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Stefan Nimke (Germany)
2004 gold medalist withdraws last minute due to injury
The German men came into the 2012 Olympic Games team sprint with the aim of winning gold, but with their star rider Stefan Nimke suddenly ailing before the start, they waged a courageous comeback with replacement Robert Forstemann to claim the bronze medal.
Max Levy explained to the press the last minute change and what it meant to the German trio, emphasizing the importance of Nimke to their lineup. "Here, Chris Hoy is the big hero, for us it's Stefan Nimke."
Nimke is the team's most experienced rider. Only 34, he was part of the gold medal winning team in Athens with Jens Fiedler and Rene Wolff in 2004, and then four years later he helped to usher the next generation to the medal stand when he took bronze with Levy and Rene Enders.
Since then, Nimke has been three-time world champion in the kilometre time trial, and twice team sprint world champion, although the second one came after the disqualification of Frenchman Gregory Bauge for anti-doping whereabouts violations.
Levy said that Nimke decided the morning of the race that he was not going to be able to start because his back, which he had injured in a crash in training two weeks ago, was not allowing him full strength. "That was a real blow for us," Levy said, adding that Robert Forstemann, who had been set to compete in the individual sprint, was called up as the reserve.
That shift meant that Levy had to move from second man to third in qualifying, while Forstemann took second with Enders leading off.
"We just had to get top eight," he said of qualifying. "In so little time it is not possible to make a perfect race."
"After [qualifying] we had one hour time to focus on our race, and to arrange for the situation. So we did. Big respect for Stefan because he was true and honest and said he cannot race. Also for Robert for coming in out of his training," said Levy.
Forstemann was more than happy to fill that role, coming away from the Olympic Games with bronze days before he ever expected to compete.
"It is a great feeling to have an Olympic medal now. I was just the reserve for the team sprint," said Forstemann. "If you had said to me this morning I would have a bronze medal in the evening, I would not have believed it."