Those who knew him best would say he was a humble man with a passion for sport and a drive like no other. Although never favored to win at the Olympics, Oerter’s tenacity and pursuit of personal excellence won him many honors and accolades celebrating both his achievements and character.
It was this drive to uphold life’s simple values‐ friendship, respect, fair play – as learned through his Olympic journey that has provided the foundation for a modern day arena, Art of the Olympians, where individuals are encouraged to discover self‐confidence and to strive for excellence in all avenues of life.
Al Oerter was a successful athlete, businessman, and artist. Considered by many to be the greatest modern Olympic competitor, Oerter was the first athlete to win four gold medals (1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968) at four successive Olympiads and the first athlete to set four consecutive Olympic records.
Despite the fact that the discus thrower was never favored to win, at age 20, with less than five years of throwing under his belt, Oerter set an Olympic record, won his first gold medal and became the youngest ever Olympic champion of the event. Through his athletic career, Oerter would overcome adversity, accident and health issues to win three more gold medals. He retired from sport after the 1968 Games.
Off the field, Oerter had a strong passion for arts and a strong business sense. He worked in data processing management for almost 30 years. Additionally, Oerter enjoyed a career in promotions and was a successful motivational speaker. He shared an understanding of what it takes to be at your best and reaching for excellence through goals; overcoming barriers; the value of competition; healthy work ethics and a balance in art, sport and education. These values would later lead him to create Art of the Olympians.
In 1976, at age 40, Oerter resumed sports training and recorded his lifetime best results between ages 43 and 47. In September of ’82, at age 45, while filming for ESPN’s “Future Sports”, Oerter threw the discus beyond 240’. In a competition this would have been a world record. During his athletic career, Oerter set six National Championships and four World Records. Many honors and accolades celebrated Oerter’s achievements and character. He is a member of nineteen Halls of Fame including Charter membership in the US Olympic Hall of Fame. Additionally, Oerter was honored as the first athlete recipient of ‘The Olympic Order’ the highest award issued by the International Olympic Committee.