Hall of Fame Class of 2006 Interviews

11-21-2006

Contact:
Tom Surber
Media Information Manager
USA Track & Field
317-713-4690

INDIANAPOLIS - USA Track & Field on Tuesday announced that Dan O'Brien, Lynn Jennings, Kevin Young, Ollan Cassell, Rex Cawley and Bill Nieder will be inducted in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame. Below are recent interviews with the inductees.

MODERN ATHLETES

Lynn Jennings

Q: What are your feelings about being inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: I was surprised and flattered, and I also find it hard to believe that I would be in the company of my fellow inductees. They are certainly esteemed competitors and I'm pleased that it's happened. It's a very nice thing.

Q: How did your running career begin?

A: I had a very benign, gentle start to my running career. I joined the boys cross country team at the Bromfield School in Harvard, Massachusetts. I was in the ninth grade and I was the only girl on the team and the only girl in the league.

Q: How did you do against those guys?

A: I finished last in every race and I was last at every practice. It didn't take me long during practices to learn that I needed company, so I would run home after school, collect my Springer Spaniel, Otis, and run back to school and have him for a training partner at practice. He provided great company.

Q: How did you wind up at Princeton?

A: It was a combination of not only being attracted to the academics and the powerhouse environment there, but also Peter Farrell, at the time, was starting a program and Princeton was a leader in the Ivy League in women's athletics, as they still are today. And I was attracted to the combination of academics and athletics. I had offers from many schools for full athletic scholarships, but something in me rebelled at the idea of being a fulltime scholarship athlete. I didn't like the idea of that.

Q: How was your experience at Princeton?

A: It was challenging for me. I had a number of years where my running did not go well. It was very difficult for me to deal with that. I can't say it was anything other than what it was, which is disappointing. I did have a very good senior year where I ran well on the track and in cross country. What happened at Princeton fueled me very fervently to be a very successful adult athlete, so the disappointments and frustrations, which were all my own, pretty much helped me fire up my career as an adult. I was an extremely hungry, motivated, passionate adult athlete, and I think my disappointments at Princeton fueled that.

Q: How did you fare in your first few post-collegiate years?

A: I really segued fairly well. I had a rough year right after I graduated, but I was up and at it a year and a half, to less than two years after I graduated. What I did was move to New Hampshire in a tiny little cabin down a long dirt road and I just started to train. Soon enough Athletics West (track club) contacted me and offered me a contract, and I was over the moon with that. I remember calling Doug Brown, who was the head of Athletics West, and I remember when he called me and asked me to join Athletics West and that they were giving me a contract. I remember calling him Mr. Brown. I was so excited and I didn't know who he was, and he never let me forget that I called him Mr. Brown.

Q: Was being with Athletics West a boost to your career?

A: It was the start of it. I immediately went off to Europe and ran five races and set five PRs. I got my hunger back and in the fall of '85 I won the first of my nine national cross country titles in the mud in North Carolina. I loved representing Athletics West.

Q: You competed in three Olympic Games. How did you feel when you made it to an Olympic Team roster for the first time?

A: My first one was quite an affirmation for me because I had struggled so at Princeton, and of course, I doubted my abilities and every athlete going through rough patches does that. It's very difficult to stay confident, and in making the team I was self-coached at the time. I finished sixth [at the 1988 Olympics] right behind Francie Larrieu. We had a great 1-2 punch and we both ran fast, and it was the inaugural 10K at the Olympics and it was thrilling. I had the time of my life doing it.

Q: John Babington was your coach for most of your career. Could you talk about what he meant to you?

A: He not only guided me as a teenager, he then guided me as an adult, which is not the usual coach/athlete relationship. With John guiding my training, I not only made two more Olympic teams and got the bronze medal, but I won three world cross country titles and set umpteen American records. It was certainly a fruitful partnership.

Q: How satisfying was it to win the Olympic 10,000m bronze medal in 1992?

A: Nobody really prepares you for the wash of emotions that comes when the medal gets put around your neck, and I had spent so much of my career working very hard to be a credible track athlete. I was known as, and I prided myself on, my cross country skills, not to mention the road racing on the side, but I was bound and determined to be an accomplished track athlete and the Olympic medal proved to myself that I was worthy of being called a great track runner.

Q: With your nine U.S. cross country titles and three world championships crowns in that discipline, what was it about cross country that fit Lynn Jennings so well?

