It takes a very special kind of temperament to be an Olympic winner. Harder still to do it four times over. There’s an elite group of four to repeat this feat, one of them being Birgit Fischer Schmidt, the German kayaker. She was born in 1962 on the 25th of February, at a place called Brandenburg, (then) East Germany.
Birgit Fischer Schmidt
She attended a place called A.S.K., the Army sports club and boarding school at Potsdam. No doubt this school instilled leadership qualities and a spirit of persevering goals in the young girl’s personality. When she completed her schooling here, she went on to work as a sports instructor in the national People’s Army, and went on to attain the respected rank of major by the time of the fall of the Berlin wall in 1990, which marked the unification on East Germany and West Germany into one united nation.
Birgit Fischer Schmidt competed for the first time in the Olympics at the tender age of 18, immediately setting the record for the youngest canoeist to win an Olympic gold (1980). She consistently won medals whenever she was given an opportunity at the Olympics.
It takes more than luck and training to win 8 golds at the Olympics. It is the spirit of winning which is the final deciding factor as a sports even, which makes champions out of sportsmen, and Birgit Fisher apparently an abundance of this, which we are now able to see from her consistent wins.
Between 1980 (setting the record for youngest Olympic canoeist to win gold) and 2004 (setting the record for oldest canoeist to win an Olympic gold) she won eight gold medals! Truly the mark of a winner, this will be no easy record for a future veteran to break. She also won silver in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2004.
Germany’s boycott of the 1984 Olympics deprived her from taking part, or she would have definitely been able to reset the record books to a further extent. In 1988 she was surprisingly beaten by a Bulgarian, but she returned in less than two hours to bag the in the pairs race. That’s the spirit of a champion; always look ahead, no point looking back at a loss.
On August 28, 2004, the headlines of the sports section of the Washington Post read ‘Germany’s Fischer wins Eighth Gold at age 42.’ When she crossed the finish line at the 2004 Olympics, she smiled, punched her fists in the air and waved her paddle as a mark of victory, while her younger teammates leaned back and gasped in exhaustion! Such is the temperament and stamina of this veteran, even at the age of 42, after giving birth to two children.
Birgit Fischer Schmidt had surprised the world by announcing her retirement in 1988, but did return to the sport, only to announce retirement yet again in 2000! But then we saw her again in 2004, where she agreed to represent Germany for another time. Knowing this remarkable woman’s endurance and love for the sport, we may very well see ser break another Olympic record, she hasn’t yet ruled out competing at Beijing!
Fisher won her eighth Olympic gold, leading her four person Kayak past the 500 meter mark while making a comeback by defeating world champion Hungary, and set a new record in 2004. She now holds the title of ‘The first Woman to hold Olympic golds 24 years apart.’ On achieving this accomplishment she declared “You never know if it’s going to be the last medal you win, so in that sense it has a higher meaning.” On being asked if it was maybe her last medal she replied “I have no idea. Who knows?”
Birgit Fischer Schmidt was married to canoeist Jorg Schmidt from 1984 to 1993. She now lives with their two children in her hometown Brandenburg, in Germany. We still can’t be sure that we’ve heard the last of this champion at the Olympics, and may well see her in Beijing, watch her win another medal perhaps.
After 2004 Olympics, she was given yet another title – ‘the best German Sportsman of the year.’ Birgit Fisher has posed through the years of her wonderful career, as role model to her team mates and to aspiring young canoeists in Germany and around the world. Her name is permanently etched in the record books and it will be no small feat for a future to veteran to beat her many records.
2004 Athens Olympics – Gold, Silver
2000 Sydney Olympics – Gold (2)
1996 Atlanta Olympics – Gold,Silver
1992 Barcelona Olympics – Gold,Silver
1988 Seoul Olympics – Gold (2), Silver
1980 Moscow Olympics – Gold