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Sport and Leasure

Germans love sports. Their love finds many expressions, perhaps none more vocal than their support of their favorite soccer clubs, the men's and women's national soccer teams or of athletes like Dirk Nowitzki, biathlete Magdalena Neuner, F1 champion Sebastian Vettel or skier Maria Riesch.

 

But they love to participate, too. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), a non-governmental organizing body of German athletics, has 27.6 million members in over 91,000 clubs, and it supports all levels of play. Indeed, its motto of “Sport for all” opens a wide door to varying degrees and types of athletic interests.

Sport is financed by means of state funding and state contributions, voluntary service, private sponsors and membership fees.

Practically every city in Germany offers a Freibad, an open-air water park or pool. Many of these are quite large and offer multiple pools, allowing the kids and social groups to be separated from the more serious swimmers looking to get in a few laps. These outdoor pools have a long history in Germany and have been popular since the 18th century.

In Berlin, there’s something called the Badeschiff, a large swimming pool fashioned out of an old ship that floats on the river Spree. This builds on the 18th-century tradition of locating swimming pools along the river. In Berlin alone, there were said to be 15 such pools along the Spree, and they were common in cities throughout Germany. Some are even still being used. The Badeschiff is, however, thoroughly modern: in addition to functioning as a pool, it serves as a venue for concerts and boasts an open-air bar in the summer.

Germans love horseback riding and equestrian sports. About 1.24 million people in Germany are active riders and 870,000 would like to start riding, according to a survey by market research institute Ipsos (published by the Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung). On the international stage, Germany is the most successful nation worldwide in equestrian sports.

This explains why there are more than one million horses and ponies in Germany, which represents a quadrupling of the national horse population over the last 40 years. In addition, there are 8.7 Mio. Germans interested in the sport and its various disciplines.

Initially, gymnastics was a purely male activity. Women were viewed as the weaker sex, and doctors and teachers saw health risks in female gymnastics and the endangerment of propriety at public events. But as women’s role evolved around the turn of the 20th century, views changed with respect to female gymnastics. In 1897, approx. 3 percent of association members in Germany were women; in 2008, nearly 70 percent.

Today, the Association of German Gymnasts has over five million members. Every age group engages in sports – from young children to seniors. Both performance and recreational sports trace back to Jahn’s model. Modern-day gymnastics clubs contribute significantly to the well-being of society.

 

Football in Germany

Association football is the most popular sport in Germany. The German Football Association is the sport's national governing body, with 6.6 million members (roughly eight percent of the population) organized in over 26,000 football clubs.

There is a league system, with the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga on top. The winner of the Bundesliga is crowned the German football champion. Additionally, there are national cup competitions, most notably the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) and DFL-Supercup (German Supercup).

On an international level, Germany is one of the most successful football nations in the world. The Germany national football team has won three FIFA World Cups (1954, 1974, 1990) as well as a record three UEFA European Championships (1972, 1980, 1996). The Germany women's national football team has won two FIFA Women's World Cups (2003, 2007) and a record seven UEFA European Women's Championships (1989, 1991, 1995, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009). Germany is the only nation that has won both the men's and women's World Cup and European Championship. Germany was the host of the 1974 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro 1988 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 1989 UEFA European Women's Championship, 1995 UEFA European Women's Championship, 2001 UEFA European Women's Championship, and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup.

 

Ice hockey in Germany

ce hockey is organized today in Germany by the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, the highest professional league, and by the Deutschen Eishockey-Bund ice hockey federation, which is the sport's federation in Germany and a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Ice hockey is one of the more popular sports in Germany, however it still ranks far behind football in spectator favor and meaning. The Men's German national ice hockey team stands eighth in the world on the current IIHF rank list.

 

Handball

Germany is regarded as the birthplace of handball. The first match of the modern era was officially recorded on 29 October 1917 in Berlin, Germany. Outdoor Handball had its only Olympic Games appearance in the XIth Olympiad (1936 Berlin Games). The first international match recorded was played on 3 September 1925 with Germany and Austria.

Today handball is a major team sport being played and watched in all of Germany. The German Handball Bundesliga is considered to be the most competitive professional league in the world. As a spectator sport it ranks popular in smaller cities around the country and draws attention comparable to other indoor sports such as ice hockey or basketball.

The Germany national handball team is the national handball team of Germany. Germany won the handball world cup in 1938, 1978 and in 2007 as the host of the handball world cup.

 

Motorsport

Germany is one of the leading motorsports countries in the world. While countless race winning cars have come from Germany, only Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have been Formula One world champions (they both won 10 titles together).

One other German driver came close to winning the title: Wolfgang Von Trips. Unfortunately, he died in a crash in the last race of the season at Monza in 1961, giving the championship to his Ferrari team mate Phil Hill.

Schumacher has won more Formula One championships and races than any other driver since the Formula One world championship began in 1950. In 2003, Schumacher set a new record for driver's championships when he surpassed Juan Manuel Fangio's total of 5 championships, a record that had stood for 46 years since 1957. He is also the highest paid athlete in sports history, with an annual salary of some U.S. $70 million from the Ferrari team, and an estimated $25–30 million more coming from endorsements. In 2005, he became the world's first billionaire athlete, according to Eurobusiness magazine. He is regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time; when he first retired at the end of the 2006 season, he held 7 championships and every significant F1 record. He returned to F1 in 2010, celebrated his completion of 20 years in F1 in August 2011, and retired for a second time at the end of the 2012 season.

