Dominating in the Discus: 4-Time Champion Al Oerter

From Melbourne in 1956 to Mexico City in 1968, Al Oerter was one of the most dominant performers in any sport, winning gold and breaking Olympic records in four successive Summer Games. In 1964, he had to overcome tremendous pain to win. As he was once quoted as saying, “I slipped one day in the wet weather, and I tore a fairly good portion of my rib cage. Given any other environment, I would have stopped. I don’t what it was. But I can remember saying ‘These are the Olympic Games and you’d die for them.’ I really felt that at that moment. I was there and I was going to do my best.”

Australian, Warwick Selvey also competed in the discus throw and shot put in Rome in 1960, as well as in the discus in Tokyo in 1964. Selvey told me that by studying a slow motion series of 20 or so frames of a single throw by Oerter, Selvey was able to reproduce his technique, with the help of his coach Alan Barlow in Melbourne.Warwick Selvey

“Al crouched close to the ground, lower than most men, so the drive through his legs was greater than others, creating a longer arm pull on the discus,” explained Selvey, who won 18 Australian Championships in athletic events. “When he did his turns in the discus ring, he transferred his weight from his left leg at the rear of the ring to the right leg in the middle of the ring solidly, stepping, not jumping.”

“If you look at any other thrower, you’ll notice how huge and fast their jump across the ring is, which makes for a jerky delivery compared to Al. This technique gave Al better balance for the drive at the front of the ring. Al is a beautifully proportioned athlete, capable of great speed for a big man, and deceptively powerful.”

By the way, Al Oerter was born in my hometown of Queens, New York. Warwick Selvey currently resides in my second home of Bangkok, Thailand.