A: I think it was a combination of weather, difficult conditions, tough courses and the fact that everyone in the world showed up for those races. I represented the U.S. at eight straight world cross country championships and I'm proud of that, because it was an event where there was no prize money. I didn't do it for the money. I did world cross country because I loved representing the U.S. at that event. I loved guiding and leading our team and there was just something incredibly exhilarating about that incredibly difficult race and I loved the rough and tumble, and I was good at it and I loved it.

Q: Describe winning your third world cross country crown near your home in Boston.

A: That was a special one because it had snowed and I was the double-defending champion, it was in my own backyard, and to make it extra memorable, it was on a course I had run not only in high school, but also as a Princetonian running numerous Heps and HYP races there. It truly was a full circle experience. I was going up against some incredibly tough runners, including my perennial nemesis, Liz McColgan from Scotland, who was coming into the race in great shape. But a couple inches of snow made a difference, and I was able to hang in quite well and had a terrific dual with Cathriona McKiernan of Ireland and Albertina Diaz of Portugal, and it's one of my favorite memories.

Q: Could you have ever dreamed when you first started that you would accomplish so much in running?

A: I have to say I had two different approaches in how I dreamed about what I wanted. The first was, when I was 14 or 15, that I wanted to be the fastest runner in the world. But it was difficult to reconcile with that because when I was in high school the longest a woman could run in the Olympics was 1,500 meters. My mom and dad took me to Montreal to watch Jan Merrill run the 1,500 at the '76 Games. It was hard for me to believe that I was dreaming about something that didn't really exist, but there was no 5K, there was no 10K at the Olympics, yet at the same time I knew that I was destined to do something in the sport. I loved it so much, I was good at it and it made my heart sing. I was lucky enough to be there at the right time when all these events were being opened to women and medals could be won. Luckily enough I was part of that movement of women that stepped right up the minute the events were there to run. No, I did not ever think I would have the career I had, but you never know what's in store for you in life.

Q: What are you doing these days?

A: I live in Portland, Oregon, and I've been out here for six years. I love it here and I live right next to Forest Park, which has 70 miles worth of trails. I'm in there running about 70 miles a week. I've also taken up competitive sculling, so I row with quite a few women that I've met in Portland. I've also taken up road biking, so I'm very busy and I stay out of trouble nicely.

Dan O'Brien

Q: What were your thoughts when you were informed that you had been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: I was excited. It's the kind of thing that I hadn't really thought about until it happened. It's a really nice honor and immediately I told the kids I've been working with as a volunteer at Arizona State University. Everybody thought it was pretty cool.

Q: How did you first get started in track and field?

A: I was at a high school football game when I was in fifth grade and they had a one mile fun-run for kids and I jumped in the race and I won it. The first race I ever entered, I won. Then when I got into junior high I started running cross country just to be with my friends and hang out, and one time I was on a long four or five mile run and I came sprinting into the finish and the coach suggested that I come to practice tomorrow and train with the sprinters at the track. After cross country season was over I started running with the sprinters and I never looked back.

Q: How did it evolve that you got into competing in the decathlon?

A: Interesting enough, Frank Zarnowski and many of the decathlon experts say that the decathlon finds you, and it definitely was that way with me. My dad had a rule that if I didn't get at least a "C" average in all my classes I couldn't participate in the sport of that quarter. I got a "D" in Social Studies when I was in tenth grade and I couldn't run track. My coach was broken up about it and I was broken up about it, so after the season was over my coach came to my house and told my parents that I had gotten my grades back up and we've got a summer decathlon going on and he asked if I could participate in that. My Dad said yes, so the first time I ever did the decathlon was in lieu of a track season. I trained and did a summer decathlon, and the first time I did the decathlon I said 'I'm never doing that again!' Every summer I would do that one decathlon and when I was a senior I won the high school national championships and got a couple scholarship offers and ended up going to the University of Idaho, where I spent most of my time running the high hurdles and the quarter mile.

Q: What was it about the decathlon that hooked you?

A: It's the challenge of it, but it also was the opportunity. I knew I wasn't going to beat Carl Lewis in the 100 meters, I knew I wasn't going to be a 29-foot long jumper. I said it's not my first choice and it's not my favorite choice, but I could be the next Bruce Jenner, and the sport was without a star in that event. The women had Jackie Joyner-Kersee and I really looked up to her and I wanted to be the male Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I wanted to be good in individual events and great at multi-events. I felt that was my best chance to really be successful.

