Former world class discus champion elected to hall of fame

Former world discus champion and Olympic medal winner L. Jay Silvester has been elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. The BYU associate professor and coach who starred at Utah State University and then on the world athletics stage for many more years will be one of four athletes inducted on Dec. 3. Ceremonies will be in Orlando, Fla., during the USA Track & Field's annual meeting.

Brother Silvester, a high councilor in the Orem Utah Lakeridge Stake, set seven world records in the discus. He won a silver medal in that event in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, and a bronze in the 1976 games at Montreal. He also competed in the 1964 and 1968 Summer Games."I am very pleased, of course, but more than that I have a feeling of peace and contentment," Brother Silvester said in a Church News telephone interview.

He continued: "I am very much aware of the blessings that I was able to receive as a competitor. I did not achieve an Olympic gold medal and that will forever be something I would have liked to accomplish." But, he said, being elected to the national hall of fame, "is satisfying and fulfilling."

A native of Tremonton, Utah, he graduated from Utah State, where he also excelled in the shot put. He later earned a master's degree at Utah State and a Ph.D. at BYU.

His first world record in the discus was set in 1961 at 198 feet, 8 inches and just days later he raised the mark to 199-2. Both meets were in Europe. In 1968, he set a record at 218-4, breaking the old mark by nearly five feet, and again at 224-5. He was the first in the world to throw 220 and 230 feet. His best mark was 230-11 in 1971, a distance that would be world-ranked today if he were an active competitor. He won five national titles and was a member of 16 national teams.

His longevity was remarkable; he remained competitive until he was 39 years old.

"I never said, `I am going to quit throwing," he said. "I said I was going to compete until it was obvious that I could no longer be competitive on the highest level."

He said discus throwing was his hobby; while competing, he wasn't compensated beyond a little bit of expense money. He noted that he was able to do that because he had the support of his wife, Geniel, who was his high school sweetheart and married him during his second year in college.

"It was just a wonderful time," Brother Silvester said of his athletic career. "It's a wonderful blessing to be able to compete in things that are exciting and challenging. I always thought of competing as the frosting on the cake of life. Sometimes it wasn't fulfilling, it was even disappointing, but it was always full of whatever it is that keeps you alive and functioning."

Besides serving as a volunteer coach for the throwers (discus, shot put, javelin and hammer) on the BYU men's track team, he is still involved with the national track and field organization. He also helps throwers at clinics on the national level.

He and his wife have three children - Janet, Darren Jay and Lisa Dawn - and nine grandchildren.

Joining Silvester in the 1998 Hall of Fame class are hurdler Greg Foster, distance runner Francie Larrieu-Smith, and high jumper Dwight Stones.

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