Initially, Inka Grings's dream was to become a tennis star. Boris Becker was her childhood hero, and Steffi Graf remains her role model in terms of sporting achievement and commitment to good causes. Indeed, the 31-year-old striker still plays tennis twice a week as a counterweight to her extensive footballing commitments.
In the course of time, tennis became a hobby and football remorselessly took over as her number-one discipline. Grings’ playing career began in 1984 when she joined TSV Eller 04 in Dusseldorf, her city of birth. She spent six years in the youth section at Eller before switching to local rivals Garather SV, where her burgeoning career really took off.
Following a string of outstanding performances for the Dusseldorf outfit, she came to the attention of scouts from FC Rumeln-Kaldenhausen, subsequently renamed FCR 2001 Duisburg. Not long after switching to the Bundesliga club, Grings became a regular in the senior line-up and went on to make her full international debut against Finland on 5 May 1996.
The 1.69m tall striker, an insurance broker by trade, can now look back on a highly successful career in German colours that includes 50 goals in 79 appearances. In 2000, she played five times at the Women's Olympic Football Tournament and scored once as the Germans took bronze in Sydney.
Five years on, she upped the ante again with a tournament-best four goals as the German FA (DFB) women’s team claimed UEFA Women's EURO honours in England.
However, the highlight of her international career to date came this year at the Women’s EURO in Finland, where she struck six goals and again finished as the tournament’s leading scorer, collecting her second European championship winner’s medal to boot. The culmination of this personal triumph came when she fired a well-taken brace in Germany’s 6-2 victory over England in the final.
Grings’ honours collection with the national team would almost certainly extend beyond the two continental triumphs had it not been for a run of poor luck with injuries. Meniscus surgery caused her to miss the 2001 European Championship on home soil, she sat out the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ after tearing a hamstring in the build-up to the event, and a ruptured cruciate ligament forced her out of the 2004 Olympic Games.
However, she refused to be thrown off course by the injury setbacks, investing huge amounts of time and effort in working towards comebacks. The reward for her persistence has been consistently outstanding form both for the national team and in the women’s Bundesliga.
Her 304 goals in the German top flight make her the nation’s most successful goalscorer, and she also leads the all-time scoring charts for her club by some 200 goals over her nearest rival. She has finished as Bundesliga top scorer five times (1999, 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2009), and as of 1 December 2009, leads the way this season with 16 goals.
Her sole league title to date came with Duisburg in 2000, when she also scored a record 38 goals. Named German Women’s Player of the Year in 1999 and 2009, she has also twice won the German Women’s Cup (1998 and 2009). Her greatest triumph at club level also came in 2009 when Duisburg lifted the Women’s UEFA Cup.