South African sports legend John van Reenen (71) passed away on Tuesday at his home in Calitzdorp, South Africa. (He suffered from diabetes). He studied art right here in Seattle at the University of Washington until 1971, and was a world-class discus thrower at the time. He wanted to attend the 1972 Olympic Games, but was barred as a South African citizen. South Africans were barred by the IOC from the Games from 1964 to 1992, due to the South African government’s apartheid policies.
At an event in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 1975, Van Reenen set a world record with a throw of 68.48 m. Discus throwers studied and imitated his technique, known for a long time as ‘the South African drill’. Perfecting a good technique is notoriously difficult – which may be why the world record of German Jürgen Schult of 74.08 m, set in 1986, still stands today. It is the oldest record in all of men’s track and field.