Austria’s Olympic Champion Josef Feistmantl passes away

Josef Feistmantl

Innsbruck (RWH) Josef Feistmantl has passed away. In 1964, the athlete won Austria’s first ever Olympic gold medal in the luge with his doubles partner Manfred Stengl, who died in a fatal accident in 1992. Feistmantl, who also won a men’s singles gold in the 1969 World Championships, died shortly after his 80th birthday, as announced in a press release by the Austrian Luge Federation (ÖRV) from Innsbruck. Together with the Alpine skier Christa Haas, Feistmantl – a trained optician – lit the Olympic flame at the opening event to the 1976 Winter Olympic Games. 

A key factor in the decision to award the Tirol-based athlete this honour was his wonderful gesture of fair play. When Feistmantl won gold at the International Luge Federation’s (FIL) World Championships, his victory was overshadowed by the tragic death of Polish Champion Stanislaw Paczka in an accident. On the spur of the moment, Feistmantl decided to donate his win to the Polish team following the medal ceremony. This gesture is said to have contributed to his legendary status in the sport. Later the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded him the fair play prize, together with legends like Vera Caslavska, Chris Evert, Ken Rosewall, Maria Walliser und Pirmin Zurbriggen. Feistmantl – who owned a chain of opticians – was one of the first luge athletes to be adopted into the FIL’s Hall of Fame.

After bringing his active career in the sport to an end, Feistmantl remained dedicated to luge in a number of roles, including head coach of the Austrian team.