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Van Almsick Named Germany's Athlete of the Year -- December 23, 2002

BADEN-BADEN, Germany, December 23. FIVE-time European champion Franziska van Almsick has been voted Germany's Athlete of the Year in the annual poll by that country's sports journalists.

Van Almsick, 24, who was voted magazine's female European Swimmer of the Year and who finished second to Natalie Coughlin for World Swimmer of the year honors, won five gold medals at the European Long Course Championships in Berlin, breaking her own eight year-old world record in the 200 meter freestyle (1:56.64) and anchoring Germany's world record-setting 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay (3:36.00).

Last year's winner was world champion Hannah Stockbauer.

This marks the third time van Almsick has won the award -- the other two times were 1993 and 1995, making her the first female swimmer to win the award three times. Swimming legend Michael Gross is the only athlete to be named Germany's Athlete of the Year four times.