Gert Potgieter

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games • Non-starter
Full nameGerhardus Cornelius "Gert"•Potgieter
Used nameGert•Potgieter
Born16 April 1937 in Pietermaritzburg (RSA)
Measurements186 cm / 80 kg
NOC South Africa


Although one of the world’s top hurdlers throughout his brief career Gert Potgieter is also remembered as an athlete whose attempts to win an Olympic title were thwarted by ill luck.

Potgieter emerged as a major talent in 1956 and reached the Olympic final whilst still a junior. In contention for the medals coming down the final straight he mistimed his leap at the final hurdle, lost momentum and slipped back to sixth. In the next four years he continued his improvement and, in addition to winning 440 y hurdles and relay gold medals at the 1958 British Empire Games. set three world records at 440 y hurdles.

A potential meeting between Potgieter and a trio of high class Americans led by Glenn Davis shaped up to be one of the highlights of the 1960 Olympic track and field programme but it was never to take place. A few weeks before the Games began Potgieter was involved in a serious car crash whilst in Germany. He lost the use of an eye in the accident and the vision in the other was also damaged. On the day of the 400 m hurdles final he was still recuperating in a Heidelberg hospital. He recovered well enough to compete in the decathlon and won the 1966 South African title in the event but even if he could have resumed his career at the highest level South Africa had by then been barred from the Olympic Games.

Although from the Afrikaner heartland of Pietermaritzburg Potgieter became involved in attempts to desegregate sport in his country and in 1988 helped to found the South African Olympic Academy, a fully non-racial body. In 1995 he founded an organization called Altus Sport, devoted to “spreading knowledge in the true spirit of sport” throughout Africa., Potgieter was voted South Africa’s Athlete of the 20th Century and married German Olympic long jumper Renate Junker.

Personal Best: 400H – 49.0y (1960).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1956 Summer Olympics Athletics RSA Gert Potgieter
400 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) 6
1960 Summer Olympics Athletics RSA Gert Potgieter
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) South Africa DNS

Olympic family relations

Special Notes