Calaveras Enterprise

Track and field legend gets Hall of Fame induction

The lone Calaveras County resident with an Olympic gold medal on his resume, Bill Nielder will be inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame at a special ceremony in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Niedler, the former world record holder in the shot put who won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and a silver medal at the Melbourne Games in 1956, is one of eight inductees in the 2006 Hall of Fame class.

“It’s a very exciting honor,” said Niedler, who lives with his wife Sharon in a home at Greenhorn Creek. “My wife said you’re either too old or you’re dead, but I guess that wasn’t the case.”

Niedler, 73, was one of four athletes included in this year’s Veteran class, created to recognize the accomplishments of athletes that competed more than 25 years ago.

“We’re trying to catch up and get people in who were overlooked,” said Tom Surber, media information manager with USA Track and Field. “Sometimes they can be forgotten about.

“In Mr. Niedler’s case, this is a guy who won silver and gold and held the world record on numerous occasions, and he did it while competing against some of the all-time greats. He might not be a household name, but he certainly qualifies as a major contributor. He had a tremendous career and is very deserving of being in the Hall.”

Nieder will make a speech at the Saturday’s induction ceremony. Some of the topics he said he will bring up are his storied rivalry with fellow Hall of Famer Parry O’Brien, the Olympic old medallist in 1956 – “… when I threw far enough in the (1960) Olympics to beat him, I had a cowboy hat on and towel around my neck and I threw my towel at him and said ‘OK sucker, lights out. We have a new Olympic champion.” – and his grandson Jake Mote, a sophomore at Calaveras High School who earned all-Mother Lode League honors in football this fall.

“I’m really proud of him,” said Niedler about his grandson. “I saw all of his games this year. I know he’s going to be a great athlete one of these days.”

Nieder was a football star himself growing up, earning high school all-American honors and playing center and linebacker for the University of Kansas before a knee injury ended his football career.

“That was my main sport,” Nieder said. “I wanted to play football more than anything.”

Although football was his biggest passion growing up, Nieder experienced his greatest success in the shot put.

Born in Hempstead, New York in 1933, Nieder grew up in Kansas and became the first high school athlete to break the 60-foot barrier with the 12-pound shot. At the University of Kansas, he became the first college athlete to surpass 60 feet with the 16-pound shot.

When his track and field career ended, Nieder tried boxing, a profession that lasted him all of one fight.

Outside of sports, Nieder worked for 10 years with 3M before starting his own company, Marathon Engineering Corporation, which makes Gold Medal Safety Padding, specially formulated padding used in jail cells, psychiatric rooms, and other places where violent behavior is common.

“Now fully retired, he stokes his competitive fire by playing golf. About a year and a half ago, Nieder and his wife moved from their spacious 200-acre ranch in Mountain Ranch to a house that borders the golf course at Greenhorn Creek.

“Golf is the hardest sport I’ve ever tired, and the ball doesn’t even move,” he said. “It’s fun trying to learn something new and there are a lot of good fellas out there that I’ve met. I play a couple of times a week. It’s relaxing and gives me something to do now that I’m retired.”

Contact Jeremy D. Malamed at

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