Wolfgang Schmidt (born 16 January 1954) is a former German track and field athlete, who competed for East Germany at the 1976 Summer Olympics and won the silver medal in the discus throw. A former world record holder, he also won several medals at the European Championships in Athletics. Schmidt made headlines in 1982 due to his failed attempt to escape from East Germany. He later competed for the Federal Republic of Germany and won third place in the 1990 European Championships in Athletics. Born in Berlin, he competed for the SC Dynamo Berlin/ Sportvereinigung (SV) Dynamo.
- 1973: European Junior Championships: 1st place in discus (61.30)
- 1974: European Championships: 8th place in discus (59.56)
- 1976: Olympic Games: 2nd place in discus (63.68 - foul - 65.16 - foul - 63.96 - 66.22)
- 1978: European Championships: 1st place in discus (64.04 - 61.68 - 64.52 - 62.08 - 65.94 - 66.82); 4th place in shot put (19.86 - 19.63 - 19.92 - 19.62 - 20.30 - 19.49)
- 1980: Olympic Games: 4th place in discus (65.64)
- 1990: European Championships: 3rd place in discus (61.28 - 60.84 - foul - 64.08 - 64.10 - foul), competing for West Germany.
- 1991: World Championships: 4th place in discus (64.76)
His personal best throw was 71.16 metres, achieved in August 1978 in Berlin. This ranks him third among German discus throwers, only behind Jürgen Schult and Lars Riedel.
Flight from East Germany
After a disappointing fourth-place finish at the 1980 Olympics and missing the 1981 World Cup in Rome due to a second-place finish in the East German Championships, Wolfgang Schmidt decided to pursue athletic success in the West. He was constantly under surveillance by the Volkspolizei and they uncovered a plan for his escape (aided by discus colleagues Ricky Bruch and Alwin Wagner). In the autumn of 1982, Schmidt was condemned to one and a half years prison. However, one year later it was adjusted and he was ordered to become a coach with SC Dynamo Adlershof, a sports team of the Felix Dzerzhinsky Watch Regiment. Wolfgang Schmidt filed a departure request so that he could continue his athletic career in the West. At the end of 1987, he was allowed to move to West Germany, though it was already too late to be considered for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. After the first track competition between East and West Germany, Jürgen Schult, having won the discus throw, refused to shake hands with Schmidt.
Life after political turmoil
In 1992 Schmidt unseated Jürgen Schult as the German champion in the discus throw. He competed in the qualification meets for the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, but was not considered for the German Olympic team (rival Jürgen Schult was chosen and went on to win the silver medal). Schmidt later moved to San Francisco and became a stockbroker and management consultant.
In East Germany, Schmidt competed for SV Dynamo and trained with Joachim Spenke. He later competed for LG VfB Stuttgart and Stuttgarter Kickers. While competing, he was 1.99 meters tall and weighed 115 kg.