Tracks of their tears as Krabbe takes hospice role

Athletics (File)
Athletics (File)

Berlin - On the track, controversial ex-world champion Katrin Krabbe was one of the fastest, now she works as a volunteer in a hospice, speeding to the comfort of the terminally ill.

As a 21-year-old, Krabbe hit the headlines by taking both the 100m and 200m titles at the 1991 world athletics championships in Tokyo for Germany, which had reunified in 1990.

In both sprint races, the German beat established stars Gwen Torrence of the USA and Jamica's Merlene Ottey.

Her world titles came after she swept the treble of 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay golds for East Germany at the 1990 European championships in Spilt.

Scandal followed in 1992, however, when her urine sample was found to be identical to her team-mates while training in South Africa.

Then, in the same year, she tested positive for a banned substance, which effectively ended her career.

Now, aged 47 and called Krabbe-Zimmermann, she works in the Three Kings Hospice in Neubrandenburg, near Berlin, helping patients with terminal illnesses, whether they have days, weeks or months left to live.

"I wish I had more time, a lot more time," she told German daily Bild, wishing she could do more to help.

She rejects her bleak official job title - 'Sterbe-Begleiterin' (dying companion) - for a more positive description.

"Dying companion? I am a companion for living!

"When I help those affected to go with a smile on their faces, then I have done everything right," she added.

Her unusual role came about when she heard a speech by a former president of the German State Mecklenburg-Vorpommern about the work the hospice does.

The next day, she called to help.

After completing a nine-month course and gaining work experience, she is one of 35 volunteers who helps the hospice and holds down a full-time job in a car dealership.

Her work in the hospice is varied, from accompanying patients on walks or watching television with them, talking, or simply sharing a joke.

The ex-sprinter says that she often hears people wish, shortly before passing away, that they had had spent more time with their families, which she takes to heart.

"My main task, above all, is to help them experience as many pleasant moments as possible," she added.

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