How Dagmar Hase Lost To Smith In Atlanta


Karin Helmstaedt

The week before Smith-de Bruin's hearing in Lausanne, Dagmar Hase sat in an ice cream cafe in her native Magdeburg and shrugged her shoulders. If Michelle Smith de Bruin were to be found guilty by the CAS of manipulating a sample, then so be it. The outcome of the case didn't disturb her either way.

Hase after beating Smith at 1997 Europeans
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Marco Chiesa

The tall, blonde 29-year-old is one of three women who finished second to Smith de Bruin at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. As defending champion in the 400 freestyle, she lost out to Smith de Bruin in 1996. But she said it was the Irish swimmer's surprise late entry into the event, and not any rumours of drugs, that upset her concentration. "I let my head get the better of me in that race," she said. "I kept thinking that if world or European championship rules applied, she would never have been allowed to enter the race at such short notice. I was angry afterward because I realised I'd lost the race because I was too conscious of her. That's why, although it sounds funny, the bronze medal I won in the 200 freestyle is worth much more to me than that silver. In the 200 I swam the race the way I wanted to, and got the place that I deserved." Since then, Hase has followed the ups and downs of Smith de Bruin's case with mild interest. But she said, as in Atlanta, she refused to point a finger at someone until it had been proved they had done something illegal. "It still hasn't been proved that she took something, as she's accused of tampering. As long as there is no proof I think it's unfair to accuse anyone of anything."

She added that the numerous unfavourable circumstances surrounding Smith de Bruin, including her husband's drug suspension in track and field, and her rapid rise to prominence in events where she had no previous history, did make it difficult to believe that nothing was up. But other than that, she never thinks about it anymore.

Having retired from swimming, Hase now plays water polo in Germany's national women's league and is finishing a communications degree. She has put the events of 1996 behind her. In 1997, at the European Championships in Seville, she beat Smith de Bruin in the 400, exacting a small amount of revenge. "My first thought when I looked up at the clock in Seville was, well, that was a year too late. But at least I swam the race there as I wanted to, with a clear head, and proved to myself that I could win it."