2 minute read

Al Oerter

Sets World Records

Oerter was just hitting his stride. In the years between the Melbourne Olympics and the 1960 Olympics in Rome he captured the U.S. national championship for discus three times: 1957, 1959, and 1960. In 1959 Oerter also won the gold medal in the Pan-American Games.

Although he again wasn't necessarily the favorite, nor the world record holder (Poland's Edmund Piatkowski had set the new mark of 59.91 meters in 1959), Oerter easily defended his gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics with a winning throw of 59.18 meters (194 feet, 11/2 inches) as the United States once again swept the discus competition: Richard Babka won the silver medal and Dick Cochran the bronze.

Having established his Olympic credentials once and for all, Oerter dominated the sport of discus throwing on the international scene over the next four years. In a flurry of amazing competitiveness, beginning with a meet in Los Angeles in May 1962, Oerter accomplished the one goal in his sport that had eluded him—he set the world record with a throw of 61.10 meters (200 feet, 51/2 inches); Oerter was the first person to throw the discus 200 feet. Oerter's record was short-lived. Two and a half weeks later Vladimir Trusenyov set the new standard (61.64 meters) in a meet in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia. Oerter recaptured the world record with a throw of 62.44 meters in July 1962 in Chicago. In April 1963 he bettered his mark with a throw of 62.62 meters (205 feet, 51/2 inches). Almost exactly a year later, in April 1964, he set the mark again with a throw of 62.94 meters (206 feet, 6 inches). However, by the time the 1964 Olympics came around Oerter's record had been shattered by Ludvik Danek of Czechoslovakia, who, in a meet in August 1964, threw the discus 64.55 meters.

Chronology

1936 Born in Astoria, New York City
1954 Enters University of Kansas
1956 Wins first Olympic gold medal in Melbourne
1957, 1959-60, 1962, 1964, 1966 U.S. National Champion
1959 Pan-American champion
1960 Wins second Olympic gold medal in Rome
1962 Breaks U.S. record three times; world record twice
1963-64 Breaks U.S. and world records
1964 Wins third Olympic gold medal in Tokyo
1968 Wins fourth Olympic gold medal in Mexico City, retires
1974 Inducted into USA Track & Field Hall of Fame
1976 Comes out of retirement to train for 1980 Olympics
1976 Personal best discus toss: 227 feet, 103/4 inches
1980 Finishes fourth in Olympic trials for three-man team; US boycotts the Moscow Olympics
1983 Inducted into Olympic Hall of Fame

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsOther SportsAl Oerter Biography - First Olympic Success, Sets World Records, Chronology, Pain And Triumph, The Later Years