Schmid comes of age in the luge

When Manfred Schmid arrived in Grenoble, he may have had an inkling that he had a long and successful career in luge ahead of him – but in Grenoble came confirmation. He was 23 years old, taking part in his second Olympic Winter Games, and on his way to becoming one of the sport's stars. Four years previously, in Innsbruck, he had come ninth after four solid, if unspectacular, runs. Here, his performance was very different.

Picture by IOC

Schmid was entered in both the singles and doubles events, and in both he faced formidable competition from East Germany. Thomas Köhler was the reigning champion in the singles, while his compatriot Klaus Bonsack was also hotly tipped. The two would unite forces in the doubles event.

His first run set the tone – fastest of all and, significantly, a gaping 0.52secs ahead of Köhler and even more clear of Bonsack. There was no opportunity for Schmid to become complacent, though, as the second run proved - Köhler fastest this time, precisely halving that deficit. Bonsack was second quickest.

The third run saw another tight battle for supremacy with Köhler going fastest by a slight margin from Schmid. This time it was less than a tenth of a second, leaving Schmid with a 0.18secs advantage going into the final run.

But the final run was never to be. Bad weather caused it to be postponed, and then cancelled outright. The medals were awarded on the basis of the first three runs, with Schmid declared the Olympic champion.

Köhler and Bonsack were dominant in the doubles competition, fastest in both runs. But Schmid and his partner, Ewald Walch, were next quickest each time, to take the silver medals. It completed quite a haul for Schmid to take home.

He continued competing at the sport's top level for more than a decade, taking a world championship bronze in 1978. But these two Olympic medals were to be the only ones of Schmid's career, although he competed in the Games of both 1972 and 1976.