German Sprinter & Olympian, Britta Steffen, To Be Inducted Into ISHOF

Britten Steffen two gold medals

Britta Steffen is one of the fastest female swimmers Germany has ever produced.  She specialized in the sprint freestyle events and won a total of three Olympic medals, two gold and one bronze in two different Olympic Games, eight years apart, 2000, Sydney and 2008, Beijing. Despite periods of health issues, injuries, and training challenges, Britta refocused and rebounded both mentally and physically in her training to ultimately finish with a successful swimming career with four Olympic appearances and several world records.  Britta Steffen will be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2019 during the Honoree Induction ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, May 18, 2019.

Come celebrate Britta and the other honorees at the ISHOF Induction dinner.  Become an ISHOF Legacy Member and attend the ISHOF Induction Dinner for FREE.  Can’t attend the event? Please consider making a donation to ISHOF to support Britta and our other inspirational honorees.

Britta Steffen ISHOF honoree

About Britta Steffen

Britta began competing in 1998 and 1999 at youth championships in Germany and in Europe. In 1999, at age 15, Steffen became an eight-time European Junior Champion.  At 17, she was selected to be a member of the German Olympic Team and traveled to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.  As a member of 4 x 200m freestyle relay team, she won her first Olympic medal, a bronze.

Britta Steffen in pool

In 2004, Steffen was chosen for her second Olympic Team. While in Athens, on the first day of competition, she injured her foot and was unable to compete at all.  Britta was devastated.

After her heart-breaking Olympic experience in Athens, Britta returned home to begin her studies and work on her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering, in addition to her training.  This greatly changed her schedule and made her day much longer.  She often had to start practice later than her teammates and for more than half of her training time, she was alone.

She was always exhausted and after a few weeks, ended up with a severe cold. Britta had a lot of time to think while she was in bed sick.  She knew she could swim as fast as the men in practice, but could never do it in competition, when it counted.  Somehow, she just was not able to prove her abilities in competition.  She decided it was time to quit swimming, or at least take a break.  Her coach, Norbert Warnatzsch was very disappointed and tried to convince her to keep swimming.

She knew she had to change her thinking if she ever wanted to continue swimming.  She met psychologist, Dr. Friederike Janofske, who specialized in high performance and health.  She began to train Britta mentally and taught her how to help herself be stronger.  Britta made many changes with her workouts, her relationship with her coach, her thoughts mentally, and much more.  Britta was on a new path, and she hoped, to winning…….

Britta Steffen on pool deck

In 2005, Britta Steffen returned to swimming.  Still the question was, could Britta get out of her own head?  “Mental thoughts are very powerful and very hard to control or change,” says Britta.  Among other things, Britta had worked very hard to overcome her thoughts and insecurities, but was it enough?

Steffen headed to Budapest to compete in the 2006 European Championships.  She broke three world records and came away with four gold medals and one silver.  She swam her first world record in the 100m freestyle in a time of 53.30, and the other two world record swims were on the 4 x 100 freestyle relay (3:35.94) and the 4 x 200 freestyle relay (7:50.82).  The good news was she had become the most successful athlete of the 2006 European Championships and was celebrated as the new German swimming star!  Not surprisingly, the German Swimming Federation named Britta Swimmer of the Year for 2006.

Britta Steffen victorious

Unfortunately, sometimes, with good comes bad.  The bad news was the question of her potential doping being raised by the international media.  To put this into context, at this time in sports history, messages about doping and particularly cycling, flooded the media and were a part of conversations that carried over into all sports.  Britta Steffen, however, never failed a drug test. She even volunteered for examinations to try and squash the rumors.  All doping tests were negative, but any athlete that experiences fast, high-profile success also undergoes tremendous scrutiny.  A roller coaster ride for Britta was about to begin again.  After her success in Budapest, she attended the World Championships (2007-Melbourne) a year later and came away with only a silver (100m free) and a bronze (4 x 200m free relay, despite participating in several other events.

The Beijing Olympic Games was considered a great success individually for Britta Steffen.  She came away with two gold medals.  The first was the 100m freestyle in which she out-touched Libby Lenton-Trickett at the very last stroke with a time of 53.21, bettering her own Olympic record.  Lenton-Trickett and Steffen had been bettering the world record up and back for the last year or more, so it was anyone’s guess as to who would take it in Beijing, but it was Steffen who proved victorious.  Winning this medal, made Steffen the first German to win gold in swimming since Dagmar Hase in 1992, Barcelona.  In the 50m freestyle, Britta just edged out American Dara Torres to win gold with a time of 24.06, winning by 0.01 seconds. 2008, the same year as her Beijing Olympics performance, Britta was chosen as German Sportswoman of the Year.

