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National Track & Field Hall of Fame Q&A: Al Feuerbach

10/28/2016
 

In advance of National Track & Field Hall of Fame induction ceremony on November 3 in New York City, USATF interviewed Class of 2016 inductees on their athletic careers and legacies.

 

Today’s Feature: Al Feuerbach

 

Veteran Athlete Inductee Al Feuerbach (Preston, Iowa) set the shot put world record in May 1973 with a throw of 21.82m/71-7. A three-time Olympian, he placed 4th in 1976 games after a 5th-place finish in 1972.

 

Since retiring from track & field, Feuerbach has worked as a location sound recordist for over 30 years. Click here for a full bio.

 

How did you get started in track and field and when did you first realize your potential? I grew up in a small, midwestern town of Preston, Iowa and we played sports all year round. I was in the eighth grade and my brother Gary was in high school and he brought a shot home one day. I picked it up, threw it, and I got a feeling that I never had gotten in baseball or basketball or football.

 

That was the idea, that if I pick it up again, I wonder if I can throw it farther than I did the first time. I don't think a lot of people would have been captivated by that but I was just one of those people that was - I think that's the kind of person that goes into track and field.

 

So, the idea is that you can measure self-improvement with a tape measure. I was hooked for life on the very second throw of my life.”

 

On overcoming adversity and believing in himself: “My goal was to become the best shot putter in the world.

 

I picked an event that was mainly dominated by giants and I was under 200 pounds and only 6 feet tall, which was pretty small in comparison. Nobody ever believed that I could compete with the big guys. Even my best friends or people that knew the events well said, 'Al, you train so hard. Why don't you pick another event? You'll never be able to compete with the big guys.'

 

And of course I believed in myself the whole time, I never wavered for a moment. Probably my parents were the only people on earth that agreed with me and believed the same thing. And so I just kept pursuing it until I reached the very top.”  

 

On his famous technique: “My technique kept improving [in high school] and when I went to Emporia State the head coach [Phil Delavan] was a nationally ranked shot putter. So that was helpful to have a head coach who had been in my event.

 

My technique was always my claim to fame and to this day I think most people would recognize that I had one of the finest techniques in the event. It's the only way that I could have achieved success. It was one way to make up for lack of size.”

 

On his world record throw in 1973: "I didn't feel like I could feel the weight of the shot that day.

 

I keep a shot at home and it's pretty hard to pick up these days. It weighs 16 pounds and it feels like more.

 

But on the day of the world record it was basically weightless, I was that ready for peak performance. Of course, that took 8 or 9 years to work toward but was just an incredible feeling."

 

On staying motivated: ”It’s just a matter of loving to work. I say 'work' but I don't call anything that I ever did in track 'work.' If you watch one of our workouts it would've looked like work but I always thought it was just 'fun.'

 

The motivation is - I don't know how to explain it - it was 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I did other things in life but it was never very far in my mind what I wanted to achieve as far as athletics.

 

So there was no amount of training that I would ever shy away from. I would do anything to help achieve my goals and I think that carried over to my career in sound recording because it requires quite a bit of perseverance, stamina, travel. You're working on different things every single week.”

 

On Team USA at 2016 Olympic Games: "What a year for U.S. shot putting with Michelle Carter, Ryan Crouser and Joe [Kovacs].

 

Ryan's father, Mitch, is the one of the only people that ever beat my former roommate and buddy Mac Wilkins (USATF Hall of Fame Class of 1993). Mitch beat both of us on one day at a meet in Oregon. I'm not saying he was better shot putter than me but he beat me and Mac in the discus that day. So I knew the Crouser family and was really excited for Ryan.

 

Ryan had superb peaking and perfection that day [in Rio], with his technique and throwing with what looks like ease but is actually [difficult]. It's sort of an illusion because it's so beautiful.”

 

On being inducted into National Track & Field Hall of Fame: “I've been in a number of Hall of Fames but to be in this [one] is... the highest honor that I feel I could receive post-competition. Other than winning national championships or setting a world record, it's the highest award I would ever want. It's just a tremendous honor and it's almost more valuable at this point in life.”

   

The Class of 2016 will be inducted at USATF’s second annual Black Tie & Sneakers Gala on November 3 in New York City. The red carpet event will also feature stars from the Olympic Games in Rio, as well as Legacy Award and Groundbreaker Award presentations. Proceeds benefit USATF’s Elite Mentorship Program. Visit usatfgala.com for more information.

   

For more on all 2016 National Track and Field Hall of Fame inductees, click here.



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