Shortly after his 76th birthday, Olympic high jumper Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized the sport in style like never before, passed away. However, as a high school senior, he felt there was no jumper worse than him in the whole of Oregon, and when his coaches saw the new style, sometimes they hid the rule book, and sometimes they simply wanted to talk him out of trying it. After his Olympic victory, he focused more on his studies, also contributed to by the fact that he was annoyed by the constant fuss.
“I think some guys are going to try my method from now on. I don’t guarantee that it will be effective, nor do I recommend that this method is a winner. All I can say is, if someone hasn’t done a belly technique, they can try it with the way I jump up, So said the 1968 Mexican high jump champion, the American Dick Fosbury After winning the competition in style like never before.
Fosbury, then 21, reached the pinnacle of his career after five years of being ridiculed for his manner, which some compared to throwing a corpse out a window. His words after his victory also reveal that he was unaware of the changes he had made to the high jump, he simply wanted to let the world know that he had invented something new, which he really liked, to see if it would inspire him. others.
An Olympic gold medal and a new style revolutionizing the sport is a great achievement, especially considering that Fosbury said of himself:
When he started high jumping as a high school senior, there was no worse jumper in Oregon, let alone in school.
The 193 cm tall athlete tried out for basketball and American football in high school, but didn’t prove to be really good at either game. However, he was fully involved in the life of the school community. “I used to love to sing and have been on stage in some musicals, but those programs often interfered with training. However, my coach expected me to focus on sports.”
Fosbury initially used the scissor technique, the gist of which is the jumper running in a straight line towards the bar, then turning before jumping and swinging both legs over the bar one at a time before landing on that foot on the sand or mat, from which he jumped. In 1963, at the age of 16, the thought hit him in the head, what if he tried a technique in which he would not run in a straight line, but would gain momentum on a curved track, then come to the bar with his back, then his head first, then his shoulders over the bar, and then his back.
According to his confession It took him an afternoon to develop the new technique, thanks to which he improved his personal best by 15 cm in a short time. A technique called flipping was born, which he continued to perfect while his trainer hid the rule book, fearing that what Fosbury had invented would be banned.
After they found out that what he was doing was legal, they were still uncomfortable with him: sometimes they feared that he might get seriously injured if he fell on his back, and sometimes they said that maybe it wasn’t the right way if he wanted to be successful.
The new technology divided almost everyone, some considered it a physical achievement, while others waved it off as a joke.
However, Fosbury could not be dissuaded, he proved a huge improvement to him and he also found joy in the sport so he trained more. It’s on record that although everyone knows the flop explosion with Fosbury, in 1963 others had already experienced it. A Montana athlete, Bruce Coundy His jump was captured in a photo, but at the same time the Canadian experimented with the technique Debbie Brill who later won the Commonwealth Games and the Pan American Games. Those who preferred to flip was also helped by the fact that at this time the sandpit began to be replaced by a sponge, which made landing safer.
Although Fosbury was not taken seriously by his rivals at first, prior to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico he was already on the US selection team. The final choice site was Echo Peak in California, where prior to the competitions a high-altitude training camp was held for the athletes, who tried to prepare them for the conditions expected in Mexico City.
Fosbury, as usual, competes in a half-heel boot to Ed Carruthers And To Rinaldo Brown Likewise, he achieved a result of 221 cm, but since others achieved this height in fewer attempts, he finished third, but this also redeemed his ticket to the Olympics.
“Fosbury faces the toughest field ever for Olympic gold,” she heralded the high jump event John Hendershot In the Olympic preview of Track and Field news. There was no shortage of excitement in Mexico City, at 218cm five others battled for first place. Fosbury hovered over the bar for the first time, Carruthers ran it for third, while 17-year-old Brown and the Soviets Valery Skvortsov He was eliminated from the competition with three failed attempts. another soviet bird, Valentin Gavrilov I took a risk and lost this height. He did well, as he completed 220, and so did his two American competitors.
