Karin Balzer

Karin Balzer (née Richert; 5 June 1938 – 17 December 2019)[1] was an East German hurdler who competed in the 80 m hurdles event at the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics, and in the 100 m hurdles in 1972. She won a gold medal in 1964 and a bronze in 1972, while finishing fifth in 1968. During her career she set 37 world's best performances.[2]

Karin Balzer
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B1002-0014-001, Karin Balzer.jpg
Karin Balzer in 1963
Personal information
Born5 June 1938 (1938-06-05)
Magdeburg, Germany
Died17 December 2019 (2019-12-18) (aged 81)
Height1.71 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight64 kg (141 lb)
Event(s)80, 100 m hurdles
SC Leipzig
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)80 mH – 10.61 (1968)
100 mH – 12.6 (1971)


She was born Karin Richert in Magdeburg, and competed in several track and field events in her teens. She showed her best results in the 80 m hurdles and qualified for the 1960 Summer Olympics. The United Team of Germany then included athletes of both East and West Germany. She finished fourth in her Olympic semifinal and narrowly missed the final.[2]

The following year, she married her coach, retired pole vaulter, Karl-Heinz Balzer. Some years earlier, they had briefly fled the DDR, but had returned weeks later. Now competing as Karin Balzer, she won her first international medal, silver, at the 1962 European Athletics Championships. In 1964, she tied the world record in the hurdles during a pentathlon competition. Despite showing good results she never competed in pentathlon at major meets.

At the Tokyo Olympics that same year, she placed first in the final of the 80 m hurdles. In a close finish, the first three runners all timed 10.5 seconds, equal to the world record (although the record was not ratified due to a wind). Electronic timing showed Balzer had beaten the two other medalists by one and two hundredths of a second, respectively.[3]

Two years later, Balzer won a second title at the 1966 European Athletics Championships, and then placed fifth in the 1968 Olympic final; she was the Olympic flag bearer for East Germany at those Games. That was the last major event in which the high hurdles were run over 80 m; from 1969 on, the event became the 100 m. Balzer set the inaugural world record in that event, in June 1969, then subsequently lowered it twice during that same year. She also successfully defended her European title in Athens, which she repeated in Helsinki in 1971.[2] That year she was voted German Sportspersonality of the Year.

While in training for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Balzer's son, Andreas was involved in an accident, and was comatised. He died the day before the final of the 100 m hurdles, but her husband did not tell her until after the race, in which she won her second Olympic medal, bronze.[2] Balzer's second son, Falk Balzer (born 1973)[4] also became a hurdler. His best achievement was a second place in the 110 m hurdles at the 1998 European Championships.[4]

Balzer was trained as a chemist, and worked as a lab technician from 1955 to 1961. From 1961 until 1976 she was a sports school teacher in Frankfurt and then in Leipzig. In parallel, from 1970 to 1976 she studied at Deutsche Hochschule für Körperkultur (DHfK) and earned a degree in physical education, and from 1973 to 1976 coached athletics at SC Leipzig together with her husband. They were suspended in 1976 after refusing to administer anabolic steroids to their trainees, and moved to Dresden, where Balzer worked as a school teacher through the 1970s and 80s. From 1991 to 1993 she lectured at the BAW Saxony, and from 1994 to 1997 at the Cologne business school. In 1997 Karin and Karl Balzer were reinstated as athletics coaches.[2] Karl died in 2007.[4]


  1. ^ "European Athletics - 1964 Olympic champion Balzer dies at the age of 81". european-athletics. 18 December 2019. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill; et al. "Karin Balzer". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020.
  3. ^ Athletics at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Games: Women's 80 metres Hurdles. sports-reference.com
  4. ^ a b c Personal website. karin-balzer.com (in German)

External linksEdit

Preceded by
  Teresa Sukniewicz
Women's 100m Hurdles World Record Holder
20 June 1969 – 20 June 1970
Succeeded by
  Teresa Sukniewicz
Preceded by
  Teresa Sukniewicz
Women's 100m Hurdles World Record Holder
26 July 1970 – 28 June 1972
Succeeded by
  Pam Ryan
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
  Erika Zuchold
East German Sportswoman of the Year
Succeeded by
  Karin Janz
Sporting positions
Preceded by
  Chi Cheng
Women's 100m Hurdles Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
  Anneliese Ehrhardt