Q: 1992 was an interesting year for you with all the Dan vs. Dave hype, failing to make the Olympic team with a no-height pole vault at the Olympic Trials and then setting the world record in France later that summer. What are your memories from that season?

A: I think in that year I gained a whole career of good and bad experiences. Up until that point, my first international competition was the Goodwill Games in 1990. In the decathlon you don't get a chance to really perform and compete all that much. The failure for me in '92 was heartbreaking, but it wasn't life shattering. It wasn't devastating to the point that I ever thought that I'd stop competing. So many other people had put their hopes in me, and it really affected a lot of people around me more than it affected me because at the time I was a young athlete, and the only thing for me to do was to move forward and continue to train and look forward to the future. At the time I had to mostly console people around me. My parents were devastated and my best friends were shaken up to the core. I was like 'Wow, man. This is just sports. If you're not ready to lose, you're certainly not ready to win.' I just looked at it as a bump in the road and something that really created the life path that I would follow the next four years. Because I failed at the Trials I thought there was nothing left that season, and when I was at the Olympic Games I was so inspired in Barcelona by some of the performances that I saw that I decided the season doesn't have to end on a downer. I can make something good out of this season and get some of the things I want, and that's when I decided to go to France and push for the world record. I put a lot of pressure on myself to walk away from that event with the world record, but it was very, very hard.

Q: How did it feel to win the decathlon gold medal in Atlanta in 1996?

A: When I won it wasn't a miracle, it wasn't a shock, it wasn't a surprise to me. It was a feeling of relief. Wow! I got through it and everything went the way I wanted it to with no mess ups and no disasters. That four years from 1992 until 1996, I only took one year at a time. I thought about the '96 Olympics, but my goal was to go win another world title in '93 and then I tried to break the world record every year. I wanted to just prove every single year that I was the best. '96 was different for me. I'd been through a lot and I still have a hard time explaining to people how much pressure, stress and how nerve-wracking the Olympic Games really is. So when I got there and won it was certainly a feeling of relief.

Q: Being inducted into the Hall of Fame, you now join the amazing list of great American decathlon greats such as Bob Mathias, Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey and Bruce Jenner.

A: It's a little surreal to tell you the truth. I look at those guys in terms of legendary status and it's even now hard for me to look at myself in that same group. When I look at Rafer Johnson and Bruce Jenner I can say that I was able to do what those guys were able to do, and that was to be the best in the world during my time. I was probably most proud in my whole career of my work ethic. I think I was more prepared than all the other decathletes out there, and I had a lot of good structure and I wouldn't have been able to do it without [coaches] Rick Sloan and Mike Keller.

Q: What are you doing these days?

A: I do a lot of public and motivational speaking. I represent a nutritional company. I've done some infomercials recently. I'd like to get into more television work hosting shows and doing commercials. I'm a volunteer assistant coach at Arizona State University, where I work with a couple a terrific multi-event athletes, and I also do a ton of personal training with kids of all ages and do some high performance coaching.

Kevin Young

Q: What was your reaction when you learned that you had been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: It felt good, and that has to do with the company that has already been selected to the Hall of Fame. I think of many of my track heroes like John Carlos, and of course Edwin Moses and Evelyn Ashford. It kind of gives me the stamp of approval that I'm a track great. It's something that can be focused on and talked about. It was never really something I considered until President Bill Roe called me to let me know. I thought originally that it was a crank call until I recognized his voice and he said it.

Q: How did your track and field career begin?

A: I got started when my third grade teacher took us all out to recess one day and showed us some track and field events. My first love was actually the long jump and high jump. I was a 300-meter hurdler in high school that eventually segued to the 400-meter hurdles. I loved the high hurdles and I took third in state in the high hurdles my senior year, and when I went to UCLA I thought I'd be an awesome high hurdler, where they already had a slew of high hurdlers on scholarship. My freshman year was John Smith's first year as a coach at UCLA, and we gravitated towards one another. That's when I started paying more attention to the intermediate hurdles. At UCLA my regimen was to train with the high hurdlers in workouts and warm-ups and I'd do high hurdle drills. Then it was time to train with the quarter-milers and I just basically meshed those things together.

