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Al Oerter

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Title: Al Oerter  
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Subject: Mac Wilkins, Ludvík Daněk, Martin Sheridan, Gary Carlsen, Jay Silvester
Collection: 1936 Births, 2007 Deaths, American Discus Throwers, American Male Track and Field Athletes, American Sportspeople in Doping Cases, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1956 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1959 Pan American Games, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1960 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1964 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1968 Summer Olympics, Cardiovascular Disease Deaths in Florida, Deaths from Heart Failure, Delta Tau Delta Members, Doping Cases in Athletics, Former World Record Holders in Athletics (Track and Field), International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame Inductees, Male Discus Throwers, Masters Athletes, Olympic Gold Medalists for the United States, Olympic Medalists in Athletics (Track and Field), Olympic Track and Field Athletes of the United States, Pan American Games Competitors for the United States, People from Astoria, Queens, People from Floral Park, New York, People from New Hyde Park, New York, Sportspeople from New York City, University of Kansas Alumni, World Record Holders in Masters Athletics
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Al Oerter

Al Oerter
Oerter holding a discus
Oerter at the Rome 1960 Olympics
Personal information
Full name Alfred Adolph Oerter, Jr.[1]
Citizenship United States
Born (1936-09-19)September 19, 1936[1]
Astoria, New York, United States[1]
Died October 1, 2007(2007-10-01) (aged 71)[1]
Fort Myers, Florida, United States[1]
Height 6 ft 3+1/2 in[1]
Weight 276 lb (125 kg)[1]
Country United States
Sport Discus
Updated on 12 June 2015.

Alfred Oerter, Jr. (September 19, 1936 – October 1, 2007) was an American athlete, and a four-time Olympic Champion in the discus throw. He was the first athlete to win a gold medal in the same individual event in four consecutive Olympics. Oerter is an inductee of the IAAF Hall of Fame.


  • Olympic athlete 1
  • Later life and death 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Olympic athlete

Born in Astoria, Queens, New York City, Al Oerter grew up in New Hyde Park and attended Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park. He began his career at the age of 15 when a discus landed at his feet and he threw it back past the crowd of throwers. Oerter continued throwing and eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Kansas in 1954 where he became a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. A large man at 6'4" (193 cm) and 280 pounds (127 kg), Oerter was a natural thrower. Competing for Kansas, in 1957 he became the NCAA discus champion; in 1958 he successfully defended his title.

Oerter began his Olympic career at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. He was not considered the favorite but he felt a rush during the competition and he unleashed a throw of 184 feet 22 inches (56.64 m)—which, at the time, was a career best. The throw was good enough to win the competition by more than 5 inches (130 mm).

It seemed Oerter's career would be over at the age of 20, when in 1957, an automobile accident nearly killed him. He recovered in time to compete at the 1960 Summer Olympics at Rome, where he was the slight favorite over teammate and world record holder Rink Babka.

Babka was in the lead for the first four of the six rounds. He gave Oerter advice before his fifth throw; Oerter threw his discus 194 feet 2 inches (59.18 m), setting an Olympic record. Babka was not able to beat Oerter's throw and finished with silver.

During the early 1960s, Oerter continued to have success, setting his first world record in 1962. In the process, he was the first to break 200 feet in the discus. He was considered a heavy favorite to win a third gold medal at Tokyo in 1964.

Injuries again seemed to have felled Oerter before the Games. He was bothered by a neck injury then he tore cartilage in his ribs shortly before the competition. Competing in great pain, Oerter set a new Olympic standard and won a third Olympic gold medal despite not being able to take his last throw due to the pain from his ribs. As before, he bettered his own record with a throw of 61 metres (200 ft).

Oerter returned to the Olympics in 1968 at Mexico City but he had yielded the position of favorite to teammate Jay Silvester. Many felt that Oerter, at 32, was finished since Oerter had never thrown as far as Silvester did on his average throws. At the Olympics, however, Oerter released another Olympic record throw of 64.78 metres (212.5 ft) on his third throw. His record held and he became the first track and field athlete to win four consecutive gold medals.

Oerter retired from athletics after the 1968 Olympics. Later eyeing a comeback, in 1976 he took anabolic steroids under medical supervision in order to put on muscle mass. However, he stopped the course as this affected his blood pressure and failed to give much improvement on the field. After this he advised athletes to avoid such drugs and focus on training and technique instead. He was critical of the increase of drug use and the subsequent testing in track and field, stating that it had destroyed the culture of athlete camaraderie and that the banning of athletes such as Ben Plucknett was merely scapegoating by international officials.[2][3]

Oerter did make an attempt to qualify for the American team in 1980 but he finished fourth. He nonetheless set his overall personal record of 69.46 metres (227.9 ft) that year at the age of 43. When filming for a TV segment, he unofficially threw about 245 feet (75 m), which would have set a still-standing world record. In later years, Oerter carried the Olympic flag for the 1984 Summer Olympics, then carried Olympic flame into the stadium for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Later life and death

As a child, Oerter had frequently traveled to his grandparents' home in Manhattan and admired their art collection. As a retired athlete, Oerter became an abstract Bob Beamon, Roald Bradstock, Cameron Myler, and Shane Gould. The exhibit travelled to New York City and will find a permanent home in a waterfront gallery in Fort Myers, Florida. Before his death, Oerter was close to obtaining the rights to use the Olympic rings on the gallery building. It would have been one of the few buildings in the world allowed to do so.

Oerter had struggled with high blood pressure his entire life, and in the 2000s, he became terminally ill with cardiovascular disease. On March 13, 2003, Oerter was briefly clinically dead; a change of blood pressure medications caused a fluid build-up around his heart.

In 2005, Oerter was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.

As Oerter's condition progressed, he was advised by cardiologists he would require a heart transplant. Oerter dismissed the suggestion. "I've had an interesting life," he said, "and I'm going out with what I have."[4] Oerter died on October 1, 2007, of heart failure in Fort Myers, Florida[5] at the age of 71.

On March 7, 2009, Al Oerter Recreation Center, operated by New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, opened officially along Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Flushing, Queens.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Al Oerter". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Holmstrom, David (1990-04-02). Al Oerter Breaks the Age Barrier With Every Toss . Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved on 2015-01-15.
  3. ^ BANNING OF PLUCKNETT CALLED UNFAIR BY PEERS. New York Times (1981-07-29). Retrieved on 2015-01-15.
  4. ^ Sports Illustrated, July 2–9, 2007, p. 120.
  5. ^ "Olympic discus great Al Oerter dies at 71". Retrieved 2013-10-23. 

External links

  • Official website
  • "Al Oerter".  
  • , 3 October 2007The TimesObituary,
  • , 4 October 2007The IndependentObituary,
  • Masters T&F Discus Throw All-Time Rankings
Preceded by
Jay Silvester
Vladimir Trusenyev
Men's Discus World Record Holder
May 18 – June 4, 1962
July 1 – August 2, 1964
Succeeded by
Vladimir Trusenyev
Ludvík Daněk
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