This week’s #FascinatingFactFriday is about Mrs Marleen Mertens, who is Language Assistant and Teacher of German at King’s Ely Senior.

Did you know that Mrs Mertens is a medal-winning volleyball player and that she achieved her dream of representing Germany?

Mrs Mertens started playing volleyball when she was just nine-years-old.

She said: “I have been very sporty and quite competitive from a young age, and I am tall! I got scouted with my best friend at the time to start playing volleyball in my local training centre. When I started playing back in those days, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) women’s team had just become the European Champions. That was where I wanted to be, to play at that level.

“For four years, I trained three times a week, and played in weekend matches, to be considered for boarding school in Berlin. I had to go through several assessment training camps. On my 13th birthday, I joined the SG Dynamo Berlin in a class of 10 girls, who became my team, and 10 boys. It was free of charge for all children in various sports who were accepted into the school. The school still exists today, Sportforum Hohenschönhausen, and is an Olympic Training Centre for many sports.”

Between the age of 13 and 20, Mrs Mertens achieved eight championship titles, some while it was still GDR, some then after unification in Federal Republic of Germany (FRG).

Mrs Mertens said: “I also got to play in an Under 20 European Championship, so my dream to play volleyball at the highest level did become reality.”

Mrs Mertens does not play the sport anymore, although she has launched an after school volleyball club here at King’s for Senior boys and girls to enjoy on a Wednesday afternoon!

She said: “It is so lovely running the new after school club. There are eight or nine students who have become regulars. We are just having a good time, exercising, sharing a bit of laughter, and sometimes we talk about what is going on in the pupils’ lives. Before September I had not touched a volleyball for nearly two decades, but my body remembered!”

When asked what she enjoys most about volleyball, Mrs Mertens said: “I chose to play volleyball because it is a team sport, and an indoor sport, so my feet would not get cold! I loved to play with my friends, go away to tournaments all over Europe together and meet players from other teams there. I just loved the sense of community and belonging. It could have been handball but I settled for volleyball as it is a non-contact sport. People pulling my shirt, tugging my arm or pushing me over was not for me.”

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