‘Fosbury Flop’ high jumper Dick Fosbury dies at 76
Dick Fosbury, the lanky leaper who revamped the technical discipline of high jump and won an Olympic gold medal with his “Fosbury Flop,” has died. He was 76.
Fosbury died Sunday after a recurrence with lymphoma, according to his publicist, Ray Schulte.
Before Fosbury, many high jumpers cleared their heights by running parallel to the bar, then using a straddle kick to leap over before landing with their faces pointed downward.
At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Fosbury took off at an angle, leaped backward, bent himself into a “J” shape to catapult his 6-foot-4 frame over the bar, then crashed headfirst into the landing pit.
It was a convention-defying move, and with the world watching, Fosbury cleared 2.24 metres (7 feet, 4 1/4 inches) to win the gold and set an Olympic record. By the next Olympics, 28 of the 40 jumpers were using Fosbury's technique.
The Montreal Games in 1976 marked the last Olympics in which a high jumper won a medal using a technique other than the Fosbury Flop.
“The world legend is probably used too often,” sprint great Michael Johnson tweeted. “Dick Fosbury was a true LEGEND! He changed an entire event forever with a technique that looked crazy at the time but the result made it the standard.”
Over time, Fosbury's move became about more than simply high jumping. It is often used by business leaders and university professors as a study in innovation and willingness to take chances and break the mold.
“It's literally genius,” said 2012 Olympic high jump champion Erik Kynard Jr. “And it takes huge courage, obviously. And took huge courage at the time to even consider something so dangerous. Due to the equipment then, it was something that was a little on edge to attempt.”
Fosbury started tinkering with a new technique in the early '60s, as a teenager at Medford High School in Oregon.
The technique was the subject of scorn and ridicule in some corners. The term Fosbury Flop is credited to the Medford Mail-Tribune, which wrote the headline “Fosbury Flops Over the Bar” after one of his high school meets. The reporter wrote that Fosbury looked like a fish flopping in a boat.
Fosbury liked “Fosbury Flop.”
“It's poetic. It's alliterative. It's a conflict,” he once said.
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