With 34 national titles and four medals across three Olympic Games, Klaus Köste established himself as one of the all-time greats of German gymnastics.
Born Feb. 27, 1943, in Frankfurt (Oder), near the border of Poland in what was East Germany at the time, Köste was destined for the sport. His parents were both gymnasts, and thus erected a high bar in their yard. Klaus began the sport at age 6, and learned the basics from his father, Gerhard Köste, and Heinrich Binsdorf.
His idol was the great Viktor Chukarin of Ukraine, the all-around Olympic champion in 1952 and '56 with the Soviet Union. After meeting Klaus in Frankfurt (oder), Chukarin gave him a bit of advice: "I believe that you can be an Olympic champion too, if you always work hard."
When he was 15, Klaus moved to Leipzig to train at the top facility in the German Democratic Republic at the time. Jochen Nonnast became his most influential coach and father figure. Known for his elegance and innovation, Köste won bronze medals with the GDR in three successive Olympics: 1964, '68 and '72. In his final games, in Munich, he won his first Olympic gold medal, on vault. Ironically, Chukarin was the first to congratulate him.
A strong all-around gymnast, Köste excelled on horizontal bar, where he dismounted with a unique, toe-on front somersault. On that event, he won the European title in 1971 and '73, and the bronze at the 1970 World Championships.
When an injury to his Achilles' tendon ended his competitive career in 1974, Köste began teaching and coaching. He was the GDR women's team coach from 1974-76, and chief trainer of SC Leipzig from 1976-85.
Köste passed away from heart failure on Dec. 14, 2012, but his gymnastics legacy lives on in Germany.