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Al Oerter

Photo of Al Oerter

Inducted: 1974, athlete

Born: August 19, 1936 - Astoria, New York
Deceased: October 1, 2007

Discus Throw - 69.45 m

The greatest competitor ever to compete in the discus, Al Oerter participated in four Olympics, always as the underdog, and always came out the winner. Each time, he set an Olympic record in the event. A native of Astoria, N.Y., Oerter won his first gold medal in 1956 while he was a student at the University of Kansas, upsetting fellow American Fortune Gordien and throwing an Olympic record 184' 11". Four years later, at the Olympic Trials, he suffered his first defeat in more than two years when he lost to Rink Babka of the U.S. At the Rome Olympics, he topped Babka with an Olympic record throw of 194' 2". The drama continued at the 1964 Olympics, where Oerter was an underdog to Ludvik Danek of Czechoslovakia, who had won 45 straight competitions. Suffering from a disc injury and torn cartilage in his lower ribs, Oerter was given little chance. On his fifth throw, after removing his neck harness, Oerter became the first thrower to surpass 200' in winning his third gold medal. He won his fourth gold in 1968, throwing a record 212' 6" and upsetting Danek and world record-holder (and Hall of Famer) Jay Silvester. At Kansas, where he was coached by Hall of Famer Bill Easton, Oerter won two national collegiate titles. He also won six National AAU titles, improved the world discus record four times and was the 1959 Pan-American Games champion. After retiring in 1968, he returned eight years later to challenge for the 1980 and 1984 Olympic teams. Incredibly, in 1980, he achieved his best-ever throw of 227' 10 1/2" at age 43. Oerter was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.

Records Held
Olympic Record: Discus Throw - 56.36 m
Olympic Record: Discus Throw - 59.18 m

1956 Olympics: Discus Throw - 56.36 m (1st)
1960 Olympics: Discus Throw - 59.18 m (1st)
1964 Olympics: Discus Throw (1st)
1968 Olympics: Discus Throw - 64.78 m (1st)
1959 Pan-Am Games: Discus Throw (1st)

undergraduate: Kansas (Lawrence, Kansas), 1958

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