Willi Holdorf, the 1964 Olympic decathlon champion, has died
Willi Holdorf, the 1964 Olympic decathlon champion, has died. He was 80.
Holdorf led in Tokyo after nine of the 10 events. But his Soviet rival Rein Aun was stronger in the last event, the 1,500 meters. To win, Holdorf had to finish within 17 seconds of Aun. Holdorf had never achieved that, but his coach deliberately misled him and told him 12 seconds.
Holdorf, exhausted, weaved across the lanes down the final straight before collapsing over the finish line. He was exactly 12 seconds behind Aun, who helped him off the track.
Holdorf was at his strongest in the sprints in the decathlon, leading the 100 and 400 meters, and placed second in the discus and shot put.
Despite the Cold War-era division of West and East Germany, Holdorf won under the flag of a united German Olympic team. By the next Olympics in 1968, though, there were separate West German and East German squads.
That meant Holdorf was the last gold medalist in athletics representing a united Germany until the Barcelona Olympics of 1992, following the reunification of the country.
Holdorf’s Tokyo feat ended a run of six consecutive victories by U.S. athletes dating to 1932.
After retiring from track and field, Holdorf went into soccer coaching with German club Fortuna Cologne, then in the top division, and built a career in business.
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