It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me: Afred, a young man in charge of the kayak racing team, came to my office to get the permission stamps for the team to go to a regatta taking place in a different city. As I asked him questions he invited me to come to a training session and see if I would like to join the club. Well, I said ‘yes’ right away and his girlfriend Christa showed me how to get in and out of a kayak. Balancing wasn’t easy as I was trying to sit in that narrow nut shell. When I mastered it without tipping over I was in love, – in love with the novelty of it and in love with the water. Christa also let me try out the KII. I became obsessed with kayaking, I was determined to be in the top group and secretly even promised myself to become better than all the other girls. And, you know what?
It was only a year later that I won the District Championships in the KI over 500 and over 3.000 meters. Mind you, after the 3.000 meter race I fell out of the kayak as soon as I crossed the finishing line. Christa, my trainer and also my KII partner was disappointed because up to now she had won all the races. But we won the 500 and the 3000 meters in the KII, it made up for it.
We became very close friends. Even now, more than sixty years later we are still close but mostly in telephone contact since we live on different continents. She saved nearly forty five years of the letters I wrote to her from Canada after my emigration. She gave them to me last time I saw her. To read them again was quite a revelation for me. In my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” you’ll enjoy reading about my kayaking and the great love I had for my own paddle boat “Max”. The best years within my first 30 years I cover in that book have to do with the water, my boat and my desolation in leaving it behind when I had to escape from East to West Germany. As it happened, my racing abilities helped me to find a job in West Germany. I am sad to say that I never reached the top groups again. I just had to work too many hours and did not have as much time for the necessary training.
You might find it interesting that in East Germany every sport was very highly promoted and financially supported, it hardly cost anything for either memberships or competitions,– but in West Germany you were on your own. And as I made very little money I could not really afford to participate anymore either. When I was 5th once at a competition I dropped out. I thought it was better if people remembered me and said “oh, she was good” rather than “yaaah, she got too old and had to drop out”!
Did you know they now have real racing kayaks for kiddies? And train them very early? Just like Austrian kids start to ski as soon as they can walk, at the Baltic Sea where I lived the kids can start at two or three years old getting into a kayak. Amazing! Start to train early for future Olympics? Yes, the children are our future in more ways than one. Kayaking is healthy, you breath fresh air, develop muscles but mainly around the upper body. So training included running, all-body exercises and during the winters we went to gymnastics and played competitive table tennis. One more thing: The comradery. I give it ten points out of ten. It’s wonderful and becomes a big part of your life. I just LOVED it.