Born in Zedtletz, East Germany, Thomas Munkelt was a classic high hurdler who dominated European hurdling in the 1970s and early 1980s. Munkelt was the first athlete to break the 7.50 seconds barrier in the 60m hurdles, when he ran a 7.48 seconds World Record in Budapest in 1983.
Munkelt came into the international athletics scene in 1975 when he won his first of nine East German national championship title and European Cup in 110 m hurdles. Although he finished disappointing fifth at the 1976 Summer Olympics, he won both World Cup and European Cup in 1977. The first international championships medal came, when Munkelt finished first at the 1978 European Championships.