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Al Oerter
   United States  
19 Sep 1936  - 01 Oct 2007   192 cm 125 kg

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Al Oerter Discus Throw
Al Oerter Discus Throw

Discus Throw All-Time Rankings
  (with Al Oerter)

Alfred Adolf Oerter, Jr.
was an American athlete, four times Olympic Champion in the discus throw. In 2005, he was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.

Born in Astoria, Queens, New York City, Al Oerter grew up in New Hyde Park and attended Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park. He began his career at the age of 15 when a discus landed at his feet and he threw it back past the crowd of throwers. Oerter began throwing and eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Kansas in 1954 where he became a member of Delta Tau Delta Fraternity. A large man at 6'4" (193 cm) and 280 pounds (127 kg), Oerter was a natural thrower.

Oerter began his Olympic career at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. He was not considered the favorite but he felt a rush during the competition and he unleashed a throw of 184'11" (56.36 meters) -- at the time, a career best. The throw was good enough to win the competition by more than 5'.

It appeared Oerter's career would be over at the age of 20, however. In 1957, an automobile accident nearly killed him. He did recover in time to compete at the 1960 Summer Olympics at Rome. Oerter was the slight favorite over teammate and world record holder Rink Babka.

Babka was in the lead for the first four of the six rounds. He gave Oerter advice before his fifth throw and Oerter threw his discus 194'2" (59.18 m), setting an Olympic record. Babka was not able to beat Oerter's throw and finished with the silver.

During the early 1960s, Oerter continued to have success. He set his first world record in 1962. In the process, he was the first to break 200 feet in the discus. He was considered a heavy favorite to win a third gold medal at Tokyo in 1964.

Injury seemed to have felled Oerter before the Games. He was bothered by a neck injury then he tore cartilage in his ribs shortly before the competition. Competing in great pain, Oerter set a new Olympic standard and won a third Olympic gold medal despite not being able to take his last throw due to the pain from his ribs. As before, he bettered his own record with a throw of 61.00 meters.

Oerter returned to the Olympics in 1968 at Mexico City but he had yielded the position of favorite to teammate Jay SilvesterArt of the Olympians, which has collected the work of 14 Games veterans, including Bob Beamon, Cammy Myler, and Shane Gould.The exhibit travelled to New York City and will find a permanent home in a waterfront gallery in Fort Myers, Florida. Before his death, Oerter was close to obtaining the rights to use the Olympic rings on the gallery building. It would have been one of the few buildings in the world allowed to do so.

Oerter had struggled with high blood pressure his entire life, and in the 2000s, Oerter became terminally ill with cardiovascular disease. On March 13, 2003, Oerter was briefly clinically dead; a change of blood pressure medications caused a fluid build-up around his heart.

As Oerter's condition progressed, he was advised by cardiologists he would require a heart transplant. Oerter dismissed the suggestion. "I've had an interesting life," he said, "and I'm going out with what I have." Oerter died on October 1, 2007 of heart failure in Fort Myers, Florida.