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William (Parry) O'Brien

Photo of William (Parry) O'Brien

Inducted: 1974, athlete

Born: January 18, 1932 - Santa Monica, California

Events
Shot Put - 19.30 m


Parry O'Brien revolutionized the shot put, making the "O'Brien Style" (or "O'Brien Glide") the accepted way to throw the 16-pound ball. His method of facing the back of the circle and using a 180-degree turn to shift the weight to the front of the circle helped him improve the world record 16 times. On May 8, 1954, two days after Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, O'Brien became the first person to put the shot more than 60 feet. Over his career, the University of Southern California standout improved the world record from 59' 0 3/4" in 1953 to 63' 4" in 1959. During one period in the 1950s, he also won 116-straight competitions. O'Brien won two national collegiate titles in the shot put while at USC. Overall, he won 18 National AAU championships, 17 of them in the shot and one in the discus (at which he also excelled). Indoors, he won nine-straight shot titles and outdoors had a string of five. A veteran of four Olympic Games, he was the champion in 1952 and 1956, both times setting Olympic records (of 57' 1 1/2" in 1952 and of 60' 11 1/4" in 1956); in 1960, he was second to fellow American Bill Nieder; and in 1964 he was fourth. He was also the Pan-American Games champion in 1955 and 1959. He received the 1959 Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. O'Brien later enjoyed successful careers in commercial banking, real estate in civil engineering. He began throwing again in the 1980s and set world age-group records in the shot and discus. He was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1984.

Records Held
World Record: Shot Put - 19.30 m (November 1, 1956 - )

Championships
1952 Olympics: Shot Put - 17.41 m (1st)
1956 Olympics: Shot Put - 18.57 m (1st)
1960 Olympics: Shot Put (2nd)
1964 Olympics: Shot Put (4th)
1955 Pan-Am Games: Shot Put (1st)
1959 Pan-Am Games: Shot Put (1st)

Education
undergraduate: USC (Los Angeles, California), 1953

Occupations
Banker
Civil engineer

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