Berlin is hosting the 2009 World Championships this coming August. Many observers of the German Athletics Association (DLV) are quite concerned about the prospects of the German athletes in Berlin, the Euros in 2010, Worlds in 2011 and London 2012. This letter was sent, and forwarded to RBR in order for us to see how individuals can work together to change a federation. We at RBR wish the undersigned much luck...
O p e n L e t t e r
To the executive board of the German Athletics Association (DLV)
DLV participation in international championships, especially in the IAAF World Championships
On Sunday, December 14, 2008, the European Athletics Association (EAA) Cross Country European Championships will take place in Brussels. Surprisingly, the DLV has abandoned its usual practice and has sent six complete teams.
This is surprising, as it has been the DLV's practice for years to nominate primarily youth teams and refrain from sending any men's or women's teams, even for championships taking place in neighbouring countries. In doing so, cross country events also did not receive the focus they should have gotten as a basis for athletic development in the winter months. What was true for specific age groups at the IAAF World Championships was demonstrated in a blatant manner for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. We were most often not represented at all, infrequently with only one or two athletes.
It is possible that the DLV and/or its trainers are starting a process of rethinking. Up until now, one has to assume that the DLV chose “assist” its athletes by not sending any teams to the international championships in order to “spare” them possible defeat, by keeping them home in training camps rather then sending them out to face the international competition. The result of this policy, rather, is the stagnation of athletic performances across the board.
This criticism of the DLV is directed less at their nomination practices for the European Championships, but rather toward those for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and World Marathon Championships. For one of the world's largest athletics associations, this is both outright embarrassing and also ruinous for the reputation of German athletics.
Thus, for instance, the World Half Marathon Championships in 2008 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, took place without a single German athlete participating; at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, alone Susanne Hahn competed for Germany. The year prior, the DLV was missing completely at the World Half Marathon Championships in Udine, Italy, while through some pressure from the IAAF, at least one German junior team competed in the World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya. The latter performed better than expected and even finished as the best European team in 12th place.
The fact is that the DLV is not only sending its athletes to the sideline internationally through these rigid policies (?), but is also refusing them an important opportunity to compare their performances with others. Even if an athlete runs at the back of the pack, this offers him a chance to really learn how to compete, rather than always racing only against home athletes of his own calibre and seemingly performing with ease.
As the largest athletics association in Germany, the DLV has a certain obligation vis-à-vis its umbrella organisation to be in attendance. The US Americans and the Japanese are always present at the international events with large teams-even if that sometimes means a few last place finishes. If the nomination criterion of “a chance to make it the finals”, as was recently imposed by the DLV for the Olympic Games, were to be the standard imposed by all countries, then-maybe slightly exaggerated-the east Africans from Kenya and Ethiopia would be competing among themselves in the long-distance events, as would the Jamaican and immigrant US-Americans from the Caribbean in the sprints.
One telling example of how success can be achieved through strength of purpose and consistency can be demonstrated by the US runners, who have been able to join the international elite in both the mid and long distances within just a few years. The justification provided by the DLV that there is no extra funding from the Ministry of the Interior for non-Olympic disciplines, such as cross country and half marathon events, is really incomprehensible. We believe: if there is a will, there's a way. And that way has to be found. In a business country, which Germany is, should one maybe make a call for donations in order to make it possible to send talented and enthusiastic athletes from the German athletics association to the World Championship events?
It is not acceptable that the German functionaries in the international committees, such as professor Helmut Digel or Otto Klappert, are the only German representatives at the IAAF Championships-where they constantly face massive criticism and incomprehension from the heads of the IAAF.
At the World Championships in Athletics 2009 in Berlin, Germany, and thus also the DLV, are awaiting the best athletes from around the world to gather together in Berlin, even though the host has thus far been rather a poor role model at athletics events in the past. Switzerland is making a bid for hosting the 2014 European Championships in Zurich-and has already nominated a core team for 2014. This is long-term planning that is very foreign to the DLV. The German core team for the World Championships in Berlin was only presented about three months ago-in the face of the very disappointing performance of the Germans at the Olympic Games. Apparently, German athletics is going to have to fall into an even deeper hole before the leaders in the DLV will wake up.
Otto Klappert, Horst Milde, and Wilfried Raatz have been working with great dedication for many years in the running scene and have recently been appointed to the expert committee on running at the DLV. It is with great concern that they follow the “development” of the German mid- and long-distance runners. Maybe this “Open Letter” to the executive board of the German Athletics Association can aid in generating true “rethinking” in the heads of those responsible, so that the talented and courageous athletes can start their long-term planning and face international competition so they can develop further.
The undersigned have gladly recognised the nomination of complete DLV teams to the European Cross Country Championships in Brussels and are very pleased with this step in the right direction. Now it is in the hands of the leaders of the DLV that further steps follow.
Otto Klappert, Horst Milde, Wilfried Raatz
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