East German skier Ulrich Wehling is one of six competitors who have won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the same event—the Nordic Combined. After retiring from skiing, he moved to Switzerland, and is a member of the National Olympic Committee in Germany. In 2002, he was named to Bud Greenspan 's list of 25 Greatest Winter Olympians.
At the age of 19, Wehling participated in the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan, in the Nordic Combined event, which consists of two ski jumps and a 15km race. A self-proclaimed "nobody," he went on to win the gold medal in the Nordic Combined with a total point score of 413.340. Wehling was said to have "stolen" the gold medal from the Finnish star Rauno Miettinen, who had nearly secured his place as best in the Nordic Combined. Two years later in 1974, Wehling won the Nordic Combined world championship title.
At the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, he again won the gold in the Nordic Combined with points totaling 423.39, a sizable margin from his closest competitor. His performance in the event was dominated by the jumping competition. Wehling was not known for being the fastest skier in the 15km race at the Olympics. To assure his victory, he needed to build a tremendous lead during the ski-jumping portion of the combined.
In 1980 at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, Wehling defeated his countryman Uwe Dotzauer to
earn the gold medal in the Nordic Combined with 432.200 points. Said to perform his best under stress, he accomplished this feat despite surgery on his shoulder and hamstring. Wehling became the first male competitor, who was not a figure skater, to win three consecutive gold medals in the same individual Winter Olympic event.
Move to Switzerland
Wehling retired from competition immediately following his third Olympic victory in Lake Placid. He became a member of the skiing association in East Germany in Berlin, a member of the National Olympic Committee in Germany, and held the post of president of the GDR ski federation.
Although he had been working in Berlin, he moved to Seftigen, Switzerland where, for the past ten years, he has been racing director of the International Skiing Federation (FIS), responsible for the Nordic Combined event. He said he does not plan to return to Berlin, and annually renews his permit to live in Switzerland.
In 2002, Ulrich Wehling was named to Bud Greenspan's list of the 25 Greatest Winter Olympians. Wehling is married and has two daughters.
In a 2002 interview to commemorate Wehling's 50th birthday, Ulrich Wehling spoke with Peter Stracke about his achievements in sport. On his 1972 visit to the Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan, Wehling said he was a "nobody. I just was the last one who luckily qualified for the Olympic team, and nobody was expecting anything from me." He admitted, "I wasn't very good in training, but I always was a fighter. You can lose despite fighting. And you can lose because you resign. For me, success in sport always was a question of attitude."
Wehling noted that today, media interest and attendance for Nordic Combined events are growing, and world cup events have been popular. He plans to continue extending his permit to live in Switzerland, and does not plan to return home to Berlin, where he had a successful career as an operative of the skiing association in the German Democratic Republic.
|1952||Born July 8, in East Germany|
|1961||Becomes a member of SC Traktor Oberwiesenthal|
|1972||Participates in Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, wins Nordic Combined gold medal|
|1974||Wins Nordic Combined world championship|
|1976||Participates in Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, wins Nordic Combined gold medal|
|1980||Participates in Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, wins Nordic Combined gold medal|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1972||Nordic Combined gold medal, Winter Olympics, Sapporo, Japan|
|1974||Nordic Combined world championship|
|1976||Nordic Combined gold medal, Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria|
|1980||Nordic Combined gold medal, Winter Olympics, Lake Placid, New York|
Although his career was short, Ulrich Wehling earned his place in the history books as the first Winter Olympian to win three successive gold medals in the Nordic Combined skiing event.
Chronicle of the Olympics. New York: DK Publishing, 1998.
Fact Monster. http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0758118.html (November 15, 2002).
Nordic Combined Web Site. http://www.nordiccombined.net/information/Meldungen/wehling.shtml (November 15, 2002).
Sketch by Lorraine Savage