World records are made to be broken but there are some which are so outstanding that later generations of athletes become demoralized as their best efforts fall short. Marita Koch's 47.60s 400 meters falls within that category. She achieved that time in the 1985 IAAF World Cup in Canberra and in the decade since no one else has got anywhere near it (record broken on October 6th 1985).
Koch, born in 18 February 1957, in Wismar – East Germany, and a product of the immensely successful although controversial GDR sports machine, ranks as the greatest ever all-round sprinter. She possessed a rocket start which enabled her to set world indoor records at 50 and 60m, she became the second fastest 100m runner in history when she clocked 10.83 and accumulated four world records at 200m (her best was 21.71 in 1979 and 1984) and seven at 400m. Her consistency over an eight-year period was such that she lost only twice over 400m and her honors included the 1980 Olympic gold medal at that distance and the world 200m title in 1983. During her career she collected a remarkable sixteen World Records in outdoor sprints, as well as 14 world records in indoor events!
distance but withdrew due to injury. And then, in 1977 in Milan, she sets her first world record, when she ran 400m indoors in 51.8s. She continues in 1978 to set another world record, her second, at the 400m outdoor in 49.19s. She topped this with another two world records within a month. Then, in 1979, Koch became the first woman to run the 200m under 22 seconds. Her time of 21.71s set at Karl Marx stadium, stood as the world record for 9 years! After 4 years of setting her first world record, Marita Koch came to Moscow Olympics in 1980 to win her first and only Olympic Gold medal in the 400m and took silver medal in the 4x400m relay.
Three weeks before the 1984 Olympic Games, she tied her own record, but the East German boycott prevented her from competing in the games. Koch set the current 400m world record of 47.60s, a time considered far out of reach of even the best present athletes, on 6 October 1985 at Bruce Stadium in Camberra Australia.
As a member of East Germany's relay teams, Koch set more world records. With a team led together with Marlies Göhr (who challenged her in the 50 and 60m indoor races), they set new world records over 4x100 meters in 1979 and 1983. The same team who won silver medal in the 4x400m relay in the 1980 Olympics, set world records over the same distance in 1980, 1982 and 1984. Koch also won the European Championship at 400m in 1978, 1982 and 1986 before retiring in 1987 as one of Germany's most successful athletes. She remains the European record holder over 200 meters.
Koch's achievements, along with the extraordinary performances of many other East German female athletes, aroused considerable suspicion at the time that they were achieved with the aid of anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, which were and remain illegal but were not detectable at the time.
She is married to the man who coached her to stardom, Wolfgang Meier. As another coach, Miroslav Kvac (who trained her arch-rival Jarmila Kratochvilova) commented: "Marita Koch is the most remarkable woman sprinter of our time".