Berlin! Berlin! Wir Fahren Nach Berlin!

By David

Fans of the beautiful game may recognise the title of this post. It is the popular chant soccer fans used during the 2006 Berlin World Cup finals. In English it means, “Berlin! Berlin! We’re going to Berlin!” It came to mind during a conversation I had this morning with my daughter Jane. She lives in London but is about to leave for a weekend holiday in the German capital. Describing Berlin she called it, “The home town of two of our family’s national records.”

It was not a thought I’d ever had before. But she was right.

On August 17 1979 Alison ran 1000 meters in the Berlin Olympic Stadium. That was back in the days when the Berlin Wall divided the city and communism ruled the eastern portion of the German state. On the morning before Alison’s run we visited Checkpoint Charlie, one of the very few passes through the wall; between East and West. America’s best 400 meter hurdler at the time, James King, decided he wanted a closer look over the wall and climbed high into a convenient tree. I was horrified to see him leaning out of the tree giving a well practiced central finger salute to a dangerous looking, Kalashnikov armed, East German guard. On closer inspection, the guard looked bored by the whole thing. I suspect he may have been insulted by brash westerners many times before.

Without doubt Berlin’s Olympic Stadium is the World’s finest athletic track. I visited the plaque commemorating New Zealander, Jack Lovelock’s 1500 meter victory in the 1936 Olympic Games. I stood on the concrete plinth used by Hitler to watch the Games. The atmosphere and the sense of history were without peer. Alison’s performance matched the setting. Her time of 2:38.54 ranked her fifth in the world that year and set a New Zealand Open Woman’s Record for the event. Thirty two years later it is still the National Record; the fastest time run by a New Zealand woman.

Twenty one years after Alison’s run, in early 2000, our fifteen year old daughter, Jane, was also competing in Berlin; not in track and field but in swimming. By this time the wall had gone and Germany was unified. In fact the pool in which the World Cup took place had been built in the heart of the old East Berlin. The meet was an important one for Jane. Weeks earlier in Australia, New Zealand National Coach, Brett Naylor, told her he thought she was not nearly a good enough swimmer to be competing on the European World Cup circuit, and called her an embarrassment to her country. I’ve very seldom seen Jane cry, but she did that night. However, in Berlin it took her 1:06.33 to put the record straight. That’s the time it took her to swim 100 meters IM. That’s also the time that made her a New Zealand 15 Years Age Group record holder. I guess it’s true; he (or she) who laughs last, laughs longest.

In that trip Jane went on to swim well in Imperia, Italy and Paris, France. But Berlin alone remained as, “The home town of two of our family’s national records.”

Jane’s first Open Woman’s record was about as far from the history, glamour and majesty of Berlin as you can imagine. She set that record over 200 meters breaststroke in the small Hawkes Bay agricultural town of Waipukerau. From Berlin to Waipukerau, that’s part of the fun of sport.

The photograph below shows Alison and Jane posing in their respective New Zealand track suits – both of which saw service in the German capital, Berlin.
Jane Copland and Alison Wright

  • boxer

    I love this story – this is what sport is about – I hope that we can look forward to more good news stories like this in the future. In the necessary world of Swimwatch discussing SPARC reviews, SNZ HP and Project Vanguard it has been along time between drinks!