Manly Centre Little Athlete Nicole Leistenschneider became an Olympic medallist
One of the finest NSW Little Athletes of the ‘70s was sprinter/long jumper Nicole Leistenschneider, who over four decades later, still holds records. The year after being a member of the 1979 NSW State team, she left Australia and five-years later, aged 17, stood on the podium at the 1984 Olympics. We recently tracked Nicole down in Germany to learn her full story.
Nicole, who was born in Canada, came to Australia with her German parents in 1975, as her father worked for German company BASF.
Nicole recalled those early days in Sydney.
“As we had always been an active family I joined Little Athletics to get to meet friends and learn the English language. We stayed for five years till 1980.”
She competed for the strong Manly LA Centre and had instant success at her first State Championships as an under-9 in 1976, winning the 60m hurdles in record time. The next year she won the 100m, 200m, hurdles and was second in the long jump. In her fourth year, the important under-12 season, she had started running a new event for her, the 400m. At the State Championships she was second in the 100m and 200m, but outstanding in the 400m and long jump, winning both with performances of 57.5 seconds and 5.36m, respectively. At the Australian Championships she was second in the 400m, but won the long jump and assisted NSW to a record time win in the 4x100m relay.
“I still enjoy thinking about my time living in Sydney, NSW and starting with Little Athletics,” Nicole said this week.
“In 1980 we went back to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Here I continued athletics for the club MTG Mannheim and concentrated on 100-400m, being very successful.”
At 16, in 1983 she ran a PB best time of 52.67 closing the year as the leading under-17 athlete in the world. The next year, while just 17, and mid-way through her secondary schooling, she was drafted into the national team competing at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She regards it as her career highlight, running on the German team in the heats of the 4x400m relay. She helped the team to second in the heat, and the team in the final placed third, earning Nicole an Olympic bronze medal.
In 1985 she placed second in the 400m at the European Juniors.
After completing school in 1987, she moved to Berlin to commence an eight-year medical degree, specializing in surgery.
“From 1987 to 1993 I continued athletics, parallel to my studies running for the SCC Berlin club and concentrating more on the 800m. I still had a lot of success at German national championships – indoor and outdoor. After the wall came down and Germany unified, it got quite tough to qualify for international events as the East Germans were exceptionally good.”
While studying in Berlin she meet and married Sven Mikisch a very good 400m hurdler.
“From 1995 to 2018 we moved around Germany working on our careers. In 2018 we moved back to Berlin, where my husband was born and much of our family live. We are at the moment enjoying a long-term sabbatical!
“We have kept up our love of sports and are passionate bike/tandem riders and I run now and then. Our other hobby is sailing, and we also love travelling.”
Nicole Leistenschneider’s under-12 200m record survived 39 years, until 2018, while her 400m record of 57.5, has never been bettered 42 years later.
David Tarbotton for NSW Little Athletics
Image: Nicole Leistenschneider aged 11 and competing at the 1984 Olympics