Shotputter Bill Nieder, who won the U.S.'s first track and field gold medal in Rome and defeated his waspish archrival Parry O'Brien in the process, disclosed to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED Artist Robert Riger the well-kept secret that contributed to the victory.
"I have a strong rotation," he says of the unusually loose, dervishlike whirl that brings him to A the point where he releases the 16-pound ball. "But my secret is that throughout the rotation I carry the shot in the palm of my hand, not on the fingers as O'Brien and others do. This lets me move my arm quicker and puts no strain on the hand. Then, at the last instant, I let the shot roll off the palm and onto the fingers where I give it a final finger snap that shoots it out in a low trajectory. Why, if Dave Davis knew this he could throw it out of the park. That's the whole story."
Riger learned one other Nieder secret. The bandage he wears on his right hand serves no purpose, Nieder confessed. He put it on a year ago after an injury and has worn it in competition since, though the hand healed long ago. Why? "It helps me up here," he said, pointing to his head.
Nieder cradles shot in the palm of his hand (left) as he rotates but, approaching release (below), he rolls it back to his fingertips, snapping it off from there.
Throughout his rotation O'Brien holds the shot with his middle three fingers (left). This, says Nieder, tires the hand and causes a loss of thrust.