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Bill Nieder

Olympic Athlete, Businessman

Liberty Memorial High School




At LMHS, Bill was an All-American in football and a star on the track & field team. He became the first person to throw the high school twelve-pound shot put over 60 feet, putting it 60'9.75" in 1952. He was recruited to play football at the University of Kansas, but in his first game in 1953, he suffered a football career-· ending knee injury, that almost required amputation.

The injury prompted him to put all his energies into track & field. He became the first collegiate athlete to throw the sixteen-pound shot put over 60 feet. He was the 1955 NCAA Champion in the shot put, and as a college senior won the silver medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. He also competed in the discus, where his Kansas teammate was Al Oerter, who would-go on to win four Olympic gold medals.

Three times in 1960 he set the World Record, including 20.06 meters (65'10") on August 12, 1960. However, Nieder had an off day at the United States Olympic Trials and placed fourth, making him only an alternate for the US Olympic team to Rome. Nieder kept competing and was consistently beating the three shot putters who had qualified for the Olympic team. When teammate a teammate suffered a minor injury Nieder was put on the team. With one throw left in the Olympic Final, Nieder was in second place trailing Parry O'Brien's 62'8.5" mark. On his last throw Nieder threw the shot 64'6.75" to win the gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics, leading a 1-2-3 American sweep with fellow future Hall of Famers O'Brien and Dallas Long.

That threesome of Nieder, O'Brien, and Long dominated the shot put for twelve years. Between May 1953 and May 1965, the shot-put world record was bettered twenty times, each time by either O'Brien (ten times), Long (seven times), or Nieder (three times). During that period these three would improve the world record over eight feet, from 59'0.5" to 67' 1O".

After retiring from athletics, he worked for 3M and was instrumental in the development of artificial turf used on fields in place of grass. In 1968 he sold the first the first synthetic track surface to be used in the Olympics to the Mexico City Olympic organizers. In 1973 he founded Marathon Engineering Corporation, which specialized in high-quality safety padding for the correctional and psychiatric markets (the "rubber" room in a mental ward).

In June of 2011, he made headlines by helping subdue a potential attacker on an airline flight home following a Cruise.

Bill Nieder
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