The World Cup hosts in Qatar had to fear on Monday evening that the water level in the 50-meter pool of the Aspire Dome would rise by a few centimeters, as swimmer Angelina Köhler was shaken by crying fits after her race. When she got out of the pool, she waved to the audience almost entranced – after all, something extraordinary had happened. Köhler, 23, is the new world champion in the 100 meter butterfly, ahead of Claire Curzan from the USA and the Swede Louie Hansson.
This is the first time a German pool swimmer has won World Cup gold since 2009, when Britta Steffen was successful twice in Rome. She is the first ever German world champion in the 100 meter butterfly – Kornelia Greßler last won gold on this event for the GDR in 1986. It was the third medal for the German Swimming Association on the second day of the pool competitions – on Sunday there was bronze each for Isabel Gose and Lukas Märtens.
She had already indicated in the preliminary round and in the semi-finals that Köhler was ready for by far the greatest success of her career to date, when she improved the German record and was faster than all of her competitors. At the World Championships in Fukuoka a little more than six months ago, she had not yet been able to win a medal – although in a stronger field of participants. At the time she said: “I hope to maybe break 57 at some point, that would be a dream.”
Now she swam 56.11 seconds in the semifinals under the eyes of her parents, who had traveled to Doha, and in the final she swam 56.28 seconds. Afterwards, Köhler, who always listens to and dances to Taylor Swift while preparing for the race, was stunned: “I can’t quite process what just happened. I’m shaking all over my body. The victory just meant an incredible amount to me because “I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a child. It means so much to me that even someone like me, who is sometimes a bit clumsy and forgets things, can also be a world champion.”
Köhler didn’t take the easiest path to becoming a world leader. She trained in Hanover for a long time, but when the training group there more or less disbanded, she was faced with the choice of switching to the US college system – or staying in Germany. Most swimmers succumb to the call from the USA, where they can then train on campus under professional conditions with short distances. But Köhler decided against it out of his gut – and decided to move to SG Neukölln.
There, the highly respected trainer Lasse Frank has meticulously set up a second large short- and medium-distance base next to the long-distance base of national coach Bernd Berkhahn in Magdeburg. Even the smallest details are analyzed there, for example whether the angle of the athlete’s hand underwater is perfect for propulsion or not. In Berlin, Angelina Köhler has become one of the figureheads of this base alongside Ole Braunschweig.