Achterwehr (dpa) – Willi Holdorf stumbled on the last few meters before his Olympic triumph and collapsed at the finish completely exhausted. In 1964, the Schleswig-Holsteiner was the first German decathlete to win gold at Tokyo Summer Games.
Only a few months after his 80th birthday, Holdorf now died at home in the Achterwehr near Kiel after a serious illness. German sport mourns one of its greatest heroes. Niklas Kaul, the surprise world champion of 2019, is “shocked” by the death of the former “king of athletes”.
“When you start decathlon, there are a few big names. Willi Holdorf was at the top,” said the 22-year-old “Athlete of the Year” from Mainz to the German Press Agency. “You could talk to him about a lot of things very well. Actually, a joint NDR documentary was planned for this year, because of Corona the project was unfortunately no longer possible.”
Olympic gold in decathlon – after Holdorf, the only GDR athlete at that time, Christian Schenk, was able to do this in 1988 in Seoul. Rostock was also badly affected. “No! I was still at his 75th with him, and I only congratulated his wife on his birthday yesterday,” said Schenk. “We saw each other from time to time and then always said” Hello, Mr. Olympic Champion “. Willi was a great sportsman and a very good entrepreneur – and for me he is one of the few who did both. He was my idol ! “
Holdorf’s death on Sunday confirmed his wife Sabine Holdorf-Schust. His Olympic victory is primarily linked to the pictures of the final 1500 meter race. “My eyes went black,” Holdorf reported once. In the end, he prevailed against his opponent Rein Aun from the Soviet Union with 7887 points. Holdorf started the race with 18 seconds ahead of nine disciplines and finished 11 seconds after Aun. At the award ceremony, the totally exhausted German climbed the podium with difficulty and almost fell.
For Thomas Bach, Holdorf’s run was “the defining image of the games. This decathlon has made him an icon of his sport,” said the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As a friend, he had always seen Holdorf as a straightforward and sociable person – “with whom you could work extremely well, but also celebrate wonderfully together”.
The gold medal has been hanging in the German Sports and Olympic Museum in Cologne for years. After his coup, Holdorf was voted “Athlete of the Year” and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of German Sports in 2011. He ended his career at the age of 24 – after 21 decathlon, eight of which he won. “I was already married, had to support a family and take care of my studies,” said the father of two sons once.
For Frank Busemann, Holdorf was “always my hero”. The 1986 Olympic runner-up from Atlanta told the newspapers of the Funke media group: “With his Olympic victory in decathlon he did what everyone wanted. If I had a role model, it was always Willi. He had the heart in the right place, the Fighting spirit and passion. “
As an athletics coach, Holdorf led pole vaulter Claus Schiprowski to Olympic silver in 1968. From 1971 to 1973 he was a brakeman in double and push in four-man bobsleigh – and with Horst Floth in 1973 he won European bronze. He had less success as a football coach at Fortuna Cologne. In the second half of the 1974/75 season, he was unable to prevent relegation to the Bundesliga after 14 games in five-month terms. “When I took over Fortuna, she was bottom of the table and bottom of the table. It was only a small success,” said Holdorf. “But it was fun.”
The Olympic champion then concentrated on his job as a representative of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas, which he gave up in 2016. As a partner, he contributed to the success story of the handball Bundesliga club THW Kiel and was a member of the supervisory board. “After the trend-setting decision to outsource handball to a professional department, Holdorf was one of the five founding partners who played a key role in helping Kiel to become the most successful German handball club,” THW wrote on its website on Monday.
Athletics remained closely associated with Holdorf until his death. He enthusiastically followed Kaul’s World Cup coup in Doha in October 2019. Holdorf’s former club TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen mourns “for a shape of light,” said Jörn Elberding, the managing director of the athletics department.
The German Athletics Association also valued Holdorf as a guide. “The encounters with him were always enriching, his north German humor was contagious and his straightforwardness very impressive,” said long-time DLV President Clemens Prokop. “Friendship was always more than a word for him. Due to his death, athletics and all of German sport lost one of his great personalities and became poorer.”