Britta Steffen Beijing 2008

Britta Steffen won two gold medals at 2008 Beijing Olympics

Steffen headed to Rome for the 2009 FINA World Championships.  In her first event, the 100m freestyle, she swam a world-record breaking, 52.07 and won gold, beating her own previous time of 52.22, that she had set just four days earlier.  Two days later, she swam the 50m freestyle, winning her second gold and breaking her second world record, lowering the time to 23.73.  Britta’s record in the 50m free stood for an amazing eight years, until Sarah Sjostrom broke it on July 29, 2017, and her 100 free record held almost just as long, until July 2, 2016, when Cate Campbell broke it.

Things took another turn for the worse in 2010 when Britta faced a slew of health issues.  There were not more than 10 days in a row that she could train during the entire year.  She missed the European Championships in Budapest because of a bout of bronchitis. Continuing her roller coaster ride, she attended the 2011 FINA World Championships (Shanghai) and did not medal.

Things turned around in 2012, where she attended the European Championships and brought home three gold and one silver.

London and the 2012 Olympics Games did not go as well as Britta had wanted. She placed fourth in the 50m freestyle with a time of 24.46.  It was the best finish of any German swimmer of the Games, but not how Britta envisioned the outcome.  It would be her last Olympic Games.

Britta Steffen retired in September of 2013, stating that “in recent weeks, she “doubted” whether she had the necessary motivation and energy for one or even three more years in competition for gold medals and championships titles.”  As such, Rio was a Games too far.  Despite the ups and downs through the years, Britta closed out her competitive swimming career with so much to be proud of and is now enjoying life as a mom.

Britta Steffen with son

Britta and her son; Photo Courtesy: Britta Steffen

About The International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Weekend

International Swimming Hall of Fame

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Induction Ceremony is shaping up to be a star-studded weekend with multiple events spread out over three days in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Make your plans now to attend the weekend of May 17-19, 2019!  ISHOF Members can purchase the Weekend Package and Save!  Can’t attend the event? Make a donation to ISHOF to support our honorees.

This year’s International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees include Swimmers: Jason Lezak (USA), Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL), Stephanie Rice (AUS), Britta Steffen (GER); Diver: Li Ting (CHN); Water Polo Player: Alessandro Campagna (ITA); Coach: Boris Popov (RUS);  Synchronized Swimmer: Olga Sedakova (RUS); Open Water Swimmer: Marcy MacDonald (USA); Contributor: Dr. Ferenc Salamon (HUN); and Pioneer: Alfred Nakache* (FRA).  

ISHOF will also present the 2019 Gold Medallion Award to Dr. Joseph B. MacInnis (CAN).

2019 Paragon Award and ISHOF Specialty Award Recipients

  • Greg Eggert—Competitive Swimming
  • Don Holbrook—Water Polo
  • Bill Farrar—Competitive Diving
  • Igor Kartashov—Synchronized Swimming
  • Peter Davis—Aquatic Safety
  • Carvin DiGiovanni—Recreational Swimming
  • Carolyn Wood—Buck Dawson Author Award: “Tough Girl”
  • Dale Petranech—ISHOF Service Award
  • David Duda—Judge G. Harold Martin Award
  • Robert Strauss—Virginia Hunt Newman Award
  • Ruth Meyer—John K. Williams, Jr. International Adapted Aquatics Award
  • Peter Bick—Al Schoenfield Media Award
  • Jim Wood* —Lifetime Achievement Award

The Weekend Schedule

Friday, May 17th — Paragon & ISHOF Specialty Awards Night

Saturday, May 18th — Honoree Induction Day Luncheon

12-1:30 PM Luncheon ISHOF Museum

Official 55th Annual International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

VIP Reception 6:00 PMInduction Ceremony 7:00 –10:00 PM at Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa

Sunday, May 19th — Swim Across America



  • Host Hotel: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa

    Four and a half star upscale retreat with private beach access, two pools, four restaurants, full service spa and oceanside bar. Location
    of the Saturday evening induction ceremony. ¼ mile south of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach

    • 440 Seabreeze Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 524-8733
    • Special ISHOF Guest Rate of $169 per night
    • Please call 954 524-8733 and mention Swimming Hall of Fame Honoree Ceremony for the special Rate of $169.
For more hotel or ticket Information contact Meg Keller-Marvin / 570-594-4367

* Deceased

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Thomas A. Small
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