Gritty champ and a versatile man!

Gritty champ and a versatile man!

After throwing a stray discus out of his view for it had landed on his feet, Al Oerter’s life would never be the same again.

The American, born on September 19, 1936, was a natural in every sense of the word but he backed it up with relentless practice and became one of the finest discus throwers the world has ever seen.

How else could he have become the first track and field athlete to claim a gold medal in the same individual event in four consecutive Olympics?

At 6’4’’ and 127 kgs, Oerter was a large man, and better yet, he put those dimensions to very good use. Even though he was far from being the favourite at the Melbourne Games in 1956, a 56.36M career-best fling from the barrel-chested University of Kansas alumni fetched him his first gold.

Oerter’s life and his Olympic dream might have ended brusquely as a year after his first gold medal the American met with a life-threatening accident. Undeterred, Oeter bounced back into shape and defended his title in the 1960 Olympics in Rome (59.18M) even if it did feature his team-mate and then world-record holder Richard ‘Rink’ Aldrich Babka.

The pain he endured made him only a stronger athlete, resulting in gold medals in Tokyo (1964) and Mexico City (1968). Oerter passed away in October 1, 2007, but he had left his glowing footprints as an abstract artist, founder of Al Oerter Recreation Centre and as a great champion.

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