1982 European 100-meter champion and three-time European Cup gold medalist, said he was coming to terms with popular resentment in East Germany toward privileged athletes.

"Until the revolution, I was one of the blue-eyed boys, a great sporting hero," he said through an interpreter at a news conference last week. "Now suddenly, there is antagonism and I find that depressing."

Ludewig said public feelings toward sports would "settle down" once the country's future was mapped out. But, he said, much of the aggression was unjustified.

"What people don't realize is that the athletes worked extremely hard for what they achieved, probably harder than in any other country," the coach said. "They weren't just sponsored by the state regardless."

During their stay in London, Emmelmann and Gormer worked with British sprinters Marcus Adam and John Regis, and their coach, John Isaacs.

A recipricol arrangement will take place next month when British runners Diane Edwards and Ann Williams, Commonwealth Games 800-meter gold and silver medalists, travel with their coach to Neubrandenburg, East Germany. They will train with Olympic and world 800 champion Sigrun Wodars and Christine Wachtel, runner-up to Wodars in both events.

For Frank Dick, the British national track coach who conceived the British-East German exchange, the visit of Emmelmann and Gormer marks the realization of a decade-long ambition.

"It's a dream that has taken rather a long time to come true," Dick said. "When I took over director of British coaching in 1979, I said I wanted to create a situation where experts could work together at international training camps. But only now have we managed to get the right climate to do the swaps."

Dick said he hoped similar exchanges could be made in the future with the Soviet Union, and other Eastern European nations, to the benefit of all concerned.

"All coaches use different methods," Dick said. "People use the same principles in their own way to meet the needs of specific athletes. In the end, the results are not too dissimilar. What is important is that we see more varieties of interpretation."

The East Germans were due back in their country Friday. Ludewig said a longer stay than 12 days would have been more constructive.

"But we have to get home," he said. "There's a rather important day in our history on Sunday (the East German elections) and we want to be there."

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