Steffi Nerius practising her throws in Havana (Clavelo Robinson) © Copyright
General News Havana, Cuba

German throwing squad starts year under a warm Cuban sun

 Three of Germany’s World Championship throwing event medallists Franka Dietzsch, Steffi Nerius and Ralf Bartels began 2006 with a two-week training camp in Havana, where they took advantage of Cuba's warm weather to prepare for the new season.

The Helsinki medal trio, along with Hammer finalists, Susanne Keil and Markus Esser headed a 16-member squad from Neubrandenburg and Leverkusen. Keil made it to the 2003 and 2005 World Championships final, while Esser finished fourth at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki. Now returned to colder northern climes, the squad had an extremely successful and enjoyable trip to the island.

Dietzsch, back to Cuba after 19 years

“It is very easy, it is so sunny. I was here in 1987. I said to my coach after the World Championships that we should go to Cuba because I like it very much. That’s why we stay here”, said Dietzsch, the 1999 and 2005 World Discus Throw champion while in Cuba.

The four-time Olympian has set her sights on the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, this summer where she wants to regain the continental  title which she won in Budapest, Hungary in 1998.

“I hope to have a nice season like last year. I have to train very hard because everyone says that as the World champion, we want to beat you. My training is now harder than before,” she continued.

She is confident about the future of women’s throwing in her country. “We have good and promising athletes in Germany like European under-23 champion Sabine Rumpf and others. Overall, I hope we win more medals as a country in Gothenburg. It’s the European Champs so we have more chances. Nils Schumann is training hard, he is getting better and he hopes to run in Gothenburg”, she concluded.

Nerius: “I came to learn how to win”

“It is very cold in Germany now and we want to do a little bit of weight lifting, throwing, jumps and runs. You can do it on the beach, there’s a good atmosphere when you don’t have to wear extra clothes because you can train with just a t-shirt”, said Nerius, the 2003 and 2005 World bronze medallist and 2004 Olympic runner-up in the women’s Javelin Throw.

But more importantly, “I want to see how Cuban girls train. It’s beautiful to see how they train under the conditions here and to see where they live. I have a lot of respect for their athletes, considering the conditions they have here compared to those which we have at home,” commented Nerius. She has exchanged ideas with World and Olympic champion Osleidys Menéndez, and the Cuban showed her some of the most interesting parts of Havana.

Like Dietzsch, the 33-year-old thrower aims to win a medal at the European Championships and the World Cup in Athens (16-17 Sep). “But the most important thing is to stay healthy with no injuries and to have a good season. I truly look forward to the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart (9 - 10 Sep), competing against Cubans in our own country.”

Her major goal is to break the European record (70.03), set by her colleague Christina Obergföll at the World Championships final in Helsinki. “It's a big mark and everyone wants to throw 70 metres. I want to beat the German record and I am sure about this.”

Since 2005, when “I had so much problem with my back, I take my plans year by year. I am 33, I am not so young. Javelin is a hard event. I now think of 2006, then 2007 and the 2008 Olympics. In 2009, it may be the right to retire as the World Championships will be in Berlin,” concluded Nerius.

Nerius and Cuba’s Sonia Bisset were the only women to beat Menéndez in 2005. The German defeated the Cuban star at the Super Grand Prix in Athens, and was on the verge of another win at the World Athletics Final in Monaco, but Menéndez prevailed with a longer last effort.

“We wanted to have a look at the Cuban athletes this year,” confirmed Nerius’ coach Helge Zollkau, who has looked after her since 1999. “We didn’t win any (major) competition last year. The weather is really good now compared to Germany. Two weeks are not enough, but most of my athletes are working and cannot leave their job for a longer period.”

Bartels seeks a medal in Moscow

Also training in the Estadio Panamericano in Havana, Helsinki Shot bronze medallist Ralf Bartels confirmed, “I want to repeat my Helsinki podium position at the Moscow Indoor Championships." Bartels, who with the rest of the squad is now back in Germany, last weekend produced a 20.77m release in a competition in Nordhausen (27 Jan).

The 2004 Olympic finalist aims to do better in the European Champs than four years ago in Munich, where he finished third. “Silver or maybe gold," he confirmed.

Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF