The following piece was translated and slightly adapted from the Wikipedia entry in German on Horst Stahlberg, which can be accessed here:
Originally from Potsdam, Horst Stahlberg was for several years one of the top four male tennis players in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) along with Werner Rautenberg, Konrad Zanger and Peter Fährmann. They made up what was known as the ‘four-leaf clover’ from the Weißensee area of Berlin.
In 1955, Stahlberg, who was an electrician by profession, won the men’s singles, the men’s doubles (with Konrad Zanger) and the mixed doubles (with Änne Lindner) at the outdoor East German Tennis Championships. In 1957, at the age of 20, he won the men’s singles title at the international tournament in Zinnowitz, and the following year, 1958, he and his doubles partner, Konrad Zanger, were the first players from the GDR to travel to take part in the international tournament held in Cairo, in what was then the United Arab Republic. They finished in third place in the men’s doubles event and earned a place on the gold medal board for being among the most successful participants at this tournament.
In 1960, together with Eva Johannes, Stahlberg won the mixed doubles event at the tournament held in Cairo. In the final they defeated the Australian pairing of Margaret Hellyer and John Hillebrand 6-4, 9-11, 6-2. Given the comparatively good quality of the entrants, this was a remarkable triumph for East German tennis.
By 1960, West German tennis clubs had long had their eye on the East German champions and so, a year later, at a tournament in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, the local club made him an offer to move to the West and play for Wolfsburg. Stahlberg, who by then was studying sports at the German University for Physical Education [DHfK] in Leipzig via distance learning, asked for a week to think about the offer. In the meantime, he took part in a tournament at the Blau-Weiss tennis club in West Berlin. Shortly before he had made up his mind, the Berlin Wall was built, and with it all such considerations became obsolete.
Stahlberg quickly realized that the Berlin Wall was blocking his way to a possible career. As a result, he decided to spend more and more time in Potsdam, where he worked locally as a full-time sports teacher. He was now playing again for his old club, Medizin Potsdam, and was thus no longer entitled to any promotion within the club. In the same year, 1962, he won the men’s singles title at the international tournament in Zinnowitz for the second and last time.
Aged only 25 in 1962, Stahlberg had not yet fulfilled his potential as a tennis player. Nevertheless, he began to take part in fewer big tournaments. This meant that he was only ranked number one among men one more time, in 1966, having led the singles rankings in the GDR from 1957 to 1962.
In the 1980s, while working as a football coach, Stahlberg earned a reputation as a ‘saviour’. In 1984 and 1988, he saved the football team Motor Babelsberg from relegation from the East German Football League. In 1984, the team had at one point been last in the table but finished the season in a respectable seventh place. In 1988, Motor Babelsberg won ten points in their last seven games, thus saving themselves from relegation once again.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Horst Stahlberg received the silver badge of honour from the German Tennis Federation after being selected to play for Berlin-Brandenburg four times. His professional activity as a tennis coach in competitive sports was in contrast to the non-recognition of his education and training by the German Tennis Federation. He was only awarded the Level C Coaching License, i.e., a certificate for non-competitive sports not requiring intensive coaching.
In later life Stahlberg continued to play tennis for Potsdam and to give coaching lessons.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *