Someday, says Brian Oldfield wistfully, he’ll stash away enough money to pursue his true callings—poetry and philosophy. For the moment, however, the blond mountain who walks like a man must content himself with being king of the world’s shot-putters.
Brian has heaved the 16-pound iron ball farther than any other human being in history—indoors (72’6½”) and out (75′). But the 6’5″, 250-pound Oldfield has broken more than records in his seven years as a world-class athlete: He has shattered tradition with an entirely new method of putting the shot. With conventional technique, an athlete makes a half turn inside the seven-foot circle and heaves. Oldfield pirouettes 540 degrees, one and a half revolutions, before he releases the ball. He says the spin gives him added oomph. “I don’t use only strength,” explains Oldfield. “It’s a whole body thing. I take two sprint steps and TURN,” he bellows. He can run 100 yards in 10.3 seconds and calls himself “probably the fastest man of my size who ever lived.”
Unlike many of his quiet colleagues in track and field, whom he labels “nerds” and “slow, fat kids,” Oldfield is stunningly immodest. “Life is a big Wiffle-ball game,” he says. “I’m madcap and zany.” His training is unstructured and so is his style: He introduced bikini briefs, fishnet tank tops and cigarettes (although he no longer smokes) to the shotput circle. Off-track, he is a conspicuous presence in the world of singles bars.
Despite his exploits, brash Brian earned only $17,000 last season on the International Track Association tour. After some haggling, he agreed last month on a new 1976 contract. “It’s based on incentives,” says Old-field. “If I have the same year I had in 1975, I’ll make about $40,000.”
Still, this is hardly a boodle for someone whose ambition is to be “independently wealthy.” As a result, Oldfield abounds with Barnumesque schemes to enhance his market value at the track. “I might appear in kilts and give a Scottish yell when I throw,” he suggests. “Then I’d get me a buck a head for every fan who yells back.” He acknowledges no limits to his performance. “I want to break the record every time I throw,” he asserts. (Each new professional record is worth a $1,000 bonus.)
Oldfield was large at birth, 11 pounds, 9½ ounces, and self-absorbed only shortly thereafter. “I was hyperactive,” he recalls of his childhood in Elgin, Ill. “The school counselor would write things like, ‘has anxieties.’ Well,” he shrugs, “who doesn’t?” After his graduation in 1969 from Middle Tennessee State, he worked as a bouncer in several bars (“I never hit anyone first”). Oldfield then spent two and a half years teaching reading at the Illinois State Training School for Boys. “There I learned the meaning of words like integrity,” he says, lapsing into uncharacteristic thoughtfulness. “Before, I was just a big, healthy kid.”
At 30, Oldfield concentrates on staying healthy. He and his roommate, John Powell, world record holder in the discus, haul $70 worth of groceries home each week to their four-bedroom condominium outside Cupertino, Calif. For breakfast, Brian has been known to consume a dozen scrambled eggs, a pound of bacon, 20 ounces of milk, 20 ounces of orange juice and a 16-ounce cup of coffee, and soon complain of hunger pangs. Wherever Brian goes, females appreciate him. He likes his women “tall and lovely.” One New York stewardess who qualified told him, “I spent $15 tracking you down.” Oldfield replied: “I’m worth it.” He admits, “They’ve got to have a sense of humor to put up with me.”
The notion of marriage does not cast a shadow over Brian Oldfield’s immediate future. “It would hurt my image,” he theorizes. “And why get married when I can still make a few dozen more lifetime female friends?” Besides, Old-field is chained to the 16-pound ball. “Success went to my head. I liked it and I can’t get enough of it,” he confesses. “Now, I’m like Pavlov’s dog, wanting more.”