Hartwig Gauder after winning the 50km race walk at the 1987 World Championships in Rome (© Getty / Bongarts)
World Athletics is saddened by the news that Hartwig Gauder, the 1980 Olympic and 1987 world champion in the 50km race walk, died from a heart attack on Wednesday (22). Gauder, who also won the 1986 European title, was 65.
Born in 1954 in Vaihingen an der Enz, a town near Stuttgart in western Germany, Gauder and his family moved to Ilmenau, in the former German Democratic Republic, after inheriting property there in 1960. Gauder, who represented East Germany for most of his career, first attracted attention when winning the 10,000m race walk at the 1973 European Junior Championships before claiming national 20km titles in 1975 and 1976.
He was seventh over 20km at the 1978 European Championships, his first national appearance as a senior, just two years prior to his surprise triumph at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow where he clocked 3:49:24 to take gold in just his fourth race over the distance. He missed the 1984 Games due to a boycott but returned in 1988 to take bronze in Seoul in 3:39:45, a performance that would remain as his lifetime best.
Gauder also took bronze at the 1990 European Championships and after German reunification, won bronze at the 1991 World Championships before capping his career at the 1992 Olympics, finishing sixth.
Gauder retired from competition in 1993 and continued work towards his degree in architecture but in 1995 was found to have contracted a viral heart infection, causing cardiomyopathy. After living with an artificial heart for a year, he recieved a transplant in 1997.
Gauder later completed several marathons including New York and Berlin and in 2003 become the first heart transplant recipient to climb Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain. He worked as an architect in Jena and Erfurt and remained a vocal campaigner for organ donation.
In January, Gauder suffered kidney failure and was again in need of a donor. That transplant wouldn't come to pass.
"Thuringia has lost one of its most talented athletes and a tireless champion for organ donation," said Bodo Ramelow, the Minister-President of the German state of Thuringia. "We mourn the loss of a great person. His memory lives on."
Bob Ramsak for World Athletics