Q: UCLA had an amazing track tradition during your era, didn't they?

A: Those guys were all superstar athletes at UCLA. That's one of the greatest things we had in that I was a fan of everybody who was out there on the track training with me. We had FloJo (Florence Griffith Joyner), Alice Brown, Andre Phillips, Greg Foster, so it was an atmosphere in which if you watched them do their thing it was like osmosis. If you were dedicated that you would learn from them. It all taught me to be a more disciplined athlete.

Q: What was your stride pattern as an intermediate hurdler?

A: A lot of people kept telling me that I needed to go 13 strides (in between hurdles) to be like the great Edwin Moses. I tried my best to go 13 strides for the whole race and I was just suffering because I was in great shape but I couldn't make the rhythm transition, running on the back end and chopping to get 13 strides for the first few hurdles and then on seven, eight and nine be totally exhausted. By the time I got to my sophomore year I just kind of threw the whole 13 stride thing off the track. I decided that I would approach these hurdles and develop a stride pattern that I'm comfortable with. John (Smith) and I developed our own game plan as to how I should run the hurdles.

Q: What were your expectations going into the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, where you won the gold medal and set the world record?

A: I was sick of taking fourth place in major championships and I knew that I needed to place higher than that to get a medal. My goal was to run 46.89, and I wrote it down. I told everybody I was going to run under 47 seconds and nobody would believe it. In Barcelona it was just a matter of putting it together and sticking to my game plan of 19 (strides) out of the blocks, 13 for two and three, 12 for four and five and back to 13 for the duration of the race. What blew my mind is that it caught everybody by surprise but me, and so when it happened it was overwhelming that I shattered Edwin's record. To do it in the Olympic Games is the ultimate.

Q: What are you doing these days?

A: Right now I've got a lot on my plate. I spent the summer working with the Mets Baseball Academy, working with Little League kids and showing them how to run fast. I'm also involved in a performance company called Phew! It's a fitness performance company that teaches athletes how to run fast in all sports such as lacrosse, football, baseball and I even work with basketball players where I utilize what I've learned in track and field to help other athletes in other sports. I'm also involved in children's books.

CONTRUBUTOR

Ollan Cassell

Q: What were your thoughts when USATF President Bill Roe informed you that you had been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: I was delighted and happy to learn that, and to know that people remember me after all those years.

Q: During your career as the executive director of TAC/USATF, you were involved heavily with the Hall of Fame. Does that give you an extra appreciation for what it means to be inducted?

A: I can remember how we finally ended up with the Hall of Fame in Indianapolis at USA Track & Field. There were two of them around, one in West Virginia and one in Northern Indiana, and we brought them together and took all their artifacts and created one Hall of Fame. Now that I'm being inducted I would have sort of run the cycle, because I've been a person that introduced some people to the Hall of Fame. One of them was one of my good friends and a president of USA Track and Field, LeRoy Walker. I was his presenter when he came to the Hall of Fame (1983).

Q: How did you first get involved in track and field?

A: My high school didn't have a track and field team. I ran a couple high school track meets in Virginia and my football coach took me to the state championship, where I won the 200, which is a record and it's still there. I went to college on a football scholarship and when they went out for track in the spring I could beat everybody. So, they switched my scholarship to track and field, which I was happy about.

Q: What did it mean to you to make the Olympic Team in 1964 and win a gold medal as a member of the U.S. men's 4x400m relay squad in Tokyo?

A: It's always a great opportunity when you represent your country and you feel very proud when you see the flag go up. You know you're standing on the top rung and on that particularly day, in that particular stadium, in that particular country at that particular time you're the best in the world. That's what we were at that time in the 4x400-meter relay, and it was also a world record. That means that until that record was broken, we continued to be the best in the world.

Q: Following your competitive career you became the track administrator for the AAU. How did that come about?

A: I first got involved with it when I was in the military. I went through ROTC at the University of Houston and had a commission and had to go to serve the country at that time. I met some influential people who were involved at the Pentagon, and one of them was Colonel Don Hull, who was retiring from the Army to be the executive director of the AAU. We became friends and he knew me for a long time. After the Olympics he contacted me to come to work at the AAU, which I did. I started at the AAU in 1965 and I was elected in 1970 as the executive director. I think I took over in 1971 and I served in that position for 10 years.

