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Nils Schumann - It is an honour to run for the capital of Germany

Nils SchumannIt is an honour to run for the capital of Germany
Jörg Wenig for the IAAF

8 December 2000 – Berlin - Germany’s sports person of the year, Nils Schumann, had exciting and successful days recently but after changing clubs has had to find a new coach as well

 About two months after winning gold in Sydney the unexpected triumph starts to have an impact on Nils Schumann’s life. The 22-year-old athlete, who produced the biggest surprise for German athletics for years and became the first German male 800 m runner to win gold in the history of the Olympics, had a couple of exciting and successful days recently. But in the end he also had a problem: The runner has to find a new coach.

First Nils Schumann was voted Germany’s sports person of the year by the TV-audience of the national broadcasting station ARD. Being ahead of Wilson Kipketer in Sydney, this time Germany’s new sports star left behind the likes of Michael Schumacher and Jan Ullrich. There will be another poll by the German sports journalists soon, but Schumann can claim to have won the people’s vote.

Just two days later the European champion and his sponsor Nike announced a five-year-deal which is estimated to be worth between half a million and a million US-Dollars. The scene of the press conference was Berlin. And this was not a coincidence. Having decided to renew a contract with Nike and thus having voted against offers said to have come from Adidas and Asics, Nils Schumann also changed his club: though he will still spend much of his time in his hometown Erfurt (Thüringen) his new club will be the LG Nike Berlin.

This is a tremendous boost for athletics in the capital of Germany, that hopes to stage the World Championships in 2009 at the latest. But of course the change of club, which is of significance in Germany’s system of sport, was a major blow to his former club SV Creaton Großengottern in Thüringen.

His coach Dieter Hermann was so upset that he quit the co-operation with Schumann just hours after the press conference in Berlin. Hermann, the national coach for the steeple chase, had brought together a group of runners around Schumann in Großengottern.

"The decision to change the club was a very difficult one for me – and it has caused me a couple of sleepless nights", Schumann explained in Berlin. The runner who was born in Bad Frankenhausen is said to be deeply rooted in his native county Thüringen.

"But I have more goals in my sport. And I think Berlin will give me a better position to achieve them", Schumann said, adding: "For me it is an honour to run for the capital of Germany. And I very much hope that the people of Berlin will like me."

Schumann has announced that he intends to run the Golden League next year and will then be a local hero in the ISTAF in Berlin.

"I know that people are disappointed in Thüringen, but I hope that they will understand why I left my club."

It is said that the offer made by Nike was a once in a lifetime chance for Nils Schumann. But the sponsor obviously had a certain interest in Schumann running for their Berlin club. In the capital Nike will have far better chances as far as presentation and marketing are concerned.

"We had checked with Nils before, that the work with his coach would continue even if he would leave Großengottern", Christoph Kopp, president of the Berlin athletics federation and successor of Rudi Thiel at the ISTAF, explained. It was arranged with Hermann that Schumann would continue to live in Erfurt, train with him, but come to Berlin regularly.

But suddenly Hermann said: "There is no sensible reason for me to continue coaching Nils." And then he even added: "I wish him the best of luck – and he will need it." This quote by Hermann to a German news agency must have been embarrassing for Schumann, who had travelled from Berlin to Spain when he heard of it.

The runner did not comment the quotes of his coach yet, he just said: "For me it’s over." Frank Hensel, the general manager of the Deutsche Leichtathletik-Verband (DLV), had then talks with Hermann. But he finally had to accept, that there is no sense in trying to bring Schumann and Hermann together again.

The separation was however not that much of a surprise for some insiders. Indeed there are hints that the relation had some controversy in the past. So Schumann’s change of the club was probably just the last kick.

What Hermann, who had coached the Olympic champion for nearly seven years, obviously fears is that Schumann’s training could suffer from his new state as a sports star.

His German and international managers, Klaus Kärcher and Jos Hermens, Christoph Kopp and Frank Hensel, all are ready to help Schumann finding or suggesting a new coach. But first of all the athlete made a simple choice: His father took over in Erfurt. Peter (same first name as Sebastian Coe’s father) had already coached his son previously to Hermann.

It is uncertain if this is the final solution. However, Schumann could be lucky in having chosen Berlin in the end. It is the capital where Nico Motchebon, fifth in Atlanta in the 800 m, lives and trains. And he is coached by Idriss Gonschinska, who could be a possible candidate for Schumann as well.

"My girlfriend and Kofi, they live in Berlin – everything else doesn’t matter right now", Nils Schumann said. His girlfriend, high jumper Amewu Mensah, was eighth in the Olympic final, and with Kofi he means Kofi Amoah Prah, the Berlin long jumper who took fifth place in Sydney.