FINA Communication Department

Marco Koch went through a visible transformation. He got rid of 13kg during the autumn and the lean German clinched clean wins both in the 100m and the 200m breaststroke here in Windsor, leaving the Rio memories behind. The world has witnessed a similar story featuring a German breaststroker some ten years ago. In fact, Mark Warnecke has his share in Koch’s new rise.

Koch arrived to Rio as the reigning World Champion who took over the reign from Olympic title-holder Daniel Gyurta (HUN) in Kazan. However, his road to Rio looked a bit shaky, he couldn’t come up with a convincing performance at the Europeans in May in London and at the Olympics he was unable to deliver his usual performance and finished 7th.

“No, I don’t consider it a failure” he insisted when we met him in the iZone, a new feature in the FINA press operations here in Windsor. “I gave my best, it was a good swim, my maximum on the given day, enough for the place I clinched and that’s all.”

Some would see it as a failure but Marco didn’t even mention this word. “I came over it pretty easily, as I felt I was well prepared and I as I told you, I left everything in the pool that evening.”

What came next – was something new. “I knew I wanted to change something though, so I turned to Mark Warnecke, our first world champion in the 50m breaststroke who advised me to run a strict diet as a beginning.”

It was an obvious choice, indeed. Mark Warnecke made headlines back in 2005 when he became the oldest champion ever in the history of the FINA World Championships when he won in Montreal aged 35. He faced a bright career, he even made the podium in Atlanta 1996 in the 100m breast but the real breakthrough didn’t come. He opted for a strict diet and after reshaping himself he burst to the scene once more and achieved that miraculous win here in Canada. By then he had submerged to the world of dietary products and healthy eating and he founded a company named AMSports whose main profile is to help athletes with their diets and the ordinary people to consume healthy food supplements.

So Koch headed to Warnecke and the former breaststroker was keen to aid his successor. For a month, Marco only ate Mark’s products. For a week it was like hell for him. His daily ‘allowance’ was 1,500 calories, while he continued his daily practice in the pool.

“It lasted a month or so. Well, the first week was terrible. Especially for those around me. If you had come there and put me a wrong question, I might have even hit you... No, just kidding, but it was brutal. However, a week as enough, my body got used to it and from that point it was easy.”

Marco lost an amazing 13kg in a single month. What we got: a swimmer faster than ever. As a first sign, he brought down Daniel Gyurta’s short-course World Record at the German Nationals (2:00.44 – shaving 0.04sec off the old mark), then he came here in Windsor and made the double once more after the s/c Europeans in Netanya a year ago. (“It wasn’t about just weight. I weighed 7 kilos more in Kazan and was still good for a win but this new diet definitely helped” Marco added.)

Previously he ruled the 200m mainly, now he won the 100m, too. Both events with ease. Adam Peaty bypassed this meet but the British Lion – winner of the FINA Top Olympic Performance of the Year Award days ago – might have to to face a tough challenge in his trademark 100m event next year at Budapest.

Asked if it had been a kind restart for the freshly crowned double world champion, Koch smiled first, then nodded. “Yeah, I was reborn, for sure.” So just as Mark, Marco also opened a new chapter at a World Championships held in Canada. The only difference is his age. He is 26, so his story doesn’t end here.