Q: Talk about the passage of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 and the founding of The Athletics Congress, now USATF?

A: It wasn't easy. We had the structure, which was in the form of a corporation. When we got started we didn't have any money. We had some sponsors that weren't enough to keep us going. We started a registration program for members that covered lots of things like insurance, and that registration helped us determine eligibility for national championships and the Olympic Games. When we moved downtown we didn't have furniture, typewriters or anything and we had to get all that stuff. We developed sponsors and championships that were sold to television, and that's the way we struggled and went through it. Thankfully the Lilly Foundation gave us free rent at the Hyatt until the Dome was built and we moved over there.

Q: What are you doing these days?

A: I created some companies that I ran and still run. Some of them didn't do very well, but some of them have kept me a little bit busy. I teach an Olympic history course at universities here and I'm scheduled to teach history in the spring in a course at I.U.P.U.I. I'm still involved in real estate and I also work with the U.S. Track Coaches Association in doing some coaching CD and films and that kind of stuff. Most recently I'm involved attempting to market some bunker fuel. It's sort of like heavy diesel fuel for cruise ships and tankers and those kinds of things. I've also started writing a book again. I have a writer and an agent that have agreed to work with me on it.

VETERAN ATHLETES

Rex Cawley

Q: What's it like to know that you are about to be inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: I'm really surprised. I've been away from the sport for so long that to even be thinking about it was a whole new frame of reference for me. I'm certainly surprised, honored and grateful.

Q: How did your track and field career begin?

A: My parents moved to the suburbs to get me away from kind of a bad element when I was 13 or 14 years old. When I got out to the suburbs to Farmington (Mich.), where we moved, I still was going back into the city because in those days if you lived outside the city limits you could get a driver's license if you were 14. So I had a driver's license and an old wreck of a car and I was still driving in and hanging out with my old friends. Come springtime my father told me that I had to get involved in some sports or he was going to take my car away. I didn't care much for baseball, and the only other thing going on was track. As I looked around at the track everybody was running and sweating and doing things that looked hard, until I looked over in the corner and there's a bunch of guys laying in the grass and every once in a while one of them would get up and jump over a bar and went back to sit down. I thought that this was something I could do. That's how I got started as a high jumper and that lasted for a few weeks. I started doing some other things as well and went to my first state meet as a pole vaulter, believe it or not. That fall I was running cross country and we had a new coach from the University of Michigan, and he asked if I ever had tried the hurdles. I said no, and I don't think I ever will. He persisted and prevailed and got me working on high hurdles and it went on from there.

Q: What did your coach see in you that made him think you would be a good hurdler?

A: He noticed that I had a really high knee lift during the last quarter mile of my cross country races as I tried to pick people off at the finish. He saw the speed and the high knee lift and he determined that would be useful in the hurdles.

Q: As a Michigan native, how did you wind up going to USC?

A: My senior year I went to the AAU Championships just right out of high school, and at that point I'm not sure I'd visited USC yet. I was in love with my high school sweetheart, so I was going to stay in Michigan and go to Michigan State. I went to the national championships and had a pretty successful outing there. I still hold the record which is now safe since they don't run those events anymore, but I think I still am the only person to place in all three hurdle events at the national championships in the same year - and I did it as a high schooler. After that I went to the Pan American Games. I wasn't competing there because I hadn't qualified. I believe it was the first two that went and the highest I think I finished was third, I believe, in the low hurdles. I was up in the press box and I think it was Dick Bank, who used to be a writer of some repute in this business, asked me why I wasn't going to USC, because they were the track and field powerhouse in the late fifties, and I wanted to go into communications. I was driving back from the Pan Am Games and I was mulling that over and I really didn't have a good answer. The only answer was this girl. I kept thinking about it and I really cared for the girl and I wondered if I was doing the right thing for my future, and or our future. When I got back I had changed my mind and called Jess Mortensen to tell him that I had changed my mind and if the offer was still there I'd like to come out. That's what got me out to the West Coast.

Q: Did training with all those great USC athletes inspire you to greater performances?

A: The expectations level is so high, and to come in as a high school All-American is a yawn (laughter) because everybody is a high school All-American. Dallas Long was there and Charlie Dumas was still there, and there were people there that I had read about in books and all of a sudden I was practicing on the same field with these folks. It just raises your whole level of what you can do and who you are and what your capabilities might be.

