BERLIN – Germany’s swimming, cycling and equestrian stars head to London targeting more Olympic success, but arguably the best gold medal prospects lie with a small group of talented German field athletes.
Women’s hammer thrower Betty Heidler arrives in London as the world record holder after achieving 79.42m in May, 2011, and is determined to improve on the silver medals she won at the 2009 and 2011 world championships.
“She wants to lay down a marker to her rivals by being the first woman to throw over 80m,” admitted Heidler’s coach Michael Deyhle.
Likewise, discus-thrower Robert Harting is looking to claim his first Olympic medal having struck gold at both Daegu in 2011 and the 2009 Berlin world athletics championships.
He sent a warning shot to his rivals by throwing a personal best of 70.66m in May, clearing 70m for the first time, and is the world-leader.
The new kid on the block is shot put champion David Storl, an impressive figure at 6ft 6in and 111kg who only turns 22 on the day of the opening ceremony on July 27.
Having dominated through the junior ranks, the German giant took the world title in Daegu last year with a personal best of 21.78m.
Storl took the European title at the end of June in Helsinki with an effort of 21.58m to close in on world-leader Reese Hoffa of the USA who threw 22.0m last month.
On the track, heptathlete Jennifer Oeser will be looking to upset home favourite Jessica Ennis of Great Britain, who took silver in Daegu behind gold medal winner Tatyana Chernova with Oeser settling for bronze.
Germany’s equestrian hopes of matching the impressive Beijing haul of three gold medals took a knock in June when five-times Olympic champion Isabell Werth put in a poor display at the national championships.
The 42-year-old must wait to see if she secures a ticket for London after her horse Don Johnson has only recently returned from injury.
In the pool, Olympic and world 50m and 100m freestyle champion Britta Steffen was impressive in May’s German trials when she swam 53.68sec over 100m to prove her form having flopped at the 2011 world aquatic championships.
In Shanghai, she failed to reach either final and needs to recapture her world-record breaking form from the 2009 world championships when she won the 50m and 100 freestyle golds, claiming new records in both.
Steffen’s boyfriend Paul Biedermann, who also set the world 200m and 400m freestyle world records in Rome, will be battling it out with US swimstars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.
After bronze medals over both 200m and 400m in Shanghai last year, Biedermann also has much to prove in London.
In cycling, world team sprint champions and world record holders Kristina Vogel and Miriam Welte will be looking to build on their victory at this year’s track world cycling championships when they set a new world mark of 32.549sec.
Welte also took silver in the 500m time trial, while Vogel claimed bronze in the keirin.
The German men’s team will also put up a strong challenge in the team sprint after the trio of Rene Enders, Maximilian Levy and Stefan Nimke, the world 1km time trial champion from Melbourne, claimed bronze in Beijing.