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Rainer Hanschke (GER)
'Working His Way from the Bottom Up'
In Interview - Head Coach of the German Men's National Team

Rainer Hanschke, born 1951 in Finsterwalde
-1974 World Championships medalist
  (3rd team, 16th AA, 5th FX)
-1976 Olympic medalist (3rd team, 28th AA)
-1977 graduate of Leipzig College of Physical Education

- after graduation, coach at SC Chemie Halle, than SC  Cottbus
-1991 to 1996 assistant national team coach
-1996 to present
head coach of the German men's national team

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Rainer Hanschke (GER)
Interviewed for GY Mmedia by Hans-Juergen Zeume
and Eckhard Herholz.)

GY Mmedia: Where does the German head coach get his motivation?

Rainer Hanschke:  When you're a competitive athlete the Olympics are your goal, and at a young age you're already admiring the great stars on the international stage. You imagine what it's like to belong with them, to be there. That's how it was and still is with me, and that's why I can comprehend what's going on inside the gymnasts who are trying to reach that greatness

GY Mmedia: Please outline your athletic career for us!

Rainer Hanschke:  I did gymnastics in those days in Forst in Lausitz. We learned and trained there in a venerable building. In April of this year, Friedrich-Ludwig-Jahn -Gymnasium, as it is called today, celebrated its seventieth birthday. I was one of its pupils, and I'm still proud of that today. Later, the child and youth sports school moved to Cottbus, and a new building was built, but I wasn't there anymore. At that time, I was competing for SC Chemie Halle and studying at the Leipzig College of Physical Culture ('DHfK')

GY Mmedia: Do you still remember your first international appearances as a gymnast?

Rainer Hanschke: : I experienced my first successes which brought me close to the Olympic stage in a small town on the Polish border. You don't forget something like that.  I had success as a young gymnast, and people already thought that I could go further... maybe even to the Olympics someday.

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Hanschke in action:
1974,shortly before his first World Championships in Varna (BUL)

GY Mmedia: ... you accomplished that in 1976!

Rainer Hanschke: Yes, but I earned silver medals very often in my career; I never quite made it to victory. That has always annoyed me a little. The path to making the national team was very long. After that, everything went pretty quickly: international dual meets, world championships, Olympic Games. Then I was in Montreal in 1976.

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From left to right:
GDR National Coach Peter Weber, Bernd Jaeger, Ralph Baerthel, Lutz Mack, Wolfgang Klotz, Roland Brueckner, Rainer Hanschke, Michael Nikolai.

Rainer Hanschke 1976:

In the GDR team in the Kienbaum training camp,
shortly before leaving for the Olympic Games
(on the left)

On the right..:

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- rotating events,
Montreal 1976 (team bronze)

I succeeded in fulfilling my childhood dream, and it has remained a lasting experience, through which an entire life is sustained. We won a bronze medal with the team. Today it's in my office-- within sight.

GY Mmedia:  Your coaching career has led you through almost everything...!

Rainer Hanschke: As a coach, I collected a lot of experience with gymnasts of different age groups. With the exception of beginners, I've coached nearly all ages. With the school-age group that I used to have in Cottbus, we were very successful. I even coached a gymnast, Maik Belle, to World Championships, where he competed in event finals on the pommel horse, and to the Olympics, if only as the alternate. After that, I went back to working with up-and-comers. As a national team coach, I was responsible for working with the C-squad level of the German gymnastics federation.

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Rainer Hanschke (left) led a German squad into the 1997 World Championships in Lausanne.
It was his first time acting as head coach in a World Championships.

After the 1996 Olympics, I was appointed head coach for the top group of German male gymnasts. Looking back, I'm glad that I was able to learn everything "from the bottom up" and that my responsibilities changed around. I think that works as a great advantage in my current job.

GY Mmedia:  What is the current situation in German men's gymnastics, in the World Championships year 1999, with regards to the younger team members?

Rainer Hanschke:  This year we have an Olympic squad of eight gymnasts. Five of them come from the training squad for Sydney 2000, which was formed in 1995. These gymnasts are Rene Tschernitschek (Halle), Sven Kwiatkowski (Chemnitz), Sergei Pfeifer (Hannover), Dmitri Nonin, and Daniel Farago (both of Berlin).  Meanwhile, they haven't been "the boys" for a long time now. They've already had successes in 1997 and 1998 at the World and European Championships and at international dual meets. Of course, they can still learn something by watching the experts like Belenki or Wecker!