Q: You were very proficient in the 110m hurdles and the 400m hurdles. How difficult is that?

A: I really liked it. It wasn't difficult. It was a rarity, you didn't see it very often. I think I got away with it because 400m hurdlers had not caught up to the level of technical efficiency that was going on in the highs. You could get away with not being as good a hurdler in the intermediates. I think that as the speeds went up you had to be a little better hurdler. The guys who had the mental temperament for the highs tended to be sprinters with tremendous quickness, whereas the 400m hurdles was kind of a different beast. You had to be fast, but you had to have the endurance of a quarter-miler. I think it was a time when the 400m hurdles were not as developed as an event as it is today.

Q: Your most successful year was 1964. What was it like to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games?

A: It was a real ride. Few people know this, but I was still struggling with a pulled hamstring when I got to the Games. I pulled it earlier in the year. If you recall, we had two Trials that year, with the first one in New York and the other was in L.A. I had an injury and didn't even finish the Trials in New York. I stepped off the track. I broke the world record at the Trials in Los Angeles, but in training I probably popped an adhesion in the hamstring that had bothered me early in the year. Going into the Games I had that in the back of my mind, wondering if my leg would hold together. I nursed it through the prelims and got into the finals with a hope and a prayer that it would hold together. Taking off I was in lane 6 and going into the final curve (Salvatore) Morale and (Roberto) Frinolli, two guys that had held the world record, blew by me from the inside. I found that very motivating, and I knew this was going to be a challenge. That's when I drew on all the stuff I had always drawn on through the years in hard finishes. That was one of my trademarks, to finish strong, and I managed to pull it off.

Q: Talk about being the Olympic champion and world record holder at the same time.

A: It was what I had worked for. It was we had been pointing for since my high school coach convinced me that I had that potential. It was a long-term goal and I probably would not have been satisfied with anything else, to be the Olympic champion and world record holder.

Q: You retired after the 1965 season. Is that because you had to go to work?

A: Those were the days of amateurism and there wasn't anything else to do (laughter). It was okay, it was fun, but now real life has to go on and I had my education and I got started in the business world.

Q: What did you do following your athletic career?

A: I always had an interest in medicine, and while I never did the academic work to get into medical school, I was still fascinated by that area. After I got out of graduate school I got a job with a pharmaceutical company and I was there for about seven years, helping out with mergers and acquisitions. I got involved with a company they bought here in the West Coast and got involved with that. I spent 35 years in the medical/electronics industry and retired to become a travel agent about six years ago, and that's my main activity.

Bill Nieder

Q: What were your thoughts when you found out that you had been elected to the National Track & Field Hall of Fame?

A: It was a fantastic moment. I never dreamt that I'd be in it after what I pulled at the Australian Olympics years ago (Melbourne, 1956) where we got into a bunch of trouble. They must've all passed away by now, so it's new blood in there (laughter).

Q: What happened in Australia where you got into trouble?

A: We had a few totties after the Games and one of the taxis in town almost ran into me and he backed up and he called us some names, and we said he shouldn't have done that and we turned his car upside down, and that was not a good thing. Then we decided to go for a swim and went right across the street into the ocean, and when we came back out cameramen were there and photographers, and there we were on the front page of the newspaper the next morning with the headline "Americans Throw Wild Orgy at Beach." Well it wasn't that bad, but they made it up to be a big thing.

Q: What kind of a backlash did you get from that?

A: Quite a bit. I was told that would be my last Olympics. They felt that I was the ringleader but I wasn't. I was part of the group (laughter).

Q: How did you get started in the sport?

A: I pretty much went out for track and field to stay in shape for football. I was going to be a javelin thrower or a high jumper at the time. I could jump about 43 inches off the floor and I thought I could be a good high jumper, but I could only jump six feet. One day I picked up the shot and on my first attempt I threw it about 44 feet. From there, at the end of that school year, which was my junior year (at Lawrence, Kans. HS), I'd thrown it 58 feet, and the next year as a senior I broke the national record with a toss of over 60 feet.

Q: You endured a serious knee injury as a football player at the University of Kansas. Did that cause you to focus more on throwing?

