Birgit Fischer

With her eight gold medals, kayak colossus Birgit Fischer is Germany's most successful ever Olympian, not to mention her breath-taking 27 world titles.

At 42 years old, Fischer proved she was still at the top by winning the K4 500m Olympic race at Athens in 2004. But the bid for the magical nine titles just escaped her when she finished second in the K2 500m.

Only four athletes had won nine Olympic gold at that time, although American swimmer Michael Phelps has since smashed that record which now stands at 14.

Since her first K1 (kayak pairs) title at Moscow back in 1980 she has won at least one title at each Olympiad and would almost certainly have amassed an even greater gold haul had her former East Germany not boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Games, so great was her dominance over the sport at that time.

Born in Brandebourg, East Germany, she launched her kayak adventures at the tender age of six with the help of her father Karl Heinz, an enthusiast of the sport.

At 13, she moved to Potsdam where she was enrolled at the ASK Vorwaerts club and school which specialised kayaking.

Her precocious talent saw her take her first world title in 1979 at the age of 17 in the K4 500m, the first in an amazing series of 27 world titles over the next 25 years.

She married German canoeist Joerg Schmidt in 1984 and divorced him nine years later, ending her career once more under her maiden name.

If she didn't win a medal in 1986, it was because that year bore richer fruit with the birth of her son Ole. But she was back in action at the Seoul Games in 1988 before taking three years out from 1989 this time go tend to the care of her new daughter Ulla.

In 1992 she took charge of her own training regime only accepting advice from the national team coach Josef Capousek, who was at that time her companion.

In 2000 she took part in the European Championships in Poland where she racked up two gold, two silver and a bronze in the way of preparation for the Olympics.

At Sydney, victories in the K2 and the K4 took her tally to a magnificent seven Olympic titles but soon after she announced her retirement.

In early 2001, she began her coaching career by taking over the German 18 to 25 age group, who could hardly be in better hands but then announced she was returning to competition in October, 2003.

Brigit's niece Fanny has since taken up the flag and at the Beijing Games won gold in the K-4 500m.

German Birgit Fischer adjusts her wreath after receiving her gold medal with teammates Nollen Maike, Katrin Wagner and Carolin Leonhardt (not pictured) during the medals ceremony for the Women's K4 500m final for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games at the Schinias Rowing and Canoeing Center, outside Athens, 27 August 2004. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV

German Birgit Fischer celebrates after finishing first in the Women's K4 500m final with teammates Nollen Maike, Katrin Wagner and Carolin Leonhardt (not pictured) for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games at the Schinias Rowing and Canoeing Center, outside Athens, 27 August 2004. AFP PHOTO / MAXIM MARMUR

(ARCHIVES) - Photo taken in August 1980 of German kayaker Birgit Fischer winning the gold medal in the kayak competition at the Olympic Games in Moscow.

German kayaker gold medallist Katrin Wagner (F), Manuela Mucke, Anett Schuck and Birgit Fischer celebrate after women's K4 500M final, 30 September 2000, on Penrith Lake, west of Sydney. Hungarians Szilvia Szabo, Rita Koban, Katalin Kovacs and Erzsebet Viski took silver medal while Romanians Mariana Limbau, Raluca Andreea Ionita, Elena Radu and Sanda Toma took the bronze medal. AFP PHOTO /GERARD JULIEN

German kayaker Birgit Fischer show her two gold medals to photographers at the end of medals ceremony of the women's K2, 500 meters final, on Penrith Lake, west of Sydney, 01 October 2000, at the Sydney Olympic games. Birgit Fischer won 10 medals, 7 of them gold since Moscow Olympic Games (1980), 20 years of competition. AFP PHOTO/ THOMAS COEX

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