Parry O'Brien in 1955

70 years since O’Brien first flew to a world document | Information | heritage | world athletics

The Fresno State College Band had simply performed The Star Spangled Banner when Parry O’Brien ready to play the night time of the ninth.

The Californian’s psychological powers had been so sturdy that he was capable of channel the sounds of the US nationwide anthem into an incredible effort that noticed him put the primary 18-meter putt in historical past: 18.00m precisely, 59 toes 3/4 inch in imperial scales.

The 21-year-old scholar from the College of Southern California entered the world document books for the primary time, beating the gap of 17.95 m as a three-year-old, set in 1950 by his compatriot Jim Fuchs in Eskilstuna, Sweden.

O’Brien additionally claimed the scalp of certainly one of US athletics’ all-time greats. Bob Mathias was sixth with 15.49 m. The 32-year-old, who lives in Fresno, made Olympic historical past in Helsinki the earlier yr and have become the primary man to retain the decathlon title. He was additionally a three-time world document breaker within the decathlon.

O’Brien was already an Olympic gold medalist himself, having received gold in capturing as a 20-year-old US observe and subject rookie teammate of Mathias within the Finnish capital in 1952 – and a sequence world document breaker.

That 18.00-yard efficiency in Fresno can be the primary of 17 international shot marks in six years by O’Brien. Ten of those had been official world information, six had been unratified, and one was a record-breaking mark. The final was a 19.30m put in Albuquerque in 1959.

Thompson unlocks the potential of The Podge.

William Parry O’Brien was the colossus of shot put. As the primary man to interrupt 60 toes, he remodeled his occasion with the revolutionary approach that bore his identify – the O’Brien Glide – and the holistic psychological and bodily strategy he developed to preparation and competitors .

He competed in 4 consecutive Olympic Video games, profitable gold in 1952 and 1956, silver in 1960 and fourth in 1964. Between July 1952 and June 1956 he was unbeaten in 116 occasions – a document profitable streak till the majestic Edwin Moses glided gracefully from 1977 to 1987 to 122 consecutive victories within the 400 meter hurdles.

Parry O’Brien in 1955 (© AFP/Getty Pictures)

Born in Santa Monica in 1932, O’Brien turned a US soccer prodigy rising up within the Southern California coastal city. His father was an expert minor league baseball participant and tried to steer him into the game, however Parry felt his construct (6ft 3in, seventeenth) was higher suited to soccer.

Nicknamed “The Podge,” he led Santa Monica Excessive Faculty to the 1948 state championship and obtained a soccer scholarship to the College of Southern California. Nonetheless, after he painfully tore muscle groups in his midsection when he was kicked within the abdomen throughout a coaching session throughout his freshman yr at USC, his ardour for soccer started to wane.

O’Brien had already been launched to capturing and discus as a part of common observe follow that spring, and whereas coaching with the faculty observe staff the next yr, he was launched to Wilbur Thompson, the previous USC scholar who received gold within the shot put on the 1948 London Olympics.

Thompson noticed untapped potential and prompted O’Brien to modify his scholarship from soccer to trace and subject.


Worldwide shot put expertise quickly emerged, tamed by a ruthless aggressive intuition and a forensically analytical thoughts.

After shedding on the Fresno Relays in 1951 (to Otis Chandler, who later turned editor of the Los Angeles Instances), O’Brien could not sleep when he returned house to Santa Monica. At 3 a.m., he was experimenting with a 180-degree activate a vacant lot subsequent door, lit by streetlights.

When his father went out to test on him, Parry exclaimed, “Dad, look what I discovered!”

What O’Brien had found was a way that may revolutionize shot put.

“When O’Brien first began throwing the shot, the usual technique on the time was to rock backwards on one leg, swing the opposite ahead for stability, hop ahead, and propel the iron ball ahead “, so he Los Angeles Instances later mirrored. “O’Brien, alternatively, began to lean towards the again of the circle. He spun 180 levels and used the spin to create momentum and assist him throw the shot longer distances.”

It was the identical form of eureka second that 16-year-old Richard Fosbury was to expertise when he turned his again on observe and subject at a highschool reunion in Grants Cross, Oregon in Might 1963 and turned 180 levels when he approached the excessive leap bar and leap backwards over it.

