Great hopes had been placed on the shoulders of swimming world record-holder Paul Biedermann in his attempt at the 200m freestyle on Monday evening. But the 30-year-old couldn't come up with the goods, finishing at a disappointing sixth in the final solo race of his career.
In table tennis another hopeful, Timo Boll, came up short, dropping out to Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna in the round of sixteen.
So by the end of day three, Germany was still waiting on its first place on the podium – the first time this has happened in the history of reunified Germany.
“We have to be honest – our start hasn’t been what we had wanted. To say anything else would be sugarcoating the facts,” said Alfons Hörmann, head of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB).
But Hörmann called for patience from the German public while warning that the competition was “bloody difficult”.
“In the spirit of self-analysis, we must make clear that in world sport there is a certain standard that we can’t keep up with in many areas.”
But it hasn’t only been under-performance that has cost the German team so far. Luck has also played its part. Markswoman Barbara Engleder missed out of a bronze medal by less than a millimetre in the women's rifle competition on Saturday.
And the German team as a whole never believed they were sure to win a medal in the first three days.
”We always knew that we had few serious chances in the first three days,” team captain Michael Vesper said. “So we’re not going to drive ourselves crazy. There are still 13 days of competition to go – every day is a new one.”
Even before the games started, the DOSB’s sport director Dirk Schimmelpfennig warned that the team could have a slow start, calling for “endurance and patience”.
Similarly, Hörmann already appeared to be lowering any expectations of a triumphant return from the games when he said pre-tournament that “it isn’t about the absolute number of medals” but rather “the character, heart and passion” which athletes show.