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News20 May 2021

Bechthold, Germany’s ‘Grand Dame of athletics’, dies


Ilse Bechthold (© Getty Images)

World Athletics is deeply saddened to hear that Ilse Bechthold, a leading athletics official and administrator from Germany, died on Monday (17) at the age of 93.

A national-level thrower in her younger years, Bechthold became a board member of the German Athletics Federation (DLV) in 1968 and a member of World Athletics’ Women’s Committee in 1972. In the years that followed, she was made vice president of the DLV and chairperson of the World Athletics Women’s Committee. She also became a member of the IOC’s Women and Sport Commission.

Bechthold was the brainchild behind World Athletics’ ‘Year of Women in Athletics’ in 1998, leading several worldwide clinics and courses as part of the initiative. She earned several honours from World Athletics, including the Veterans Pin in 1984, Plaque of Merit in 2003 and Silver Order of Merit in 2007. She also received the Olympic Order from the IOC in 2016.

A dedicated campaigner, Bechthold was instrumental in paving the way for women to compete in a range of middle and long distance events, as well as the steeplechase, pole vault and hammer.

“In Ilse Bechthold, German and international athletics loses a ‘grand dame of sport’ who did an outstanding job in promoting the role of women, not only in sport,” said DLV President Jürgen Kessing.

“In my view, there are only a few people who have been as committed to athletics throughout their lives as Ilse Bechthold,” added DLV Chairman and Director-General Idriss Gonschinska. “Whenever her health allowed it, she was on site as a spectator at national and international competitions and she always spoke directly, even when criticism was necessary. Her death is a great loss for athletics and makes us sad. All our sympathy goes to her relatives.”

World Athletics