Niemann-Stirnemann, Gunda

▪ 1999

      Competing in the second-to-last pairing in the 5,000-m race at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games held in Nagano, Japan, German speed skater Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann broke her own world record and became the first woman ever to post a 5,000-m time under seven minutes when she crossed the finish line in 6 min 59.65 sec. As the crowd roared its approval, Niemann-Stirnemann put a finger to her lips to quiet the crowd. She knew that her rival—and teammate—Claudia Pechstein would be racing in the final pairing, and she also knew that the new clapskates used during these Games left no record unthreatened. Pechstein did indeed shatter the new world record—by 0.04 sec—but Niemann-Stirnemann still had plenty to celebrate: by taking the silver medal in the race, she tied an all-time record for most individual medals won in the Winter Games, and she erased the memory of a disappointing Olympic performance four years earlier at Lillehammer, Nor.

      Born Gunda Kleeman on Sept. 7, 1966, in Sonderhausen, East Germany, she left home for a sports school when she was 12 years old, originally playing volleyball but soon taking up track and field. Although mildly successful as a hurdler, she shifted her focus to speed skating at age 17. Her first appearance in the Olympics came in 1988 at Calgary, Alta., where she finished seventh in both the 1,500 m and the 5,000 m. It was at the 1992 Winter Games at Albertville, France, that she began to display her command of the sport; she won the gold medal in the 3,000 m and the 5,000 m and the silver in the 1,500 m. This performance made her the favourite two years later at Lillehammer, but she failed—relatively speaking—when she took the bronze in the 1,500 m, the silver in the 5,000 m, and appeared headed for the gold in the 3,000 m before falling and being disqualified. Despite the letdown, the 1.7-m (5-ft 7-in), 67-kg (148-lb) skater had five Olympic medals in her possession.

      In the ensuing years Niemann-Stirnemann dominated speed skating, finishing first in nearly every major event from 1995 through 1997. At the same time her popularity in Germany soared. Dubbed the "ice queen" by the media, she earned more than $300,000 in endorsements in 1997 alone. In April 1997 she underwent knee surgery and spent the summer in-line skating to rehabilitate herself. Any doubts about her condition for Nagano, however, were quelled when she set a world record in a 3,000-m race just two months before the Games. At Nagano she won the 3,000 m and took the silver in the 1,500 m and 5,000 m. Her total of eight tied her with East German speed skater Karin Enke-Kania (who dominated in the early 1980s) and Norwegian cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie (Daehlie, Bjorn ) (q.v.) for the most individual medals ever won in the Winter Games.

ANTHONY G. CRAINE

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Niemann-Stirnemann — Niemann Stịrnemann,   Gunda, Eisschnellläuferin, * Sondershausen 7. 9. 1966; u. a. Olympiasiegerin 1992 (3 000, 5 000 m) und 1998 (3 000 m), achtmal Weltmeisterin (zwischen 1991 und 1999) und siebenmal Europameisterin (zwischen 1989 und 2001) im …   Universal-Lexikon

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  • Niemann — ist ein deutscher Familienname. Herkunft und Bedeutung Niemann ist die niederdeutsche Form von Neumann. Bekannte Namensträger Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Niemann — is a surname, and may refer to: Albert Niemann (chemist) Albert Niemann (tenor) Brausch Niemann Carl Niemann Edmund John Niemann Gunda Niemann Stirnemann Jeff Niemann Johan Niemann Johann Niemann Kristian Niemann Randy Niemann …   Wikipedia

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