Magdalena Brzeska (GER)  
Tribute by Robin Catalano

Magdalena Brzeska is without a doubt Germany's most famous gymnast of all time. Although she hasn't matched the achievements of some of her teammates, Brzeska brought new style and glamour - not to mention a rabid fan base and sponsorship dollars - to an often overlooked sport.

Brzeska, who was born May 14, 1978 in Gdynia, Poland, received most of her training in her home country. She began gymnastics at the age of 7, and developed her skills rapidly in one of the strongest rhythmic training systems. After moving to Germany, Brzeska was guided by highly regarded coach Livia Medilanski. By the time she was an elite gymnast, "Magda" was practicing upwards of 30 hours per week.

The 5'9" modelesque blonde first rose to prominence at the 1991 German Junior Championships, where she snatched three apparatus golds (hoop, ball, and clubs). She took two more golds (ball, clubs) at the 1992 German Senior Championships, and placed 5th at that year's Medico Cup. The 14-year-old gymnast surprised many by landing in 14th place at the 1992 European Championships, where she also helped her team rise to 7th.

In 1993 Brzeska handily won the German National Championships, her first of 4 national titles. She also finished 2nd at the Schmiden International, 3rd at the European Cup Final, 1st at the Austria Cup, and 12th at the World Championships (where she also came in 5th with rope). She placed in the top 10 at all but one Grand Prix event the following year, and moved up to 10th at both the 1994 European and World Championships. This is when Brzeska-fever truly began; newspapers and television stations reported that the pretty teenager was forced to bring a bodyguard to Europeans to shield her from the zealous throngs of fans.

A strong 8th place was Brzeska's reward at the 1995 Worlds, and she also finished in the top five in several of that year's Grand Prix events. Her international star was officially on the rise. Success continued to follow the popular gymnast, who, through lucrative endorsement and modeling contracts, became one of Germany's highest paid athletes. After an impressive start in 1996, Brzeska capped off her stellar year with a 10th-place finish at the Atlanta Olympics.

Although she kept training in hopes of a continued career, Brzeska was hampered by arthritis in 1997. After finishing 10th and qualifying to three event finals at the 1997 World Championships, rhythmic's glamour girl called it quits.

Although her extra-curricular activities often overshadowed her gymnastics, Brzeska was a very accomplished athlete. During the early 90s, when powerful, dramatic routines were in vogue, the German champion was praised by many experts as, in the words of British commentator Jackie Leavey, "a breath of fresh air." Brzeska's light dance style, well-defined apparatus work, and refined choreography helped her stand out in a crowd of Soviet and Bulgarian imitators.

Even better known is Brzeska's flair for fashion; she was never seen without an alluring leotard, perfect hair, and attractive makeup. Her sometimes revealing leotards caused more than one stir, but most famous is her run-in with officials at an international competition in Italy in March, 1995. When her bodysuit was deemed too "skimpy" by the judges, Brzeska was deducted .20, moving her from second to third. After a crowd protest, the judges reduced the penalty to .10, but the crestfallen Brzeska still took home bronze.

Magdalena Brzeska, who speaks four languages, is still a sought-after model and spokesperson. Her posters, including semi-nude art photos, adorn the walls of many a smitten male fan. 

But the alluring Brzeska was quickly taken, marrying professional soccer player Peter Peschel in a secret ceremony. On June 22, 2000, the former gymnast became a first-time mother. She described daughter Caprice to Gymmedia as, "Beautiful, just beautiful." The couple's second daughter, Leonie, was born not too soon after, in November 2001. Sadly, the couple have since decided to divorce. The two children will live with Brzeska in her hometown Schmiden. 

Brzeska and former German figure skater Daniel Weiss are currently working together on a gymnastics/figure skating show.

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2000-2002. This page was created on February 1, 2000 and last updated on October 2002.

 

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