B. 1936-09-19, Astoria, NY, USA
Track and Field (4 gold)
Probably the supreme Olympic competitor, because he won four successive gold
medals, despite never being the sole favourite or the undisputed world number
He was American high-school discus record holder in 1954 and two years later surprised many, at only twenty, by winning his first Olympic title with a record throw of 56.36m. In spite of all the pressure he again had a personal record, this time of 59.18m in taking his second gold medal at Rome. For his third Olympics, at Tokyo, he was seriously handicapped by torn cartilages in his lower rib cage. He came out for the final with his ribs heavily taped and his right side packed in ice to prevent internal haemorrhage. Yet he still won. Four years later, at Mexico City, the rain swamped the throwing circle but Oerter, now thirty-two, adjusted his technique by leaving out preliminary swings and had the best three throws of his whole career, including a winning 64.78m. Four times the world-record holder in the discus, Oerter strongly condemned the use of illegal anabolic steroids, saying 'The Olympics are unique. There is no job, no amount of power, no money to approach the meaning of the Olympic experience.'
In 1980, Oerter, then 44, threw 69.46m (his personal best), but the boycott prevented him from trying for a fifth gold medal.
And yet, he had come to the discus by accident. While he was sprinting, a discus fell near him, so he threw it back. Further than it had come.
last modified 2002-10-29
This page is part of the site "Full Olympians" by Herman De Wael. See here for a full Introduction.