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Naim Suleymanoglu - Related Biography: Discus Thrower Al Oerter

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Related Biography: Discus Thrower Al Oerter

American discus thrower Al Oerter is one of only three people ever to win gold medals in four different Olympic Games. He won gold in the discus in 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968.

Born in Astoria, New York, Oerter was a champion in high school; he set a national prep record of 184 feet, 2 inches. At the University of Kansas, he set an NCAA record. As a college sophomore, he went to the 1956 Olympics. Although he was ranked sixth in the world, he was not expected to win. He set a personal best and an Olympic record, and won gold. In 1960, after receiving advice from teammate Richard Babka, he threw a winning distance, winning gold, and Babka took the silver.

On May 18, 1962, Oerter set a world record by hurling the discus 200 feet five inches. He was the first person to throw it over 200 feet, and he soon bettered his record with a throw of 204-10. He would continue to beat his own record, eventually throwing 212-6.

In 1964 he battled a rib injury but still set an Olympic record of 200 1/2, winning a third gold medal. He won his fourth gold at the 1968 Olympics, despite more injuries, with an Olympic record throw of 121-6.

Oerter retired from competition in 1969, but in 1980 was still good enough to qualify as an alternate on the Olympic team. But because the United States boycotted the Olympics that year, he was unable to compete, and missed his chance for a fifth gold medal.

In the Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Oerter explained why he liked the discus: "I like the beauty, the grace, and the movement. I can feel myself through the throw and can feel the discus in flight." Oerter is a member of the U.S Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Olympic Hall of Fame.

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