Barbel Wockel was one of the key cogs of the East German machine that dominated women’s sprinting during the 1970s and early 1980s.
A powerful yet graceful runner, Wockel had claimed the 200m gold medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal at the age of 21 running under her maiden name of Eckert.
There she had fended off a variety of Eastern Bloc opposition, and the boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games by the United States only increased her chances of success four years later.
Barbel Wockel and team-mates Marita Koch, Marlies Gohr and Renate Stecher rewrote the record books during the late 1970s, pushing women’s record marks to heights never seen before.
World record holder Koch was the fastest in the world over 200m when the Moscow Games arrived but opted to compete over 400m instead.
Wockel ran the perfect tactical series of races, doing the bare minimum to qualify in the early rounds and keeping her powder dry for the competitive battles ahead.
It was clear that Wockel was keeping as much as she could in the tank when she finished a relaxed second behind graceful Jamaican Merlene Ottey in the semi-finals.
Wockel, Ottey and Russian Natalya Bochina, who had clocked a scintillating 22.26secs in her opening heat, were the favourites as the athletes lined up in Moscow’s Grand Arena.
As the athletes exploded out of the blocks, Wockel ran a superb bend and entered the home straight with a two-yard lead over Bochina. She powered to the line, not yielding an inch to the Russian, and clocked a winning time of 22.03 seconds, an Olympic record.
Wockel teamed up with Romy Muller, Ingrid Auerswald and Marlies Gohr to retain the 4x100m relay gold for East Germany and bring Wockel’s personal Olympic gold medal tally to four.