 

Wintersports

Germany is one of the most successful wintersport nations. Its dominance in sledding disciplines can be attributed to it being the only country in the world to have four bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton tracks.

Germany has long been dominant in the sport of Bobsledding having won more medals in the Winter Olympics than any other nation except Switzerland. However, if medal wins by East Germany and West Germany from 1949 through 1990 are combined, Germany's medal count is nearly double that of Switzerland. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Andre Lange piloted both the two-man and four-man sleds to gold, sweeping the men's bobsledding events.

In luge, Germany has also been dominant, stretching from luge's foundation in the early 20th century with dominance in the European championships to the Winter Olympics. Noted lugers include Georg Hackl, Klaus Bonsack, Margit Schumann, David Moller, Silke Kraushaar-Pielach, Sylke Otto, and Tatjana Hufner. Of 117 Olympic Medals Germany won 70!

In skeleton, Germany has been dominant with the likes of Kerstin Jurgens and Anja Huber.

Biathlon has become one of the most popular winter sports in Germany in recent years. Germany has won 59 Olympic medals in biathlon, more than any other nation, and is the joint most successful nation in terms of Olympic golds won, with Germany and Russia having won 20 golds each. Some of Germany's most successful biathletes include Frank-Peter Roetsch, Michael Greis, Sven Fischer and Ricco Gross among the men and Uschi Disl, Andrea Henkel, Kati Wilhelm and Magdalena Neuner among the women.

Tobias Angerer has enjoyed success in cross-country skiing, winning consecutive overall FIS Cross-Country World Cups in 2005/06 and 2006/07.

Germany has produced a number of top ski jumpers. Jens Weissflog is Germany's most successful ski jumper and was one of the top competitors in the world from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Other notable athletes include Hans-Georg Aschenbach, Sven Hannawald and Martin Schmitt. Two of the four rounds of the prestigious Four Hills Tournament are held on German hills, at Oberstdorf and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

German athletes have been competitive in Nordic combined. Title-winning competitors include Georg Thoma, Ulrich Wehling, Hermann Weinbuch, Ronny Ackermann and Eric Frenzel.

Germany has enjoyed great success in alpine skiing, although the most successful German alpine skiers have tended to be female. One notable male alpine skier was Markus Wasmeier. Rosi Mittermaier, Katja Seizinger and Maria Hofl-Riesch have won multiple world-level titles on the women's circuit.

In speed skating Germany has been a major power, particularly in women's competition. Four of the five most prolific winners in the women's ISU Speed Skating World Cup are German - Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann, Jenny Wolf, Anni Friesinger-Postma and Monique Garbrecht. Claudia Pechstein won nine Olympic medals in long track speed skating, more than any other skater, male or female. Successful male German speed skaters have included Erhard Keller and Uwe-Jens Mey. Success in short track speed skating has been harder to come by, however Tyson Heung did win the overall ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup in 2006/07.

Germany has a heritage in figure skating extending to the early days of international competition - Oskar Uhlig won the inaugural European Figure Skating Championships in 1891, while the first male and pairs World Champions were Gilbert Fuchs in 1896 and the pairing of Anna Hubler and Heinrich Burger in 1908. Germany's best-known figure skater is Katarina Witt, a double Olympic gold medalist in the 1980s. Other notable German competitors include Manfred Schnelldorfer, Jan Hoffmann, Gabriele Seyfert, Anett Potzsch and the pairings of Ria Baran and Paul Falk, Marika Kilius and Hans-Jurgen Baumler, and Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.

Germany has been a regular competitor in Olympic Curling since the sport was reintroduced at the 1998 Winter Olympics. The German men's and women's teams both won World Curling Championships in 1992 and 1994. A related sport, known as Eisstockschiessen or ice stock sport, is played in southern Germany.

 

Tennis

The two most successful German tennis players of all time are Steffi Graf and Boris Becker.

Becker became the youngest champion in the history of the men’s singles at Wimbledon, won six-time Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal together with Michael Stich.

Graf won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, second among male and female players. In 1988, she became the first and only tennis player (male or female) to achieve the Calendar Year Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam singles titles and the Olympic gold medal in the same calendar year.

 

Cycling

Cycling is a popular sport in Germany and one of the greatest riders of recent times Jan Ullrich dominated the Tour de France in 1997. He finished a full 9 minutes in front of second place rider Richard Virenque. Jan was regarded as Lance Armstrong's only consistent rival, finishing second to him several times in the Tour de France.

Recently Tony Martin has emerged as one of the top Individual time trial specialists in the world, winning the time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in 2011 and 2012. Andre Greipel has been one of the most prolific winners among road sprinters since his breakthrough in the late 2000s.

 

Boxing

Boxing is among the most watched TV sports in Germany. Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko are among the two most popular boxers in Germany with both male and female fights enjoying regular spots on national television.

German television network RTL has listed the Klitschko brothers as their most important asset next to football. In recent years Germany has become a hub for boxing, the Vegas of Europe, and many international fighters travel to fight out of the country.

Max Schmeling was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932. His two fights with Joe Louis in the late 1930s transcended boxing, and became worldwide social events because of their national associations. He was ranked 55 on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.

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