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Börner bounces back from the brink to win gold

Having started out as a track athlete, by the time she was 10 years old, Germany’s Jacqueline Börner had switched to speed skating. She would go on to prove a huge success. In 1987, 1989 and 1990 she medalled at the European All-Round Championships competing for East Germany, while in 1989 she also took the overall World Cup title and the World Championship title the following year. She looked on course for huge success at the 1992 Olympics, but then came a quite horrific setback.

In August 1990, while she was out cycling, she was knocked off her bike by a car. There were even suggestions that it had been deliberate. She was left unconscious on the road, and had to be helped to hospital by team-mates. When she regained consciousness, she discovered that she had suffered a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament. It was an injury that would take four months to repair, followed by many more months of recuperation.

While she was recovering, the world was changing. West Germany and East Germany were reunified in 1990, and by the time Börner made her return to competition it was for a united Germany. Eventually she returned to her best form, taking a World Cup bronze at the end of 1991 and qualifying for the Albertville Games.

Her medal hopes were tempered by realism. However, in the 1,500m she was in inspired form. Skating in the first pair, she set an impressive time of 2 minutes 5.87 seconds, and then faced an anxious wait to see if anyone could better it. In difficult conditions, the highly-rated Austrian Emese Hunyady could not get within two seconds of Börner. The favourite, Börner's German team-mate Gunda Niemann produced a storming last lap, but still finished 0.05 seconds off the pace. A year after she had been walking around on crutches, Börner was crowned Olympic champion.
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