Born: September 19, 1936 (Astoria, New York)
Died: October 1, 2007 (Fort Myers, Florida)
Al Oerter was a young, athletic, phenomenon growing up on the streets of Astoria, Queens, in the 1940’s. Scouted by the Yankees at age 12, a high school quarterback with unparalleled speed and a golden arm, his mother’s illness and death caused him to turn inward into a world of self-reliance. He discovered his salvation in track and field, and when a discus skipped across his path, he found his home. Thus began his lifelong journey of attaining peak performance at four consecutive Olympics despite extreme obstacles and injuries. With humor and unparalleled humility, Al found the balance between family, work and living the Olympic ideal of blending sport with culture and education.
Oerter retired from competition after the ‘68 games and a fourth consecutive gold medal, only to find a new challenge of guiding his teenage daughters as a single parent, while continuing his career as a computer engineer. His journey of attaining personal excellence included an amazing return to competition at age 40, when he began the 1,460 days of training for the 1980 Olympics, and his climb Back to Olympus. He disintegrated previously held notions of the limitations on age and strength levels and opened the door to human development through long term commitment to personal goals. He exceeded all of his previous records at the age of 43, in an attempt at an elusive 5th gold medal.
After nearly losing his life and being told he needed a heart transplant, Al transformed his Olympian intensity into abstract art; at first using a discus, paint and canvas as his tools. Again, he broke barriers in the art world and splintered old notions to create methods that had never before been attempted.
Recognized by most as the world’s greatest Olympian, this is a story of an incredible life well-lived against the backdrop of history. It spans twelve Presidents and follows the changing nature of society, sport and popular culture. Al Oerter was a mighty presence in the lives of hundreds of Olympians and thousands of more common folk around the world. He gave everyone he touched a sense of purpose in life to challenge the norm, ignore limitations, and attack barriers. Al Oerter exhibited what it means to live the Olympic ideal; exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.