USC Shot Put Great Parry O'Brien Dies
April 23, 2007
Parry O'Brien, a 2-time Olympic gold medalist and NCAA champion shot putter from USC who was the first man to eclipse the 60-foot barrier, died on Saturday (April 21) in Santa Clarita, Calif. He was 75.
O'Brien, who lived in Moreno Valley, Calif., suffered a heart attack while participating in a master's swim meet.
At his request, there will be no services.
O'Brien won 18 national Amateur Athletic Union indoor and outdoor titles (17 in the shot and 1 in the discus throw) and he established shot put world records 16 times from 1953 through 1959. At one point, he won 116 consecutive competitions. He is credited with developing the 'spin' technique of throwing the shot put, which came to be known as the 'O'Brien Glide.'
After prepping at Santa Monica High, where he was on the school's state championship football team, he came to USC and was part of 3 consecutive NCAA championship track and field teams (1951-53). He won the NCAA shot crowns in 1952 and 1953.
He competed in 4 Olympics, winning golds at the 1952 Helsinki (with an Olympic record throw) and 1956 Melbourne Games (the first repeat champion in the event since 1908), then getting a silver medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and finishing fourth in Tokyo in 1964 (where he was the flag bearer for the entire U.S. Olympic team).
In May of 1954 in a meet in the Coliseum, he broke the 60-foot barrier with a heave of 60-5 ¼.
He won the Sullivan Award in 1959 as the nation's top amateur athlete.
He worked in banking, real estate and civil engineering, but continued throughout his life to compete at the masters' level, where he set age-group records in the shot and discus. He also competed in swimming.
He is a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame (inducted in 1974) and U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame (1984), as well as a charter member of the USC Athletic Hall of Fame (1994).
He served as a member of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
He is survived by his wife, Terry, 2 sons and 2 daughters, and 7 grandchildren.