Marita Koch

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Marita Koch
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1984-0402-025, Marita Koch.jpg
Personal information
Born (1957-02-18) 18 February 1957 (age 59)[1]
Wismar, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, East Germany[1]
Height 171 cm (5 ft 7 in)[1]
Weight 62 kg (137 lb)[1]
Sport
Sport Track and field
Updated on 30 June 2015.

Marita Koch (born 18 February 1957), married name Marita Koch Meier, is a German former sprint track and field athlete. During her career she collected sixteen world records in outdoor sprints as well as fourteen world records in indoor events. Her record of 47.60 in the 400 metres, set on 6 October 1985, still stands. Only once since then (Marie-José Pérec at the 1996 Olympics) has another athlete come within a second of her time. Perec was also coached later on in her sprinting career by Koch's coach, Wolfgang Meier.

Biography[edit]

Marita Koch and Silke Gladisch (background) in Karl-Marx-Stadt, June 18, 1983

Born in Wismar, East Germany, Marita Koch displayed exceptional speed even as a young child and was defeating boys much older than herself in sprint races whilst at school. By the time she had turned 15 years old, she was training under Wolfgang Meier. Meier worked as a Naval Engineer, but also coached athletics part-time. Koch and Meier moved to Rostock where Koch began to study medicine. However, she decided to stop her studies and focus on running instead. Koch was coached by Meier for her entire career, and they later married. She retained her maiden name and is now known as Marita Koch-Meier. She and her husband have a daughter named Ulrike.

Koch has held world records over several distances from 50 m to 400 m. Some of her best performances are as follows:

Koch ran a 400 m quarterfinal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal (51.87 seconds), but withdrew due to injury. She set her first world record in 1977 in Milan, when she ran a 400 m indoors in 51.8 seconds. The following year, she set her first outdoor record at 400 m in 49.19 seconds. She topped this with another two world records within a month. In 1979 Koch became the first woman to run a 200 m in under 22 seconds. Her time of 21.71 seconds (wind +0.7 m/s) set at Karl Marx Stadt stood as the world record for nine years. She tied her own 200 m world record in 1984 (21.71 seconds +0.3 m/s Potsdam). However, her 200 m world record was equaled twice in 1986 by Heike Drechsler. One of Drechsler's 21.71 second 200 m performances was achieved into a headwind whereas both of Koch's performances of 21.71 had a tailwind.

At the Moscow Olympics of 1980 Koch won the gold medal in the 400 m. Three weeks before the 1984 Olympic Games, she equaled her own record, but the East German boycott prevented her from competing in the games. She also won the European Championships at 400 m in 1978, 1982 and 1986. She remained the European record holder for the 200 m until 28 August 2015 when Dafne Schippers won the 200 m final at the 2015 World Championships with a time of 21.63 seconds. As a member of East Germany's relay teams, Koch also set more world records. They set new world records in the 4 × 100 m in 1979 and 1983. The same team won silver in the 4 × 400 m relay in the 1980 Olympic Games. They also set world records over the same distance in 1980, 1982 and 1984. Koch retired from running in 1987 as one of Germany's most successful athletes. She had suffered from an Achilles tendon injury and wanted to focus on family life. She and Meier own a sports goods store in Rostock.

The 400m World Record Run[edit]

On 6 October 1985 at the year's World Cup meet, Koch set the current 400 m world record of 47.60 seconds. That time is considered far out of reach of even the best of today's athletes.[2] The meet was held at Bruce Stadium in Canberra, Australia, which is at 605 metres altitude.[3][4] The world record 400 m run had been well planned, and her basic speed and speed endurance proven in several training runs in the weeks prior. One week prior to her 400 m world record run, anecdotal reports suggest that Koch had run the 200 m in 21.56 seconds (fully automatic time). This 200 m performance was never verified by the IAAF and remains unofficial.

