Kathrin Lehmann wants it all

Swiss hockey and football star gets ready for the World Women’s

25.03.2009
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Switzerland’s Kathrin Lehmann celebrates one of her three goals in the upset against Sweden at the 2008 World Women’s Championship. Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Phillip MacCallum

STOCKHOLM – She’s already played 167 games for Switzerland but the 29-year-old is anything but tired. Kathrin Lehmann just won the Swedish championship with AIK Solna and will play her sixth World Women’s Championship. If that’s not enough, she has football in the summer to keep her entertained.

Playing on top-level teams both in hockey and football makes the Zurich native one of the few women in European hockey who has dedicated her entire professional life to sports. But she definitely likes her duties.

The fact that the football season starts at the beginning of the year in Northern Europe is an advantage for Lehmann’s calendar.

After a summer with Hammarby Stockholm as a football goalie, Lehmann completed her third hockey season with AIK Solna and earned the golden helmet as the champion for the second time after defeating defending champion and archrival Segeltorps IF, 5-0, in the final.

From 1999 to 2006, Lehmann played hockey in Germany for Kornwestheim and also for several football clubs including prestigious Bayern Munich. And she also had a stint with the Oklahoma State University soccer team. Before leaving Switzerland, the daughter of sport teachers played her sports in the Zurich region.

She’s had the most success with hockey, where she’s one of the most experienced Swiss players. In April she will play her sixth top-level World Championship adding to two B-pool World Championships and two European Championships. Vancouver 2010 will be her second Olympics.

The 2008 World Women’s Championship was her most successful tournament. Switzerland surprisingly finished in fourth place. The most notable reason was a 4-3 win over powerhouse Sweden. It was Lehmann, who scored two goals in regulation and the game-winning goal in a shootout.

IIHF.com talked with Lehmann before she leaves on Saturday for the World Women’s Championship in Hämeenlinna, Finland.


You just won the Golden Helmet with AIK Solna in Sweden on Sunday. How was the final tournament in Sandviken?

We beat them 5-0. It was a clear score and we played well but in the first ten minutes we had luck and a very good goalkeeper. We scored the 1-0 goal with our first shot and I scored the 2-0. It gave us confidence because the game was tight and it could have ended the other way if they had scored. We were a bit cooler and could hunt them while they had the pressure of being the favourite. It was a great event and it was even broadcast live in Swedish TV.

And then the big party must have started.

First we celebrated with the other three teams of the final tournament in Sandviken, about 200 kilometres north of Stockholm. We had a banquet there together. But later we continued the celebrations at home of course.

How was it to score the 2-0 goal?

It was great and it was not a typical goal, it was a one-on-one against the goalie. Often I score on rebounds, the garbage goals. I heard that so often the whole evening.

You also had a Swiss in your line with Christine Meier, who was in her first season with AIK.

I’m very happy for her that she also won the championship. She also made it to the scoreboard with the assist to my goal. It was also a small but not unimportant detail that nobody understands us when we talk Swiss-German on the ice.

Prior to the season, you also had other offers. Where did they come from and how can somebody imagine the player market in women’s hockey?

The market is probably similar as in men’s hockey, just with other money. The offers came from Sweden. More and more clubs rely on women’s hockey here.

You previously played in Germany and Switzerland too. Why did you opt for Sweden?

It’s a really good league. We can practise each day here. The women’s teams are well integrated into the clubs. You’re more challenged in the practice and games here. Despite being 29 years old, I still made great progress here. It’s great that I got this chance.

How often did you practise in Switzerland and Germany?

In Switzerland it was three times per week, in Germany four or five times. But in Switzerland the practice times are also much different, there you often have to use off-hours.

Do you intend to play in another country?

I’m happy in Sweden but I haven’t planned for next season yet but it will happen in the upcoming months.

You also play football, a combination that has become rare in recent decades.

Yes, it’s true that fewer people combine sports, in particular those two. It has become more difficult to juggle two sports and since I’ve been playing in Sweden, I also quit the football national team. The principle is that I’m only availably as a package and if a club wants to get me, they know that. Playing for two clubs allows me to be pro.

You still reside in Munich, where you played before. Why?

I have my company there. I organize women’s camps both in hockey and football, and also my involvement in SOS Children's Villages and a sports program in Switzerland for school kids.

What can we expect in Hämeenlinna after the strong showing with a fourth-place finish at the 2008 World Women’s Championship in China?

We had a very good world championship and won’t be the dark horse anymore. We have to be realistic and to focus on staying in the top division. It’s the first time that we’re not the complete underdogs as we are seeded second in our group with Finland and Kazakhstan. It’s very important to beat Kazakhstan for us especially with the relegation of two teams. Against Finland, we haven’t won a game yet but we’ll see how they can stand the pressure. We’re well-prepared.

How is the atmosphere in this year’s team?

We have six rookies. Almost a line came from the women’s U18 national team. We have strong juniors and I’m curious to play with them. After the long trips in the last years, Finland will also be easier for us travel-wise. I’m curious to see how the other nations will play against us. Maybe some people think that our performance last year was a one-time shot.

Are the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver at the back of your mind?

First we have the world championship, then the Olympics. The danger is there that people think too much about that right now. But of course the Olympics are a big motivation for us, they will be incredible.

And when World Women’s Championship is over you might be starting into the football season soon. Have you already signed with a team?

That’s still under discussion. After the world championship, I’ll have a rest first and then I will decide. Luckily, I’m in a good position.

MARTIN MERK


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