2014 03 27 T114027


"Nothing is easier than determining the day when Heide Rosendahl began her journey to becoming a German sports legend. It didn't take long, just ten days."

So, it says in the "Hall of Fame" of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB):

"It began on August 31, 1972, at the Olympic Stadium in Munich. The sun was shining, and when the harvest was in, the 25-year-old from Leverkusen had won three medals, two of them gold and one silver. Her name recognition was 97 percent, the same as Volkswagen."

So much for the DOSB entry; it has a slight hitch:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the year in which Heide Rosendahl began her legendary career. In December 1970, trade journalists voted the young track and field athlete Germany's "Sportswoman of the Year." This honor was astonishing for an athlete who had not yet won any international title worth mentioning, apart from winning a Universiade (FISU World University Games).

The 23-year-old, who competed for Bayer Leverkusen as an all-arounder, long jumper, and sprinter, was already quite familiar with Adi Dassler by 1970. She signed a pair of red running spikes that Adi Dassler tailored to her foot just the year before.

He had her come to Franconia, especially for this purpose. She can be seen in a photo together with decathlete Kurt Bendlin - the two are synchronously crossing hurdles that the "boss" had set up on a tartan track prepared with soap suds. After the test runs, the athletes recorded their impressions, after which their shoes were "built."

Heide Rosendahl had a lot of success in her shoes in the following years; she won repeatedly. The highlight was the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

Germany, the host country, had to wait five days for the first gold medal - Heide Rosendahl made the winning leap of 6.78 meters in the long jump in her first attempt, and she finished second in the pentathlon.

Then came the 4 x 100-meter relay: In a legendary German-German duel, Rosendahl's quartet ran away from the highly favored GDR formation. Rosendahl was the final runner and gained a razor-thin victory (in the world record time of 42.81 seconds) ahead of Renate Stecher. Both athletes were in three-striped shoes.

Rosendahl was indeed an athlete to be remembered in the Hall of Fame.

She has turned down film offers; she hasn't allowed herself to be lured into the hit industry. Fame has not affected her.

Asked about the recipe for success, she says: "You have to have quite a lot of discipline and be very goal-oriented. I was often faced with situations where I asked myself, 'Can you do this? My answer is always: What is important? What are the most important points? Concentrate, and then you can do it. If you have been successful in sports, you have more confidence. You always have a good feeling behind you."

And today?

"These are difficult times; it takes discipline to deal with the Coronavirus. I can't see my grandchildren, but we write to each other via WhatsApp. The children take care of my husband John and me. We walk a lot, pass the time in the garden or reading. It's scary, but we'll get there."

Sometimes she is asked about the Munich relay race. First, she recalls immense fear because Renate Stecher was gaining ground on her, then she remembers enormous happiness at the finish line as she finished first.

And she laughs when she sees the photo. Renate Stecher, a shoe length behind Heide Rosendahl. "We all ran in the striped shoes, the GDR and the FRG.

Heide stepped it up a notch that afternoon in 1972. She also had flashy striped socks.

But if you look closely, you'll notice not three but just two bright red stripes around Heide's calves.

"I had brought myself a pair like that from the United States. They were practical, and I just liked them. I found a manufacturer from the Allgäu region who made some for me based on this pattern. Made of a material to which the sand does not stick. I got a box of 50 pairs from him at my request, which lasted until the end of my career."

Adi Dassler liked it. He liked that kind of perfectionism.