West German Willi Holdorf had one of the shortest careers in the post-60 era. Coached by Bert Sumser Holdorf made the top-ten world ranking at age 21 in 1961. He moved to eighth in 1962, to third in 1963, and to the top spot a year later.
His career lists a dozen meets from 1959 to 1964, when he retired at 23 to try his hand at bobsledding. In 1962 Holdorf placed fifth at the European championships in Belgrade. A year later, in Hannover, he topped 8000 (on the 1952 tables). With the IAAF scoring-table change due for 1964, he became a favorite for the Tokyo Olympics. The new scoring tables (approved in 1962 and put into effect in late spring of 1964) emphasized speed and reduced the influence of the fiberglass vaulting pole. While others, including world-record holder Yang Chuan-kwang, lost many points, Holdorf lost little to the new tables.
Holdorf had excellent speed (10,5, and never slower than 11,2 in his decathlon career), even making the 100m final at the 1964 West German championships. His Tokyo battle with Estonian Rein Aun was one of the closest in Olympic history. The West German literally ran himself off his feet in the final event and was still dazed during the awards ceremony.