The athlete, who was the last to win a gold medal under a united German flag until Barcelona 1992, has passed away at age 80.
Willi Holdorf, who won decathlon gold for Germany at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, has died following a severe illness, his wife Sabine Holdorf-Schust confirmed. He was 80-years-old.
Holdorf became the first ever German Olympic decathlon gold medal winner in 1964, when he beat out his Soviet rival Rein Aun in the final event of the competition. As legend has it, the German needed to finish the 1,500m race a maximum of 17 seconds behind Aun to secure gold.
Having been misled by his coach into believing he could only finish 12 seconds behind, a visibly exhausted Holdorf collapsed on the finish line exactly 12 seconds behind the Russian, winning gold by a wafer-thin margin of 45 points.
His gold medal win was particularly poignant as it was the last by an athlete under a united German flag until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, following the unification of East and West Germany.
Holdorf’s passion for sport did not stop at the athletics track. After retiring from decathlon, he went on to coach the German first division football club Fortuna Cologne and also turned his hand to tennis, where he worked for the Davis Cup team as a fitness coach.
Holdorf became a member of the German Olympic Committee in 1997, and in 2011 he was inducted into the German Sports Hall of Fame.
Following news of his death, the reigning world decathlon champion Niklas Kaul spoke about his admiration of Holdorf to NRD: "When you start the decathlon, there are a few big names. Willi Holdorf was at the top. Not only was he very successful in sports, there was also a strong personality behind him who was also interested in other sports.”
Dobromir Karamarinov, the interim President of European Athletics paid tribute to Holdorf on social media, saying: “The @EuroAthletics family is saddened to hear of the passing of Willi Holdorf, Germany’s 1964 Olympic Decathlon Champion - May he Rest in Peace.”