Schnelldorfer strikes figure skating gold for Germany

Picture by IOC

With figure skating coaches for parents, it was no surprise that Manfred Schnelldorfer should pull on his first pair of skates at the age of six. The Munich-born prodigy was only 11 when he won the first of his nine German titles. After branching out on the international scene in 1960, he won three consecutive bronzes and two consecutive silvers at the European championships, and a bronze at the 1963 world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Invariably finishing ahead of him was France’s Alain Calmat, the reigning three-time European champion and a firm favourite to win gold at Innsbruck 1964.

The young German started the stronger, however, gaining the upper hand in the compulsory figures, which ended with him leading from Czechoslovakia’s Carol Divin, who had led at the same stage four years earlier in Squaw Valley, with Calmat and the USA’s 14-year-old sensation Scotty Allen just behind.

Widely tipped to impose himself in the free programme three days later, the Frenchman failed to live up to expectations, placing fifth after taking several tumbles in an ambitious routine, most notably following a triple loop.Though Allen earned warm applause for a fine routine, the elegant Schnelldorfer settled the issue with a faultless performance, scoring highest in the free to take gold by a comfortable margin from Calmat. The teenage Allen was rewarded for his efforts with bronze.

Germany’s one and only individual Olympic figure skating champion to date, Schnelldorfer backed up his Innsbruck triumph in the worlds less than a month later, beating Calmat to gold on home ice in Dortmund, though the Frenchman would take the title in Colorado Springs (USA) in 1965.

Schnelldorfer retired from the amateur arena following his Olympic and world double, spending the next few years taking part in professional tours. Not content with that, he also became a pop singer and actor, appearing in several films in the 1960s. In 1974 he was appointed head coach of the German Federal Republic’s figure skating team, a post he held until 1981.