The Power Game: Thomas Bach’s Iron Grip at the Olympics


The building blocks of Bach’s career were built on the fencing piste. Winning a gold medal with the West German team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics provided him with a priceless, lifelong credit. Seeing his country join the boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow awakened him to the strange, magnetic tension between sport and politics. And some have theorized that his mastery of the fundamentals of fencing – finesse, anticipation, willingness to adapt – has served him equally well in the untamed world of international sports administration.

At 5-foot-7, Bach was under-sized for his game, a circumstance that drew a distinctive style from him.

“He will keep coming to you with the blade – flowing and flowing! — just relentless,” said Ed Donofrio, who competed for the United States at the 1976 Games.

“He was hard to hit because he was always moving, fighting, scraping,” said Barry Paul, a two-time Olympian for Great Britain.

Bach grew up in a small, southern German town called Tauberbischofsheim. When he was a child, his father, Andreas, was diagnosed with heart disease and was given a year to live. Bach said that watching his father live another 12 years after that taught him the value of resilience.

A flamboyant child, he was 6 years old when he began fencing lessons with Emil Beck, a disciplinary coach whose great innovation, Bach said, was taking up foil fencing, which by then had an almost artistic air, and It had to enforce the intensity and dynamism of the other. , more brutal game.

“There was a saying: If Emil Beck tells you to sit, you don’t see if there’s a chair behind you,” said Mathias Behr, who trained with Bach and competed in three Olympics.



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