In her world record run, Koch, running in lane 2, came out of the blocks at a scorching pace and eliminated the stagger on most of her competitors by the end of the first bend. Her 100 m split time was reported to be 11.3 seconds, while her 200 m split time was reported to be 22.4 seconds. At the halfway point in the race, she had completely destroyed most of a world class field. Her 300 m split was reported to be 34.1 seconds (hand timed). During the final stages of the race, the original video footage only captured Koch and Olga Bryzhina (née Vladykina) of the former USSR, who was trailing behind, but closing the gap. The rest of the field had been left so far behind that they were not captured by the camera as Koch and Vladykina crossed the finishing line. Vladykina, running in lane 1, displayed exceptional speed endurance over the final 100 m of the race. However, Koch had gained too much of an advantage in the early stages of the race, and Vladykina was unable to pull in Koch before the finish line. Vladykina also ran her all-time best performance (48.27 seconds) in that race.[3][4]

An interesting fact is that Koch also holds the 300 m women's all-time best performance of 34.1 seconds (HT), which was achieved at the 300 m point of her 400 m world record run. Her 200 m split time (22.40 seconds) in the world record run was exceptionally fast. A time of 22.40 seconds in a 200 m race is a world class time. Her 400 m world record has now stood for more than 30 years.

Marita Koch in Berlin, August 21, 1986

In a 400 m race, the only women to have broken the 48 second barrier are Koch and Jarmila Kratochvílová (47.99 seconds, Helsinki, 1983). Kratochvílová was Koch's main rival over the distance and also a 400 m world record holder in the early 1980s. The 400 m world record kept changing between the two of them. Kratochvílová was also a superb 800 m runner and still holds the 800 m world record set in 1983, which is the oldest standing outdoor track and field world record set by an individual.

Drug use controversy[edit]

Koch's achievements, along with the performances of many other East German female athletes, have long been under suspicion that they were achieved with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.[5] These drugs were and remain illegal, but were not detectable at the time. In 1991 German anti-drug activists Brigitte Berendonk and Werner Franke were able to save several doctoral theses and other documents written by scientists working for the East German drug research program. The documents list the dosage and timetables for the administration of anabolic steroids to many athletes of the former GDR, with one of them being Marita Koch. According to the sources, Koch did use the anabolic steroid Oral-Turinabol (4-Chlorodehydromethyltestosterone) from 1981 to 1984 with dosages ranging from 530 to 1460 mg/year.

Koch never publicly admitted to performance-enhancing drug use. However, a letter to the head of the state-owned pharmaceutical company Jenapharm (which became a subsidiary of Schering AG, which is not to be confused with Schering-Plough) was discovered by researcher Franke, in which Koch complained that fellow sprinter Bärbel Wöckel received larger doses of steroids than herself because she had a relative working in the company. Wöckel had won gold medals in the 200m at the Montreal games in 1976 and again in Moscow 1980. However, even when Wöckel was in her prime, it was Koch who held the world record over 200m (21.71) from 1979-1988. Wöckel's best performance over 200m was 21.85 in Potsdam in 1984.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
East Germany Rosemarie Ackermann
East German Sportswoman of the Year
1978 – 1979
Succeeded by
East Germany Maxi Gnauck
Preceded by
East Germany Rosemarie Ackermann
Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
1978 – 1979
Succeeded by
East Germany Ilona Briesenick
Preceded by
East Germany Ute Geweniger
East German Sportswoman of the Year
1982 – 1983
Succeeded by
East Germany Katarina Witt
Preceded by
East Germany Katarina Witt
East German Sportswoman of the Year
1985
Succeeded by
East Germany Heike Drechsler
Preceded by
United States Tracy Caulkins
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

1979
Succeeded by
Liechtenstein Hanni Wenzel
Preceded by
United States Chris Evert Lloyd
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

1982
Succeeded by
Czechoslovakia Jarmila Kratochvílová
Preceded by
United States Evelyn Ashford
Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
1982
Succeeded by
Czechoslovakia Jarmila Kratochvílová
Preceded by
United States Evelyn Ashford
Women's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
1985
Succeeded by
United States Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Poland Irena Szewińska
Women's 200 m Best Year Performance
1978 – 1979
Succeeded by
East Germany Bärbel Wöckel
Preceded by
United States Evelyn Ashford
Women's 200 m Best Year Performance
1982 – 1985
Succeeded by
East Germany Heike Drechsler