Kornelia Ender was a top level East German swimmer before going off the media radar. A shooting star whose glory was only short-lived, she was idolised by Vincent Duluc as she was by a whole generation in the 1970s.
Kornelia “was a protagonist in the Cold War, at the time they were called diplomats in swimsuits, she stood on the top of every podium, bearing out the message that socialism and East Germany were victorious.” Her great rival was an American called Shirley Babashoff, who was just as beautiful as she was. She snatched the greatest victories from Babashoff, but also media stardom thanks to her relationship with another swimming champion, Roland Matthes. For a period of a few weeks during the Montreal Olympics they were a dream couple: “the two swimmers, the imagery of happiness behind the wall, public love in a secretive country.”
But Vincent Duluc’s study also explores less familiar material: the dubious methods used to secure optimum performances from these “deep-voiced” girls, their brutal training sessions, their duty to sustain a flawless image of victory and happiness all the time and in all circumstances. He also tells an unwritten story, the story of Kornelia after she married Roland, and of the day-to-day life that caught up with them…
reviennent pas à la condition terrestre avec une frange qui leur tombe sur les yeux. Elle avait dix-sept ans et à cet âge tout battait la chamade, son coeur d’artichaut et ses ailes musculeuses qui rythmaient le papillon.
Je l’ai cherchée comme on part sur les traces d’un amour de jeunesse, dans l’empreinte d’une époque qui avait sacré sa blondeur blanchie par le chlore, dans les archives d’un régime qui avait tout consigné, même ce qu’elle avait oublié. J’espère que je l’ai trouvée. »