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Al Oerter memorial video

Thom's story (interview with Al)


On life and art...

Life goes on. What's the next challenge? My challenge is to make this gallery a world-class attraction for Fort Myers.
I paint because I enjoy it, I don't feel I have to do this show and that show and win that prize. I just enjoy it.
Never having an athletic coach or a teacher or mentor in art, everything I create comes from within.
The energy from athletics is what I'm trying to convey to white canvas.
As more cities and countries become aware of Art of the Olympians, we're going to find more artists. The show will expand, but Ft. Myers will always be home base for this. I'm kind of proud of that.
I work just as hard at art trying to create something new and different as I did in sports. I enjoy the explosive nature of what I did in sport and I had to put a great deal of energy into it and today I can represent that kind of flow of energy in art.
Athletics and art are much the same for me. Both require a good work ethic and a creative drive that I hope folks will find in my work.
Painting is the same dadgum thing I found in training for the Games. You had to be very inventive. You had to persevere. you were constantly thinking about how to make things a little better.
I find art fascinating. You stare at a 4-foot square piece of white canvas. It's a thrill to put the first color on it, the first stroke, the first whatever. Then you watch something emerge out of that canvas.
As an artist I want to learn by myself. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
My art has become so fascinating that my effort flows very simply.
I find the creation of art that no one has ever seen to be fascinating.
It's exciting to show that there's not just one thing that you do in life.

On life and sport...

The way people are expected to lie down just because of the aging process, it's nuts. You're capable until you're in the grave.
I guess people like to hear my stories, but I'd prefer they went out and developed their own story.
Wherever we want to go in life, we won't get there unless we bend all our efforts---mental, physical and spiritual---toward that end.
I don't have to win to prove anything, competing at my best was all the satisfaction I needed.
There are no secrets or shortcuts.
The goal is to enjoy what you do rather than the medals won.
Nothing will ever be a substitute for a well-directed work ethic and the enjoyment one gets from being at one's best.
I've had an interesting life and I'm going out with what I have.
I don't compete with other discus throwers. I compete with my own history.
I don't think the discus will ever attract any interest until they let us start throwing them at each other.
To exercise at or near capacity is the best way I know of reaching a true introspective state. If you do it right, it can open all kinds of inner doors.
To die under a squat rack, that's acceptable. To die at a board meeting, that is not.
Nobody worked harder than I did.

Quotes from articles on Al...

Not once was he the reigning world-record holder going into the Games; not once was he considered the most talented in his field; not once was he favored to win. He did win, each time coming from behind, reaching down for one final huge throw, performing heroically despite injuries, despite his youth, and later despite his age.
Most remarkable about Al are the quirks and cross-weaves of his personal fabric. He was an outsider, a quiet rogue with a blue-collar work ethic that mirrors his antecedents, and a progressive sensibility that leans toward the unusual, sometimes the spiritual.
While other athletes sought the spotlight, Al shunned it.
While some made the Olympics a business, Oerter kept his campaigns intensely private.
He was and is viewed by many as the last purely amateur Olympian---a big, shy guy who took the journey for the journey’s sake.
Al was wry and mild of voice.
When Al hears something that he disagrees with, something that doesn’t mesh with his personal experience, he talks even more softly than usual, as a result the listener listens even more closely.
Even in his passing he has inspired not only me but countless others to reach for the stars.
One word describes Al: INSPIRATION. Watching his accomplishments puts a chill up my spine and a lump in my throat. No matter what you chose as your life’s work, if you approached it like Al Oerter, you would succeed.
Enter the arena, make the attempt. It is the Creed of all Olympians, it is all any of us have and all if it’s all we can ever aspire to be. Al Oerter was the personification of that Creed. He was simply the greatest Olympic Athlete to compete – ever. Last of a breed who competed for the pure love of Sport: we will never see his kind again.
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