German coach Dirk Lange, one of Europe’s best-known swim coaches, has announced the addition of 23-year old Austrian swimmer Christopher Rothbauer to his training group based out of Graz – the country’s second-largest city.
Rothbauer didn’t compete at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships, though he’s represented Austria at most of their other major international competitions of the quad.
That includes the 2017 World Championships, where his best finish was 25th place in the 200 breaststroke in 2:13.61.
That event is the same primary event as Koch. Also like Koch, Rothbauer has been better, generally, in short course than in long course to this point of his career.
Rothbauer’s Best Times:
Rothbauer’s Major International Finishes:
- 2019 European SC Championships – 11th place, 50 breaststroke; 16th place, 100 breaststroke; 9th place, 200 breaststroke
- 2019 World University Games – 16th, 50 breaststroke; 10th, 100 breaststroke; 6th, 200 breaststroke
- 2018 World Short Course Championships – 28th, 50 breaststroke
- 2018 European Long Course Championships – 27th, 50 breaststroke; 23rd, 100 breastsroke; 15th, 200 breaststroke
- 2017 European Short Course Championships – 25th, 50 breaststroke; 22nd, 100 breaststroke; 19th, 200 breaststroke; 32nd, 100 IM
- 2017 World Championships (Long Course) – 100 breaststroke, 41st place; 200 breaststroke, 25th place
- 2016 World Short Course Championships – 100 breaststroke, 43rd place; 200 breaststroke, 19th place
- 2016 European Aquatics Championships – 50th, 50 breaststroke; 36th, 100 breaststroke; 19th, 200 breaststroke
His times in the 100 breaststroke is an Olympic “B” qualifying time, while his swim in the 200 is an Olympic “A” qualifying time. He has already been selected for Austria’s Olympic Team.
Because of Austrian rules around when athletes can change clubs, Rothbauer will continue to represent his former club. He previously trained for 7 years at the Austrian National Training Center in Vienna-Südstadt.
“I spent a very long and successful time in Südstadt,” Rothbauer explained. “But now I feel that a change of location and coach makes sense for me, if I want to improve for Tokyo. Changes of coach are not uncommon in sport. I’m not leaving the training group in Südstadt because of an argument. I still have an excellent relationship with everyone. If I need help, I can always turn to my former coach and Südstadt.”
Lange was Koch’s coach when he rose to his highest prominence, including in 2016 when Koch broke the World Record in the 200 breaststroke in short course meters.
After changing to train with Henning Lamberz, Koch returned to Lange in December 2019 in what seemed like a very last-minute switch prior to the Olympic Games, though ultimately those Games were postponed by a year. Early returns from their reuniting have been positive – Koch showed a renewed spark for his short course racing during the fall’s International Swimming League season, swimming the four fastest times of his career since that World Record in 2016.
The two will face an uphill battle – a global surge in the 200 breaststroke has left 2:07s as the expected standard to make a final, with enough swimmers now going 2:06 that this could become the new medal standard. Koch has been 2:07.4 in long course, and was 2:07.6 at the 2019 World Championships for 5th place – his second-best career long course time.
The Austrian federation echoed Rothbauer’s sentiments of this being not a move resulting from stress, but a positive cooperation.
“Christopher Rothbauer is an important part of our Olympic team. So it is important to me to emphasize that all is about a common path for all those are involved, which focuses on the optimal performance of the athlete,” said Austrian Swimming’s sport director Walter Bär. “For example, I will be in Graz next week to coordinate all the steps leading up to the Olympic Games with Dirk Lange and Christopher Rothbauer.”
Besides the direct colleague, also in that training group is 21-year old Caroline Pilhatsch.
“With Christopher, training will definitely not be boring,”Pilhatsch said. “I am happy to have another motivated and professional Austrian training partner on the team alongside the former German World Champion Marco Koch and I am already looking forward to our next international meeting together. “
Pilhatsch took silver in the 50 backstroke at the most recent short course World Championships in 2018. She made the A final in that event in long course at the 2019 World Championship, placing 7th. While the 50 backstroke is not an Olympic event, she was Austria’s only swimmer to advance out of a preliminary round at those World Championships in any pool swimming event.
She also finished 20th in the 100 backstroke at that meet in 1:01.07, which remains her best time.
Besides Koch, Lange, who turns 58 this week, counts among his former trainees swimmers like Sandra Volker, Therese Alshammar, Mark Foster, Gerhard Zandberg, Cameron van der Burgh, and Fabio Scozzoli.