Hans Breckenfort in his beautiful youth.
Stockholm ‘12, Antwerp ‘20
Fancy High Dive, Silver Medal, DNQ
It is the most beautiful among us who are the most important. So when 17 year old German diver and beautiful human Hans Breckenfort won silver at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics in the Fancy High Dive (now known simply as the High Dive) it was thought that nothing short of world war itself would keep him from eventually reaching the top of an Olympic podium and the very peaks of human enlightenment. But even world war itself was not enough to keep Breckenfort from achieving a second bout Olympic glory, even if it did make his path through what was to become a not so beautiful life more circuitous than anyone could have expected.
After the conclusion of the Stockholm games, Breckenfort moved to Berlin so that he could train in the Olympic facilities as they were being built for the 1916 games. There his face and body were rubbed with olive oil daily so that his skin remained pristine and hydrodynamic, a classic Italian training technique brought to Germany by Fancy High Diving guru Cheech Bitollio. He advanced the sport of Fancy High Dive with a new battery of never before completed combinations of twists and flips, while simultaneously resisting the advances of the most beautiful and wealthy women of Bavaria.
As the great war broke out no one assumed it would last more than a few months, or involve the entire civilized world, so Breckenfort kept on training and being beautiful. As a standing German national hero and reigning Most Beautiful German Man as decided by Otto Von Bismarck himself, news of his Fancy High Dive achievments was frequently sent to the front in bulletins. War weary soldiers though were not impressed with Breckenfort and his “kindergames and kinderbeauty,” and so unbeknownst to him he gained a reputation as Germany’s most cowardly weakling. Failing to complete a trench run, even if a soldier knew it would lead to his certain death, was known as Breckenforting and was punishable by death.
Breckenfort though had no idea of the reputation he had gained when he enlisted himsef into the military after the 1916 Berlin games were cancelled. Assuming that his physical prowess, magnificent beauty and stature as an Olympic hero would earn him respect amongst his fellow soldiers, he was shocked to find himself on the receiving end of the most savage hazing the German army has ever seen. He wound up facially disfigured as a result of a twisted bout of intentional Mustard Heading spearheaded by eventual Nazi war criminal Ernst Dehner (a horrifying form of hazing that Hitler would later call, “too barbaric for das juden”), and was sent home to Berlin before even seeing the battlefield.
No longer beautiful Breckenfort plunged into a deep depression. Bitollio tried to get him to return to training, but Breckenfort had no interest in letting the public in Berlin see his face. So Bitollio returned to his homeland to seek counsel from his father, the great mask maker Pucino Bitollio. Though the two men had not spoken due to an ugly diving tragedy that had occurred years earlier, the elder Bitollio nevertheless was moved by Hans’ story and got to work making a mask of pure beauty. The mask was to be a figurative expression of Narcissus himself cast in dried leather. The process took two seasons, and was said to be so draining for Pucino that he himself grew ugly making this beautiful mask which he would dub Twerpio.
When the younger Bitollio returned to Berlin, the year was 1919, the armistice had been signed and Germany was falling into a depression itself. Breckenfort had refused to eat or move for the better part of the year, and was on death’s door sustained only by the occasional sip of lamb’s broth. When Bitollio came upon Breckenfort, asleep on a filthy tenement floor, he shook him awake and without speaking put the mask of Twerpio on Breckenfort’s face. Suddenly, his spiritual strength was restored. Though still weak, he began a weary shuffle of joy, and devoured two hams. Though when the mask was removed, Breckenfort again dipped into his sadness, the moment of joy that Bitollio saw was honest.
Thus would be Breckenfort’s fate moving forward: he was both the depressive monster and the clownish beauty. And when he Bitollio sent him to Antwerp to participate in the 1920 Olympic Games he did not go as Hans Breckenfort, Fancy High Diver, but instead as Twerpio, the first ever Olympic mascot. His weary yet joyful shuffle brought joy to the children of Belgium, and an identity to the 1920 games which help reunify the European spirit.