She was born in Thale, a small town in East Germany into a family that wasn’t interested in sports. However, at age seven under the East German sport system, she was discovered by talent scouts, learned to swim, started to compete and was soon sent to a centralized sports academy away from home to further develop her talent.
Maybe it was her stubbornness that made her so ambitious as an athlete, for she soon began to rise to the top. Her first big success came at age ten, winning three gold medals at the National Championships in Leipzig.
She had to wait another ten years to celebrate her first big international success, when at age 20, she won the gold medal in the 200 meter backstroke at the European Championships, beating Hungary’s all-time great Kristina Egerszegi. In 1990, she switched teams to Magdeburg under Coach Bernd Henneberg, staying with him until retirement.
A great middle distance freestyle swimmer, she won seven Olympic medals, the first a gold in the 400 meter freestyle at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, when she upset world record holder Janet Evans and silver medals in the 200 meter backstroke and the 4x100 meter medley relay. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, she won another four medals - three silver in the 400 meter freestyle, 800 meter freestyle, 4x200 meter freestyle relay and a bronze in the 200 meter freestyle.
Competing in three World Championships, Dagmar earned two gold, three silver and one bronze medal. At the 1994 World Championships, she gave up her spot in the 200 meter freestyle to the up and coming Franziska van Almsick who qualified ninth, failing to make the finals, but went on to win the gold medal in world record time. For her ultimate act of sportsmanship, Dagmar received Germany’s prestigious fair play award in 1995. At the European Championships from 1989 to 1997, she earned six gold, four silver and two bronze medals.
After her retirement, she couldn’t stay away from the water for long, playing water polo and coaching age group swimmers on her hometown Magdeburg team since 2002.