When Dick Fosbury received Olympic gold in Mexico Metropolis in 1968 after 5 years of scoffing that his flop would by no means occur or that he would possibly even break his again, the sages mentioned he was a genius all alongside that he used his data as a physics and engineering scholar to scientifically decide his groundbreaking approach.

Fosbury laughed on the normal misunderstanding. “It wasn’t primarily based on science or evaluation or thought or design – simply intuition,” he mentioned in an interview with the British newspaper The Unbiased on Sunday.

“I will not cease till my palms bleed”

With O’Brien it was the opposite approach round. As he did in a Time Journal cowl story: “It is an software of physics that claims the longer you apply stress or drive to an inanimate object, the farther it is going to go.” My model is geared in the direction of permitting me to muster energy for so long as potential earlier than releasing the shot.”

O’Brien’s gliding approach can be additional refined by Brian Oldfield in 1976, his compatriot including the spin of a discus thrower. As O’Brien approached Olympic yr 1952, his radical technique was frowned upon by many coaches, however he insisted on perfecting it.

At night time, he would normally sneak over a fence into the Los Angeles Coliseum – website of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics – and make 150 putts. “I will not cease till my palms are bleeding,” he mentioned.

On the Olympia Enviornment in Helsinki, O’Brien set a sport document of 17.41m within the opening spherical and clung to victory whereas US teammate Darrow Hopper was tantalizingly shut at 17.39m within the finals.

Parry O'Brien during dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games

Parry O’Brien on the costume rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Video games (© Getty Pictures)

“A very powerful particular person within the historical past of shot put”

Over the subsequent 4 years, O’Brien constructed a protect of invincibility. He studied physics, aerodynamics, Japanese religions, yoga and self-hypnosis – something which may assist him throw. He would hearken to taped motivational messages whereas he slept, hoping the subliminal messages would sink into his unconscious.

Throughout competitions, he roamed the throwing floor screaming and frantic, fully incapacitating his opponents. He honed his velocity, working 10.8 for the 100m in 1953 and growing his energy by way of weightlifting – avoiding the coaching philosophy of the time that pitchers had been too muscular to maneuver correctly.

On Might 8, 1954, two days after Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, O’Brien turned the primary shot putter to enterprise previous 60 toes, measuring 60 toes 5¼ inches (18.42 m). the LA Coliseum threw.

Two years later, he overwhelmed the sphere on the Melbourne Olympics, defending his title by a 15-inch margin and a 62-foot putt, changing into the primary man since fellow U.S. bowler Ralph Rose, who shot in 1904 and triumphed in 1908, receiving two Olympic gold medals in capturing.

O’Brien’s hat-trick bid in Rome in 1960 was thwarted by the teammate, who completed a distant second in Melbourne. The 2-time world champion led by 19.11m till Invoice Nieder set an Olympic document of 19.68m within the fourth spherical.

The 2 had been bitter rivals. O’Brien referred to as Nieder “a cowpat performer” who “choked” at necessary conferences. Nieder, who admitted the insult fueled his profitable shot on the Stadio Olimpico, dubbed O’Brien “the Dodger of Los Angeles” after refusing to compete in opposition to him at a gathering in Santa Barbara.

O’Brien carried the US flag on the opening ceremony in Tokyo in 1964, however needed to accept fourth place in an Olympic closing, received by his Los Angeles compatriot Dallas Lengthy, his successor because the world document holder.

O’Brien retired from competitors in 1966 and established profitable careers in banking, actual property and civil engineering. Within the Nineteen Eighties he started throwing in Masters competitions and set age group information in each throwing and discus. When the pressure turned too painful for his joints, he took up aggressive swimming.

The shot put’s veteran warrior was swimming in a 500-yard freestyle race on the 2007 Southern Pacific Masters in Santa Clarita when he suffered a coronary heart assault and died. O’Brien was 75.

He was, as Mel Watman wrote within the obituary printed on this web site, “an important man within the historical past of shot put.”

“It was Parry O’Brien who remodeled the occasion by introducing the model that bears his identify.”

Simon Turnbull for World Heritage Athletics

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