GY Mmedia: Is your strived-for mix of young and old-or, rather, "experienced"-- already capable of medals?

Rainer Hanschke:  Sometimes people ask me if our team can medal again at the World Championships this year in Tianjin and at the Olympics next year in Sydney. Of course you should dream about that... but it's relatively difficult for us, with the unbelievable level at which the top teams, like China, Russia, Belarus, and Japan will be performing. You have to stay realistic. We succeeded in making it to the top-six team finals in the 1997 Lausanne World Championships. That was more surprising than expected for everyone. We have set it as our goal for 1999 and 2000. In order to reach it, we will have to battle it out with teams like South Korea, France, Ukraine, the U.S., and Romania in direct competition. Unfortunately, we haven't made the steps forward in our development as a team that would allow us to hope to compete for the medals at the World Championships in China.

GY Mmedia:  At the moment, "oldie" Andreas Wecker is surprising me... you too? He seems to be working quite seriously. What role could or should the Olympic champion play in Sydney?

Rainer Hanschke:  Andreas competed for the German national team this April, for the first time since his Olympic victory on the high bar in Atlanta 1996. With his performances at two international dual meets, he was a consistent competitor, who had a definite part in the team's success. I imagine it will be the same at the 2000 Olympics and the World Championships before that. What is more, we will work on perfecting his level of difficulty and perfecting the difficult elements themselves. That is necessary in order for him to make individual event finals again.

GY Mmedia:  That's enough about the 1999 Worlds. Looking at the Olympics, however, is there the goal of a team again?

Rainer Hanschke:  Looking toward Sydney, this goal can play a role again. First we have to qualify for the 2000 Olympics at this year's World Championships in Tianjin, China.  Our World Championships squad will prepare for that meet at two qualifying meets (in Chemnitz and Dessau), as well as at meets against Greece, Belarus, and Switzerland.

GY Mmedia:  In your opinion, is there a chance for gymnastics to be appealing to mainstream sportsfans and not just for especially interested insiders?

Rainer Hanschke:  The FIG and the European Gymnastics Union, as well as many national federations, are working on bringing the sport close to a wider audience. Our sport hasn't had as much popularity in other countries as it has in the U.S.-- when I think about Atlanta 1996-- in a long time. The main reason lies in the difficult judging system and the incomprehensibility for the audience. For this reason there are prominent conceptions of the judging systems of men's and women's gymnastics, as well as that of rhythmic gymnastics, and the joint marketing of these sports.  The judging specifications will change yet again in 2001, but this time they will last a longer time.

GY Mmedia:  When you watch, for example, the floor exercise in men's gymnastics, other than developments in acrobatics and difficulty, you see very little creativity. In principle-- just unimaginative tumbling passes-otherwise very little individual and characteristic creativity. Is that just a matter of the rules? What chance would a "Toller Cranston" (a creative "movement designer" in figure skating in the 1970's) have in gymnastics?

Rainer Hanschke:  A floor routine is limited to 70 seconds, both practically and time-wise. Of course, achieving a 10.0 start value demands that the gymnast fit many high-rated jumps, tumbling passes, and floor elements into this time…. On the other hand, I'm also of the opinion that the elements and movements between tumbling passes shouldn't be squeezed in as the unavoidable, because expressiveness and elegance are also part of a gymnast's performance.

GY Mmedia:  What do you think of the competition-style of theEuropean Gymnastics Masters meet that will be taking place in Patras (Greece) shortly, and how would you categorize this meet?

Rainer Hanschke:  In this form of competition, you have an attractive mix of women's, men's, and rhythmic gymnastics (2/2/2). That is interesting and appeals to a broader audience. On one weekend, European stars of the three types of gymnastics face each other.  That's interesting for the participants and also for the media. I believe that it's a welcome change from the traditional types of competition.

GY Mmedia:   Thank you very much, Rainer Hanschke. GYMmedia wishes the German team optimal preparations for World Championships!

(Translation: Kerry Bleasdale)

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GYMmedia-info-service / 25-05-99
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update 07/10/99