Living on gold and cold water

Birgit Fischer has been crossing lakes and rivers since the age of six. An early developer, she became world kayak champion at only 17. Since then, she has shown that she has nothing left to prove in this area, whether at the Olympic Games or other competitions. On 25 February, she will reach the age of 45, and does not plan on stopping when things are going so well.

24 years of Olympic Games
Birgit Fischer has taken part in six editions of the Olympic Games, from Moscow in 1980 to Athens in 2004. From age 18 to 42, she shone in the three women’s kayak events on the Olympic programme: kayak single (K-1 500m), kayak double (K-2 500m) and kayak fours (K-4 500m).

In the single event, the young German kayakist won her first Olympic medal at the 1980 Moscow Games at only 18 years of age. She took a second medal in 1992 in Barcelona, and won silver in Seoul in 1988, behind Bulgaria’s Vania Gesheva. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, she missed out on a medal by six-tenths of a second and finished fourth. This was her last competition in the single event. Over these three editions, she was always able to improve her performances, going from 1.57 minutes in 1980 to 1.49 minutes in 1996. In the double event, Fischer took two gold and two silver medals at four editions of the Games. She was accompanied on each occasion by a different team mate: Anke Nothnagel in Seoul 1988 (gold), Ramona Portwich in Atlanta 1996 (silver), Katrin Wagner in Sydney 2000 (gold) and Carolin Leonhardt in Athens 2004 (silver). Finally, in kayak fours, she has won five Olympic medals: four gold and one silver.

At six editions of the Olympic Games, Birgit Fischer has therefore won eight gold medals and four silver – a total of 12. She is the youngest and oldest female athlete to have won an Olympic kayak medal: at 18 and at 42 years old. She is also the second female athlete to have won the most Olympic medals, behind Ukrainian gymnast Larisa Latynina.

Student, mother and athlete
From 1968 to 2000, besides her kayak career, Birgit Fischer took several university courses: in law, science and sport, sports pedagogy as well as tourism and sports management. This has allowed her to take on various professions in sport: instructor in the People’s National Army, coordinator and coach at the German Canoe/Kayak Federation, advertising executive or director of KanuFisch.

Nonetheless, these activities did not overtake her sports career. Indeed, from 1979 to 2005, she won 27 world kayak championship titles, nine of them in three years (1981-1983). Add to this six silver medals and two bronze, also from the world championships.

Birgit was also able to reconcile family life and sporting demands. A mother of two children - Ole was born in 1986 and Ulla in 1989 - she put her career on hold for three years to look after the children full time.

In 2004, Birgit Fischer was elected German female athlete of the year. A distinction that highlighted the impressive career of a kayakist who was able to perfectly navigate the various sides of her life: student, professional, family and sporting.

Canoe / Kayak
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