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Skating: Britta van Tournhout and Jörg Wecke win the 24th Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON

New great setting at the start and finish area and fast course


Ladies first! The women’s competition…

After a calm race, the world champion in the half marathon in 1995, Hilde Goovaerts (Barclaycard inLion Girls), led the way for the final sprint by her team mate and fellow Belgian, Britta von Tournhout, who won ahead of the German skaters, Tina Strüver (Verducci) and Jana Gegner (Powerslide).

´´Tina Strüver has a really good sprint, ´´ said Hilde Goovaerts after the finish, thus expressing that the 2003 European Championship bronze medal winner for the 500m was a hard opponent for both Belgians.

One should know that the runners from Belgium already have their 2004 national long course championships behind them and are thus at the peak of their training. Whether or not they can keep up this form for rest of the year remains to be seen. In any case, Britta van Tournhout is looking forward to more hard duels with Tina Strüver this year.

The men’s race…

At the finish, the commentator had trouble finding the name that belonged to the winning race number. After a few seconds of nervous anticipation, the name rang out over the filled Schlossplatz square: ´´Jörg Wecke from ST Celle´´. A murmur went around the knowledgeable spectators. What happened? Who is Jörg Wecke???

The 35-year-old lieutenant in the German military, who transferred last year to ST Celle, the top speed skating club in Lower Saxony, humiliated the teams from Germany and Denmark. He took off from the main field of skaters at the 5 km mark and began working on the plan he had been given by his trainer. Olaf Herrmann (former Ukrainian ice speed skating national trainer) told Jörg before the race: You can only win and have nothing to lose.“ Jörg Wecke secured a lead of about 500 metres and held it constant.

Why the main field, that had Wecke within their view, did not catch him can only be explained by arrogance.

According to plan, Wecke did two four minute fast pieces when the course became more curved, which allowed him to get out of the field of vision of the main group. When they discovered that he was not collapsing as expected, he had already crossed the finish 17 seconds ahead of the rest. Thomas Rumpf, the head of the board of directors of ST Celle explained the winner’s current level of excellence with a very good partnership between club sport and industry, which was made possible by the company in Celle, Ecoroll, and by the good winter training conditions in an industrial hall.

The sprint for second place within the main field was won by the only 15-year-old Rasmus Steffensen of Denmark (Maple inLion Team Europe), ahead of Toni Deubner (Team Fila). The new course of the Bewag BERLIN HALF MARATHON... Due to the new course, many skaters were able to achieve small and large personal successes. The general opinion was that the course had become faster. Unfortunately, however, the team skaters did not take advantage of this privilege. The city has long been well known for its good road surfaces and wide Berlin streets.

The new finish area considerably improved the flair of the finish for both the athletes and the spectators. While last year the final sprint was hidden behind a curve, the tactical manoeuvres of the teams over the last 300 metres in a fight for the crown could be seen easily this year.

The new event location (start/finish) between the Zeughaus museum and the Berlin Cathedral...

Berlin has always had a bonus with the skaters because of its wide boulevards. The constantly increasing number of Berlin spectators, who support the athletes with their non-stop cheering, continually warm the hearts of the skaters on their way to the finish. The new event location, which is highlighted with the historical importance of the architecture (Schloßbrücke Palace Bridge, Zeughaus museum, Lustgarten, Kommandantur, Kronprinzenpalais, State Opera, Berlin Cathedral, and the Neue Wache Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) helped make the adventure weekend “a skating race in Berlin” even more enjoyable.

Everyone who was in the Berlin city on Saturday afternoon must have had the feeling that the entire city was into sports. I think the boutiques, clothing and department stores rarely have been able to greet as many customers in sneakers in their stores, as on the weekend of long course races of the skaters and runners. Reiner Huß

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