Rest in Peace – Paul Nihill and Bernhard Kannenberg, two of our greatest athletes

Firstly Paul Nihill’s funeral is to take place on Wednesday, January 21 at 1.15 pm.

Zurich, 2 mai 1971, arrivée de Paul Nihill (20km marche), photo Dominique GUEBEY

In normal times I have no doubt there would have been an incredible turnout from the race walking community. As it is the ceremony will be available as a live Webcast on Obitus.


USERNAME: Sava6799

PASSWORD: 555039

Once the service has finished, it will take up to 3 working days to get the 28-day Watch Again onto the website.

In addition the family has created a Justgiving page where donations in memory of Paul can be made to the charity, SportsAid.

Secondly it grieves me to report the death of yet another giant of our sport, Bernhard ‘Bernd’ Kannenberg of West Germany, the 1972 Olympic 50 kilometres gold medallist. In his day he was widely regarded as one of the great technicians. Sadly he was unable to defend his title in 1976 as the event was dropped from the programme. He gained silver in the 1974 European 20 kilometres championships a bare few seconds behind the legendary Vladimir Golubnichy with our own Roger Mills bravely taking the bronze on a heat-sapping day.

Ta to olympedia.otg

Sincere thanks are due to Peter Matthews of Athletics International for the following statistical information.

Bernhard ‘Bernd’ KANNENBERG (Germany) (b. 20 Aug 1942 Königsberg) died on January 13 at Münster, aged 78. Olympic champion at 50k walk in 1972 (dnf 20k), he was also dnf 20k in 1976. At the Europeans he was 9th at 20k in 1991, 2nd at 20k and 9th at 50k in 1974 and also won the Lugano Trophy 50k in 1973 with 2nd at 20k in 1975, and was FRG champion at 20k in 1972 and 1974-5 and at 50k 1972-3 and 1975. He set six world records: track 20,000m 1:24:45.0, 30,000m 2:12:58.0 and 2 hours 27,153m in 1974, and 30M 3:48:23.4 and 50,000m 3:56:51.4 in 1975; road 3:52:45 in 1972. Further FRG records included 5000m 20:51.0 and 10,000m 41:36.2 in 1972, 1 hour 13,635m & 14,241m in 1974, and 20M 2:30:37.4 in 1975. 26 internationals 1970-6. He became the German walks team coach.

On a personal note I was actually competing in the 20 kilometres track race in Hamburg on May 25, 1974 when Bernd set his world record of 84:45.0. I can speak first hand about that unbelievable performance of relaxed sustained power. He did lap me a number of times! In truth I don’t think I ever recovered from the shock. However it was a humbling privilege to be in Bernd’s presence on that evening.

  1. Bernd Kannenberg WG 84:45.0 [World Record]
  2. Heinz Mayr WG 90:59.4
  3. Roger Mills GB 91:24.2
  4. Olly Flynn GB 92:15.8
  5. Peter Marlow 92:28.8
  6. Tony Taylor GB 94:21.2
  7. Manfred Kolvenbach WG 94:21.4
  8. Siegfried Richter DQ

For the record there was also another record on that evening. Gerhard Weidner broke the 20 miles World Record clocking 2:30:38.6.

  1. Gerhard Weidner WG 2:30:38.6 [World Record]
  2. Heinrich Schubert WG 2:33:33.8
  3. John Warhurst GB 2:34:25.4
  4. Roy Thorpe GB 2:35:44.0
  5. Amos Seddon GB 2:37:35.4
  6. Mike Holmes GB 2:42:01.4
  7. Leo Frey WG 2:44;45.6
  8. Hans Michalski WG 2:47:33.0

Despite Germany’s two world records Great Britain won the match 18 points to 26. Hence I had the consolation of being on the winning team.

However the abiding impression of that balmy May night was Bernd in full flow, utterly majestic.

Thanks to RTL.DE

Bernhard Kannenberg RIP

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1 Response to Rest in Peace – Paul Nihill and Bernhard Kannenberg, two of our greatest athletes

  1. William SUTHERLAND says:

    Two of the greatest race walkers in ‘true race walking style’. My memories of Helsinki 1971 were of the leading two east german’s running through the tunnel onto the track at the finish (P. N’s description after race) and the Russian National anthem so frequently played as we finished! In the 50 kms Walk the mystery of the additional medical tent at the start for the Eastern block athletes with injections being given tarnished the event big time! Well done the GB team who were up against it in those days!

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