COLUMBIA — A month after turning 21, Dick Cochran was participating in discus throwing in the Olympic Games in Rome. Now, the 69-year-old is still throwing discus, this time for the Missouri State Senior Games, which is part of the Show-Me State Games . He said although the Senior Games does not compare to winning a bronze medal in the Olympics, he stil enjoys participating yearly.
Cochran was raised in Brookville, Mo., but has lived in Lake St. Louis for the past nine years. He graduated from MU in 1961 and was a part of the MU track and field team as a discus thrower. His love for the sport began at a young age.
“I had a high school coach who was also a thrower for MU,” Cochran said. “I got interested that way.”
Phil Brusca, 81, was Cochran’s high school coach at Brookville High School. He described Cochran as a wonderful person. He said that it takes a special person to become good at something. The coach can help, but really it was Cochran who was doing most of the work to get himself where he wanted to be.
At the age of about 14, Cochran began throwing discus and has been throwing ever since. He was a junior in college when he started thinking about trying out for the Olympic team.
Cochran said he was on the All-American team his junior year and won the NCAA discus in Omaha, Neb. That same year he had also been selected for the Touring Track and Field team that toured in Europe.
When he got back from Europe, he decided to go to the Olympic Trials in 1960 in Los Angeles. He won third place in the Olympic trials and was able to go onto the next three weeks of trials.
“In those days, you went to the Olympic trials and they took the top four of each competition,” Cochran said. “And then you had another three weeks of Olympic trials you were competing in to get on the team.”
After trials and making the team, Cochran went home to train. Three weeks later he went back to California to train and in August, continued his training in Europe until the games began.
The 1960 Olympic Games was the last time the American team has ever swept the discus throwing competition, winning the gold, silver and bronze medals. That is what made Cochran’s experience so memorable.
“It’s hard to describe your feelings when you’re standing on the podium and you see three American flags go up,” Cochran said.
When Cochran’s former high school coach found out about his Olympic bronze medal, he said he was extremely happy.
“Like any coach, you feel good inside because you know you probably did some help along the way,” Brusca said.
Cochran said he threw a 57.16 in the 1960 Olympics, winning the bronze medal. He was not far behind the gold medalist, Al Oerter, who threw a 59.18. Currently, the world record for discus throwing is 74.08 meters and was set by Jürgen Schult in Neubrandenburg, Germany, on June 6, 1986.
After the Olympics, Cochran went on to coach high school track in Kansas City for about 10 years. He stopped throwing briefly and focused on his family and his job. When he retired in 2000, he began getting interested in throwing again. That’s when he started to participate in the Senior Games. He said he has done well every year.
“I do it because I enjoy it, and I enjoy the people,” Cochran said.
Cochran and Brusca still compete in meets together, and both will be competing in the Senior Games this weekend.
After about 50 years of throwing discus, Cochran said he can’t imagine the idea of not throwing. He said that as long as he can get up, he will continue throwing.