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Al Oerter Biography

First Olympic Success, Sets World Records, Chronology, Pain And Triumph, The Later Years


American discus thrower

One of the great figures in Olympic track and field history, Al Oerter was the first athlete to win gold medals in four consecutive Olympic competitions. Between 1956 and 1968, Oerter dominated the discus event at the Olympics, and he continued to maintain his high level of competition into the 1980s—as he approached his fiftieth birthday and long after he had been inducted into various halls of fame.

Alfred Oerter was born in Astoria, New York (a neighborhood in the borough of Queens) on August 19, 1936. His discus career had an almost mythical beginning: while running on his high school track (Oerter began his high school track and field career as a miler), an errant discus, which weighs two kilograms or nearly four and-a-half pounds, fell at his feet. When Oerter threw it back his toss went so far that the coach immediately talked him into competing as a discus thrower. In those days before video, or even readily available film of competitions, Oerter refined his technique in perhaps the most unusual way of all: he studied a flip book of a discus thrower. In 1954 Oerter set the U.S. high school record for the discus. Oerter's career blossomed at the University of Kansas under legendary track and field coach Bill Easton. Easton guided Oerter in his early amateur career that included making the United States Olympic team in 1956.

Al Oerter

Sketch by F. Caso

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