The bar was 222 cm and Fosbury was again confident, clearing this height for the first time without even touching the bar. Carruthers jumped to second place, but Gavrilov bled out and had to win the bronze medal.
At 224 cm, which is considered an American and Olympic record, the excitement built, as Fosbury and Carruthers both broke the bar on their first two attempts. The height, which previously only two athletes could achieve, Fosbury easily achieved third place, and the Mexican crowd, a little skeptical at the start of the race because of the technique unusual for him, cheered this time as one.
However, Fosbury did not celebrate because Carruthers still had his third jump, but the winner of the heat cleared the bar, making Fosbury the Olympic champion.
The new gold medalist raised the limit to the world record of 229cm, but it may have been in his head that he no longer had any real quota, because by that point he had only made three forgotten attempts.
Even the impetuous Fosbury surprised himself
– he exclaimed in The New York Times, reporting on the competition, and the athlete occupying the throne of high jumping revealed that when he looks at himself in the recordings, sometimes he is even amazed at how he does it.
After his Olympic victory, especially after seeing how smoothly he carried the 224cm, everyone expected Fosbury to be the one to fix up the Soviets. Valerie Brumel His own world record of 228 cm, which has existed since 1963. But Bromlett, who called Fosbury’s new style a complete mistake.
The fact that, despite great expectations, Fosbury did not become the world record holder was mainly due to the fact that after his Olympic title, he decided to focus on his university studies. Later, he was unable to better his result of 224 cm achieved in Mexico City, but his jump there still made an impact on the world record.
He was 14 years old at the time Dwight Stones Because he fell in love with Fosbury’s technique and five years later became the first jumper to cover a distance of 230 cm.
Fosbury’s flip spread quickly among high jumpers, and at the 1972 Munich Olympics 28 of 40 competitors attempted success with his technique, and in 1980 13 out of 16 competitors copied it.
“After my Olympic success, I thought one or two jumpers would definitely adopt my style, but I didn’t think it would become the dominant style for the next generation,” Fosbury said in 2012.
The fact that one of the 1968 Olympic champions was nowhere near the best performance of his life later also contributed to the fact that the uproar following the gold medal took its toll on him.
“When I came home from the Olympics at the end of October, I still had two months before university started again. I was invited to several TV shows, one of them Johnny Carson He had a talk show on NBC. I remember the comedian was there Bill Cosby who was also high jumpers before. They made me jump onto the stage, and I fell back on the first try, but cleared my height of 183cm on the second. Then with the decathlon Olympic champion, With Tommy Bill I was on a couple show called The Dating Game together, and neither of us got picked, but that still made it fun. Then an invitation came from Berlin, which I accepted, and it was the first time he had jumped in Europe. This was all great, but in January the squirrel wheel started again at university, and even though I did some internships, I felt like I needed to take a break.
I was exhausted from the fact that the previous year I had spent ten months in the high jump. Then there was a constant fuss, people put me on a pedestal, but I didn’t want to at all.
Fosbury graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in architecture in 1972 and moved to Idaho, where he founded a company and designed and built bike paths and running tracks. He eventually became the zoning commissioner of Blaine County, Odaho. He did not break away from sports either, he was the vice president of the US Olympic Committee and popularized the high jump all over the world.
He was diagnosed with lymphatic system cancer in 2007, and although he initially emerged victorious from the biggest battle of his life, the cancer recurred and permanently struck him on March 12, 2023, shortly after his 76th birthday.
“When you get to the highest level in the high jump, it feels like you’re flying over the bar. You spend about a second there, but it’s like time slows down and then expands. The mind can do amazing things. At this level, the mental factors are 90 percent and Just 10 per cent from physical factors,” Fosbury once described his beloved sport, which will be with us for a long time to come, when you see his grandkids soaring over the bar.
“Wannabe writer. Passionate troublemaker. Award-winning beer buff. Freelance organizer. Friendly tv practitioner. Music maven.”