A: That's correct. In high school I was the first All-American to be in two sports, track and field and football. Football was my main sport at the time. In my very first game against TCU I was blindsided and severed or tore three major ligaments in my knee and after the surgery I woke up with a body cast from my shoulders to my toes. I was told by the doctor at the time that my athletic career was over. But Kansas had some good trainers and they worked on me and everything turned out fine, and little by little I was able to come back.

Q: Back then you had to compete against two other National Track & Field Hall of Famers, Dallas Long and Parry O'Brien. Did competing against those guys consistently cause you to be a better shot putter?

A: Absolutely. In my first track meet in 1960 I broke the world record and I was asked by the reporters at the time how much further did I think I could throw. I said at my next meet I'd throw two feet further, and that was at the Texas Relays. So I went down there and did it and Parry O'Brien said it was a cow pasture performance, insinuating that the Texas Relays was a low-class meet with no real competition. I couldn't believe he said that. The very next week the reporters were on me about O'Brien's statement, and I said 'by the way, where is that L.A. dodger, I'm not referring to baseball, but that so-called champion that battles old men and women. Any time there's a real battle he's the one that hides.' That started a major feud between us, and then I think it was the next week after that at the Kansas Relays, and they had another meet in Southern California and O'Brien came back with 'who's dodging who? Nieder was supposed to be here and he's run off to Kansas to hide.' Right after that I was in the U.S. Army as an officer and I had a track meet on the east coast and one of the reporters told me I was in real trouble. When I asked why he said that O'Brien had thrown 63 feet in practice. I said that's a real good throw. He then said that if O'Brien was throwing that far in practice that means that he'll certainly break my record the next time out. I told him you're absolutely right. Then I asked him if he had a pencil. He said 'what?' And I said 'you want a quote, don't ya.' He said yes. I said that if O'Brien threw 63 feet in practice, and I'm not doubting whether he did or not, but if he did it had to have been down hill and off a cliff! (laughter). This kept us pretty active in the sports pages during that period of time.

Q: Did you guys have fun going back and forth with those comments or was there any real resentment towards each other?

A: No, I think it was more in fun. O'Brien would never talk to his competitors. He was always meditating, or one thing or another. I recall that when I threw far enough in the Olympics to beat him I had a cowboy hat on and a towel around my neck and I threw my towel at him and said, 'okay sucker, lights out - we have a new Olympic champion' (laughter). It was fun.

Q: You set the world record numerous times. What's it like to know you were the best in the world at what you do?

A: It was fantastic. However my very last one was the best by far because I wasn't on the Olympic Team. I qualified fourth and they only take three. A few weeks before I went water skiing for the first time in my life and took a nasty fall and twisted my knee and wasn't up to top form at the Trials. I was ready to quit and throw in the towel when Payton Jordan of Stanford called to say that anything could happen and to keep on trying. There were three more track meets before the team went to the Olympics in Rome and anything could happen. Sure enough I won the first two track meets, and in the third one I broke the world record again and was told by the officials that I wasn't on the team, but they wanted my phone number in the event something did happen they could call me. At 3 o'clock that same morning they called and said I was on the team and that was the most fantastic experience I've ever had in my life knowing that I was back on the team, and knowing that I was going to the Olympics where I eventually won the gold medal.

Q: Was it personally fulfilling to win the gold medal?

A: Not only that, but it opened all kinds of doors with job opportunities. I went to work with 3M and started the artificial football field business for them, and they also had a product called Tartan, which was a synthetic composition that replaced cinders and it was much faster than the old cinder track. I sold it to a number of colleges and then I was told to go to Mexico City and try to sell it to the Olympics and I came back with the first Olympic Games synthetic track order.

Q: How long did you stay with 3M?

A: Ten years. Then I went into business for myself doing the same thing. One day I woke up and thought there must be an easier way, so I invented a rubber room, the padded rooms, seclusion rooms, that type of thing. All I had to do was come up with a formulation that it couldn't smoke too much and it couldn't burn. After weeks of working on it I came up with the idea of how to do it. We were number one in the country installing padded rooms for people who are mentally ill and out of control after the police pick them up. They are also being installed in schools for time out rooms and athletic stadiums for people who drink too much and get themselves in trouble. I retired about a year and a half ago. I'm relaxing and playing a lot of golf and having a lot of fun with life.

2006 inductee Ben Eastman died in 2002. 2006 Inductee Matt McGrath died in 1941.

For more information on the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, visit www.usatf.org