Our sports landscape is as diverse as our region. Under the shadow of the great team sports, Central Hesse’s athletes perform brilliantly, celebrate successes at the Olympic, World and European Championships and inspire people. A journey through recent history.
The sport in our region is much more than football, handball or basketball. Those who regularly visit the sports section of this newspaper also read about successes in sports that often receive little media attention. Whether on bike, on horseback or on the water – local athletes have made history in the past. We remember some of them.
Werner Wenzel and Günter Bittendorf are two athletes who have relocated to their homeland – in the truest sense of the word. “The arrival of the world champions after their success at Krofdorf-Gleiberg was a folk celebration,” says the RSV Krofdorf-Gleiberg Chronicle of the cycling duo that won the World Cup and the European Cup in 1967. Wenzel/Bittendorf became role models for generations of RSV cyclists after them. Further great successes were achieved at the foot of Gleiberg – among others Hartmut Retzlaff / Rainer Will, who became German men’s champion in 1977, 1978 and 1980, and vice world champion at the 1977 World Championships in Brno.
four sisters with hunger
During this time the four Ziskra sisters of the RV Germania Hungen were virtuoso on art bikes. Twins Ruth and Ute became European champions in pairs in 1977, 1980 and 1981. Nothing more was possible at the time – there was not a World Cup in two-man (yet) – but in one, and so the 1981 competition in Heerlen, Netherlands, was a great success for Hungary, as Petra Bender was there in one of her careers. Club ally Silke won the world title in Ziskra, having become vice world champion in Switzerland the year before. Bender (1982) and Regine Ziskra (1975), fourth in a group of sisters, were also decorated with a World Cup silver.
“I don’t know how to explain our successes. Especially since we started relatively late,” says Ruth Reinhardt, née Ziskra, TODAY. “The four of us invested an incredible amount of time and trained four times a week,” she recalls. Who knows what else could have happened – but on April 16, 1982, his twin sister, Ute, surprisingly passed away at just 23 years old. “I stopped later and later came back to cycling through my kids as an instructor,” says Ruth Reinhardt, who still guides youth at RV Germania in Schaferstadt.
Franco Formica from Loller was also a virtuoso on the floor. Together with her dance partner Oksana Nikiforova, Formica won the World Championships in Latin American Dance among amateurs three times in a row for TC Nova Giesen between 2002 and 2004. Moving into professional life, he added several DM titles with Oxana Lebedeau to his long list of successes. In general: Giesen was and is a dance stronghold. Sports friend Ulrike Heisman-Berger/Dr. Hans-Jürgen Berger, who became the standard senior world champion seven times in a row between 1994 and 2000. Or for Ralph Burke/Alice Trabert (now Shobery), who won the German Open and US Open as an S couple between 1980 and 1992 and danced together at the World and European Championships.
Brilliant career start on Lahno
Many sporting careers have started on Lahan – at rowing club Hsia Giesen, for example, that of Ruth Kaps, who made her way to the top of the world in the early 1990s. In 1990 she became the U23 world champion in singles, five years later she won bronze in the lightweight double sculls, and in 1996 she fulfilled her Olympic dream in Atlanta when she finished eighth with Michel Darvill from Hanover. The Olympic dream didn’t come true for Paul Dienstbach. The model athlete of the Giessner Rüdergesellschaft and eighth ally of Germany lost the qualifying race for the 2000 Games in Sydney. Dienstbach was also named to the Olympic team for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. But he fell ill shortly before the inauguration and was dropped from the team. what bad luck! The 2002 World Championships title in all fours without a helmsman stands apart from his long list of successes.
double Olympic champion
Let’s stay on Lahn – and come to another club that regularly produces top talent: PC Wiesmar. Jan Benzion, among others, began his career with the Weitenbergers, who have achieved many successes in their club’s history. At the age of 16, he learned canoe ABC on Lahn before attending sports boarding school in Leipzig. The now 39-year-old was among the top canoe slalom leaders for several years, was world champion in the Canadiers in 2005 and 2015, won another 23 medals at the World and European Championships and missed out on an Olympic bronze medal in Rio in 2016 – 2008 on his time. In the second game behind Beijing, he was fourth with Franz Anton of Wittenberg.
We come to a German Olympic hero from the region – show jumper Lars Nieberg, who worked and lived at Waldershausen Stud in Homburg between 1994 and 2013. Down-to-earth Lower Saxony enthused the city in 1996 when he was given a grand welcome by thousands—Nieberg had just returned from Atlanta as team Olympic champion. Four years later he repeated the success with the German team in Sydney. The double Olympic champion was for many years one of the best in the world, was the team World and European champion, participated in awards in over 50 countries for Germany and celebrated the successes non-stop.
Running boar – this was the name of the discipline that played an important role in the life of Wolfgang Hamburger until the late 1980s. SV Wismar’s shooter qualified for the event at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, later named Running Target, and finished fifth in Canada as the best European. It is one of Hamburger’s many successes in the 1970s, winning gold, silver and bronze medals at World and European Championships with the German team. The nearly 80-year-old is still active with his SV Wismar and Wetenberg is one of the hardest-working title collectors in the history of shooters.
At the 1976 Games in Montreal, Gabby Weller was not even a year old. Heuchelheimerin grew into an outstanding athlete in her gymnastics family. In 1991, when she was 15, she finished tenth with the German team at the World Championships in Indianapolis. In the first Olympic Games since the 1992 Barcelona reunification, Weller was also part of the All-German team, which came in tenth place. Between 1990 and 1999 she won a total of 13 medals at the German Championships – many of them gold medals.
The Olympic dream continues to inspire domestic athletes these days as well. When the Tokyo Games kick off on July 23, longtime runner Lisa Meyer and rower Mark Webber (RC Hsia Giesen) will be there too – and they want to make sports history, too.