M100 Austrian throwing star Alfred Proksch dies at age 102

The Koops’ website in Germany reports very sad news: M100 thrower Alfred Proksch died Jan. 3 of kidney failure less than a month after turning 102. He was one of five elder athletes featured in the German documentary “Herbstgold,” made by Jan Tenhaven and eventually to be out on DVD. Alfred threw both the shot and discus at Lahti worlds in 2009 — after undergoing knee surgery. He was sixth in the pole vault at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and later made a name for himself as an artist and graphic designer. My photo gallery showing him at Lahti is right here. Sorry to see him go. He was the epitome of dedication to the sport. Driven to excel.

Alfred's discus at Lahti was depicted in movie as soaring into the clouds.

“Autumn Gold,” the doc’s name in English, will be screened Saturday in Palm Springs, California, it turns out. See details here.

Jan Tenhaven wrote me Wednesday morning:

Alfred Proksch was very happy to be able to live in his own beloved apartment until very recently although with some assistance. Last time I saw him was at September 23, at the occasion of my film’s Austrian theatrical release.

He was too weak to attend the premiere, so I went to his apartment, and we watched the film at his home. He opened a bottle of champagne which was left over from his 100th birthday and both his son Peter and his daughter-in-law attended that private screening. Both were his closest relatives and aides.

Alfred liked the film and smiled at the last scene where he was throwing the discus in Finland. That was his last and final big throw. He never competed again.

I am very sad that Alfred Proksch is gone forever. However, at the same time I’m sure he has led a very long and full life, and that he was ready to go. He was relatively autonomous and self-dependent until almost the very end, and I know that mattered a lot to him.

Autumn Gold will be screening at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in just a few days. This will be the first screening where I cannot say that all our protagonists are still alive. I will attend the first screening in Palm Springs and will dedicate that very special screening to Alfred.

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January 5, 2011

7 Responses

  1. Tom Phillips - January 5, 2011


    Aussie = Australian. Alfred was Austrian. That’s a long way away from there, and has no kangaroos.

    What a sad loss. Are there any 1936 Olympic T&F competitors left?


  2. Rob D'Avellar - January 5, 2011

    Lbujica “Gabre” Gabric-Calvesi of Italy competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and still competes in the shot put. I believe she is 96. She is also featured in the film “Autumn Gold”.

    I photographed and interviewed Alfred in Lahti. When I asked him about the Berlin Olympics, he said that he thought he didn’t do better than 6th in the pole vault because he was “too old” at the time. Alfred was 28 at the Berlin Olympics. He won Gold in Lahti at the age of 101.

    You can see Alfred’s 1936 pole vault competition in Leni Riefenstahl’s famous documentary on the Berlin Olympics called “Olympia”. Not sure which competitor was Alfred, but his competition was prominently featured and was eventually won by an American.

  3. t-bird - January 5, 2011

    Errr…not everyone speaks Austrian.

  4. Ken Stone - January 5, 2011

    I’ve corrected Aussie to Austrian. My brain knew it, but my fingers forgot.

  5. Mary Harada - January 5, 2011

    Inspiring – that video will help me keep going when I have those moments of thinking – sheeze – am I getting too old for this?

  6. Lesley Richardson - January 6, 2011

    This was one fantastic man who I had the honour of photographing in Lahti in 2009 Worlds. It is a shame that he has died but also great that he enjoyed his sport almost right up till the end. I hope I am still around at that age let alone still able to compete.
    I cant wait to see this DVD Herbstgold and I am eagerly awaiting my copy.

  7. Rob D'Avellar - January 13, 2011

    Question for all you trivia buffs:

    Now that Alfred has passed, who is the oldest male track and field athlete in the world still in competition?

    Does Leland McPhie, 96, now have that distinction?

    Or is there someone else from another country still in competition who is older than Leland?

    I know that Ruth Frith of Australia, 101, is the oldest female track and field athlete still in competition.

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