The East Germans appeared as a national team for the last time in September 1990 at the European Track and Field Championships in Split, Yugoslavia. They overwhelmed the competition, winning 34 medals, while the Soviet Union, with financial troubles of its own, won only 22, and West Germany could produce but seven. Interestingly enough, almost nothing of the G.D.R.'s fantastic sports machine will survive in the unified German system. A sprint coach of the G.D.R., Thomas Springstein, predicted darkly at Split, "Everything from now on will be like it has been in the Federal Republic—no selection system for children, few full-time coaches, scarce money. Perhaps we can conceal this lack of support until 1996. But after that the all-German track team will become mediocre, like the West German team is now, and I am very sad about that."
Wolfgang Schmidt will be 38 when the Olympic Games of 1992 begin in Barcelona. In truth, no gold medal can match the victories he has already won over political tyranny and personal despair, but he is bound to try. "Barcelona is a long, hard road ahead," Schmidt says. "I wish I were 10 years younger. There is pain in my knees and pain in my back. But I am one who likes to have success. When I compete, I mean to win."