German Personality: Stev Theloke

One Of Germany's Best Hopes

Winner Of The Backstroke Category At The 1996 And 1998 World Cups


Karin Helmstaedt

By the time he got to Gelsenkirchen, Stev Theloke could relax.

In fact, by the end of the World Cup 9 in Malmo, the towering backstroker had put himself out of reach in his category. After competing in five meets (Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Hong Kong, Glasgow, Malmš-new for him, it fit well), Theloke had accumulated 94 points, holding more than a 40-point margin over his closest competitors. It gave him his third World Cup category title.

He showed up at the press conference on the Friday in Gelsenkirchen to announce that, because of a flu, he would not take part in the meet. It was disappointing news for those who figured he'd jump at the chance to shine at home. But he knew better than to push himself when he was down. He'd been dragging a cold since Glasgow, and he'd already taken over top spot on the world list at the German Interclub Championships in Heidelberg in early February. His winning time in the 100 backstroke there, a stunning 52.54, set new German and European records. And rival Lenny Krayzelburg (USA) slipped to number two.

Stev Theloke (GER)
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Now considered one of Germany's best hopes for a medal in Sydney, Theloke is a product of the old East German sport school system. He lives in the Saxonian city of Chemnitz (former Karl-Marx-Stadt), where he has trained with coach Ute Schinkitz for the past thirteen years. At 21, he has completed a diploma as a computer technical assistant. Although he is affiliated with the army club in Warendorf for the duration of his obligatory military service, Theloke has insisted on staying at home.

"I'm very attached to my home," he says. "My friends and family, my environment are all very important to me." He speaks proudly of Chemnitz's long sporting tradition, citing it as the home of track and field star Heike Drechsler.

Theloke was the winner of the the backstroke category at the1996 and 1998 World Cups. But he stormed onto the world scene with a bronze medal in the 100 back at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, behind Krayzelburg and Canada's Mark Versfeld.

He followed that up with a long-course European record in the 100 back (54.43) at the Goodwill Games in July 1998. In the fall he took the short-course European title in the 100 back (52.71) and a silver in the 50 back.

Theloke is pragmatic about his meet selection process for the World Cup and, although he likes to travel, he doesn't like to fly.

"You have to give yourself a reason each time to travel that far," he says. "Rio was during the German winter, so the sun and warmth are rather nice. In Hong Kong the shopping is great, whereas Glasgow and Malmš were new for me and they happened to fit well with my training plan."

"As far as who swims where, it really depends on the category," he says. "I did look for some easier meets, but it was mostly my training shedule that determined where I would go." Theloke came up against Krayzelburg in Beijing and Hong Kong, where he beat him in the 100. He got a run for his money in Glasgow from Iceland's Orn Arnarson, who finished a close second in the 200 backstroke.

But Theloke maintains he is unaffected by the number of meets in the series. "I like to have lots of meets and get to know other places, but you really only need six from this series. I think it's up to each swimmer to sit down with their coach and talk and think about what to do over the year. I'm not going to Hong Kong in April, for instance, because it doesn't fit for me."

And he says that swimmers get so few chances to earn a little money that the US $10,000 prize money is also a motivation. "The World Cup worked for me in terms of my training, the experience, and financially. I'm prepared to do it again next year."