Bug Strikes Coach Berkhan’s Distance Crew, Wellbrock Over It, Martens Out On Cusp Of Altitude Camp

2023-10-06 Reading Time: 2 minutes
Lukas Märtens, centre, on his way to a stellar summer season in 2022, with Loughborough-based Austrian ace Felix Aubock, left, and Olympic marathon champion and Germany teammate Florian Wellbrock - Photo courtesy of Michael Peyrebrune

Lukas Martens withdrew from the opening and home round of the World Cup in Berlin after morning heats suffering from the cold-like bug that his teammate and training partner Florian Wellbrock is just getting over and caused him to drop out of action on the eve of racing.

Coach Bernd Berkhan stopped by the media bench here in Berlin a moment ago to pass on the news that Martens, fourth in heats of there 400m freestyle on 3:50.61 this morning, had withdrawn from the final.

With that news, home fans lost the two biggest home names from the Cup. Martens followed a stellar year of World-Championship silver over 400m in Budapest and European gold in the same event in Rome alongside 800m silver with bronze in the 400m at World titles this year in Fukuoka in a season of more global showcase events in an Olympic cycle than you’d care to share a stick at.

Coach Berkhan now has a decision. to make: the team were due to leave for their altitude home from home in the Sierra Nevada in Spain the day after the Berlin meet ends on Sunday.

Berlin World Cup – Results in Full

Martens’ Role In The Best 400m Day For Germany In Generations

August 17, 2022, was the finest 400m freestyle day Germany had had at European Championships in three decades: Lukas Martens and Isabel Gose, a gold each for Magdeburg-based coach Bernd Berkhahn‘s charges, Henning Muehlleitner, a bronze.

You had to go back almost three decades to find German women at the helm of 400m pace in European showcase waters: Dagmar Hase and Kerstin Kielgass, the last generations of GDR swimmers that went on to race for reunified Germany, punched a 1-2 in 1993; before Franziska van Almsick took the 400m and the 100m, missed the cut for the 200m, her best event, and clocked the worlds best time that year in the B final; and then in 1997, Hase was back to take the 400m once more.

And that was it. Until 17.08.22.

Back to history and Franzi’s boyfriend in the 1990s, Steffen Zesner, pipped Paul Palmer (GBR) and Anders Holmertz (SWE) for 400m gold in Vienna 1995. The next German challenger to claim gold was a man whose career highlighted why 2008 was a season of unfair advantage in the pool for some before 2009 turned into a farce for all concerned, athletes the wounded party then and still to this day, Paul Biedermann, at 2012 Europeans, after being disadvantaged and then advantaged by governance failures at global level.

Ten years on and we find Lukas Martens, a sizzling warm-up season in the vault, taking a decisive victory in 3:42.50 to add gold to the World-championship silver he claimed in June over the same distance and the 800m silver he added to his collection here in Rome. His winning 400m time wiped 1.51secs off Italian Gabriele Detti‘s championship record of 3:44.01 from 2016.

Antonio Djakovic, of Switzerland, set a Swiss record of 3:43.93 to claim his country’s first medal in the men’s 400m at 2022 Europeans, Henning Muehlleitner making it a German gold-bronze podium in 3:44.53.

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