Kansas and U.S. Track and Field Legend Al Oerter Passes Away
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kansas Athletics has learned that former KU and U.S. track and field legend and four-time Olympic gold medalist, Al Oerter, passed away on Monday at the age of 71.
Oerter was one of the premier performers among the illustrious history of Jayhawk track and field. Representing the United States, he remains the only man to win the gold medal in the discus in four consecutive Olympics (1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968) – setting a new Olympic record on each occasion. To this day, only Oerter and Carl Lewis have won the same Olympic event in four consecutive Olympiads. In 1980, Oerter once again broke his own record with a throw of 227-10 1/2 feet – at the age of 43.
As a Jayhawk, Oerter set four world records in becoming the first person to throw a discus over 200 feet. Before his career at Kansas ended in 1958, Oerter was a two-time NCAA Champion in the discus, a two-time All-American and a seven-time conference champion. As a team, Kansas won every indoor and outdoor track and field conference championship in each of Oerter’s four years at KU.
The Hyde Park, N.Y., native was residing in Fort Myers, Fla., at the time of his passing. His wife, Cathy, said Oerter had suffered from heart problems and high blood pressure.
“We are deeply saddened by this news,” Kansas Director of Athletics Lew Perkins said. “Al Oerter represented the University of Kansas and the United States with great class. He was one of the greatest athletes to participate on the collegiate and international levels. The world of athletics has lost a true champion. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
“This is certainly a big loss for the track and field community and a big loss for KU,” Kansas head track and field coach Stanley Redwine said. “The only thing we can really do now is to mourn for his family.”
“We benefited from Al’s achievements in many wonderful ways. He dominated,” said former Kansas track and field coach Bob Timmons who guided KU to four national championships during the post-Oerter era.