Olympic shot putter from Elgin dies at 71

 
 
Updated 3/27/2017 8:28 PM
hello
  • Brian Oldfield, pictured here during the 1972 Olympics, died Sunday at age 71 in his native Elgin.

    Brian Oldfield, pictured here during the 1972 Olympics, died Sunday at age 71 in his native Elgin. Courtesy of Brian Oldfield

  • FILE PHOTOBrian Oldfield, an Olympic shot putter from Elgin, was featured on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" and was a guest on "The Tonight Show."

    FILE PHOTOBrian Oldfield, an Olympic shot putter from Elgin, was featured on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" and was a guest on "The Tonight Show."

Brian Oldfield, an Olympic shot putter in the 1970s and '80s who appeared on "The Tonight Show" and the cover of "Sports Illustrated," died Sunday in his native Elgin.

Credited with popularizing the rotational style of shot-putting, he once held the U.S. record in the sport at 72 feet, 9 inches, and finished sixth at the 1972 Olympics.

Oldfield, who was 71, had been in bad health for some time, childhood friend John Franquelli of Elgin said.

He was a larger-than-life character who famously dunked a 16-pound shot put and was said to have turned down offers to be a professional wrestler and play football with the Chicago Bears.

He sparred with boxing legend Muhammad Ali, participated in several "Superstars" and "World's Strongest Man" competitions, and played a drug lord in the 1989 movie "They Call Me Macho Woman!"

But really, he was regular guy to those who grew up with him in Elgin, where he'd moved back by the 1990s, Franquelli said.

"All he ever wanted to do is to be just like everyone else," Franquelli said. "We're from Elgin. You can take the boy out of the valley, but you can't take the valley out of the boy."

Oldfield attended Elgin High School, where he also played football and wrestled, before going to Middle Tennessee State to major in physical education.

At 6-feet, 5-inches tall and 275 pounds, he was an all-around athlete who could dunk a basketball without running, said another friend, Van Richards of St. Charles, who played against him in Elgin's amateur city league.

"He was a gentle giant," Richards said.

Oldfield revolutionized shot-putting in the United States and across the world, said Jim Aikens, head coach and throws coach at Fremd High School.

Oldfield at first modeled his spinning technique on that of a Russian athlete, and quickly made it his own by tweaking it and refining it -- and achieving amazing results, Aikens said.

"He was a physical freak. That's the only way to put it," he said. "People copied (his technique), and now the major throwers in the world, almost all of them use the rotational style similar to Brian Oldfield's style."

After the Olympics, Oldfield would have set world records in the 1970s, but his accomplishments didn't make the books because he competed as a professional with the short-lived International Track Association.

After Oldfield retired from the sport at age 43 in 1988 -- when he missed the Olympic team by a spot -- he did some real estate work, and worked as a consultant for high school and college athletes.

His health had been in decline for years, after sports-related injuries and surgeries that made it difficult to walk.

Oldfield was "a larger than life character," said acquaintance George Rawlinson of Elgin. "There was a time in the 1970s when Brian Oldfield was arguably the greatest athlete in the world."

Get articles sent to your inbox.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.