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How One Man Changed the High Jump Forever | The Olympics on the Record

How One Man Changed the High Jump Forever | The Olympics on the Record

Olympic goes to Mexico. The Olympic high jump changed
for ever on October 20th 1968. The location was Mexico City. All was normal until a gangly, 21-year-old
civil engineering student in mis-matched
running shoes did this. That man’s name was
Dick Fosbury and although it may not seem
unusual to your eyes now, in 1968 it was revolutionary. On that day in Mexico City, the Olympic Games saw
its first Fosbury Flop and it has rarely seen
anything else ever since. The high jump has been a part
of the Olympic Games since the beginning. “Faster, Higher, Stronger,”
it’s there in the motto and down the years, techniques have changed to
inch that little bit higher. What started with a standing
jump went through a period where scissors were the vogue. Then a straddle,
and the “Western Roll”… ..each a little better
than the last. But over in Portland, Oregon,
in the mid-1960s, the young Dick Fosbury
was a lousy straddler. He watched his hero Valery
Brumel break record after record, but the only thing Fosbury
broke was his hand. Someone had bet him he couldn’t
jump over a chair and he couldn’t. But that was before Fosbury
tried something new. He married up his engineering
know-how with what his body was doing naturally
as he ran up to the bar. Fosbury applied some mechanics and learned that by
arching his back, a jumper’s centre of gravity
can stay below the bar, even as the body sailed
over it. If they get into that
perfect arch, it’s a mechanical advantage
to use that technique. Jumpers before took off from
the foot nearest the bar and span in the air to kick
their other leg over first, but Fosbury changed the run-up
and flipped the technique. Sawdust replaced sand, then foam appeared for the
jumpers to land on. It was all in place for Fosbury
to give it a try. Out there in Mexico City, Fosbury was already not like
the other guys. He didn’t like to practise.
He was a loner. He missed the opening ceremony to drive out to see
the pyramids, watching the sunset
and sleeping in a van. And his skills were as much
in his head as in his legs. Fosbury psyched himself up for
each jump, winning the 80,000 crowd on to his side and getting them
to will him over the bar. When the newspapers first saw
Fosbury jump before the Games, they said he was like
a “two-legged camel”. They dismissed him as a
curiosity, but this camel went through the start of the competition without knocking the bar
off once. There were only three men
left at 2.20 metres. All were guaranteed
at least a bronze. Ed Caruthers, United States, and Valentin Gavrilov, Soviet
Union, both joined Fosbury over 2.20 metres, but Gavrilov
couldn’t get over 2.22 metres. Caruthers couldn’t get over
2.24 metres, but Fosbury, like a champion, dug deep. His leap over the bar
at 2.24 metres set a new Olympic record
and won him a gold medal. Fosbury never came back
to the Olympics as an athlete after that day in Mexico City,
but his name sure did. He said, “I think quite a few
kids “will begin trying it
my way now.” The Fosbury Flop
is now the only way to fly.

Reader Comments

  1. A true artist…to find a way that everyone must follow…now they go so much higher!! Not a flop at all!!

  2. Nice to see that footage. Really enjoyed the '68 Olympics & no matter where you went, The Fosbury Flop was something everyone talked about – though many couldn't say it without giggling.

  3. Engineers are lazy when it comes to doing physical work. That’s why we try to do as little as possible and use different ideas and techniques to our advantage.

  4. 2 things you will never again see in the Summer Olympics: the straddle high jump technique and Olympics held in October. The Olympics cannot afford to compete with the almighty American football.

  5. I love those stories about techniques people are perfecting over and over until an unknown player comes up with a brand new strategy and revolutionise the whole thing.

  6. For literally decades…people had been doing it basically the same way…and he comes along and says…."ya know what…?"

    I don't care what it is…that's impressive on its own…and to think, the WORLD, literally changed how it now competes in this particular sport…basically overnight……….


  7. Went to my daughters school athletics carnival today and heard a boy getting told off by one of the teachers for not going over the bar fosbury style. Reminded me of getting told off 40 years ago for the same thing. Thank God our schools and teachers werent like this in fosburys day or we might never have gotten the flop at all. R.I.P. a free thinking future

  8. I actually like more how they jumped before, passing above the bar and falling on they feets. It looks more spectacular and practical. The actual technique it's unreal, why would jump as high as you can and fall on your back? You'll hurt yourself if you do that in a real situation.

  9. I think it was a tiny Challange for him to get out of the Way 😀

  10. Similar to the Japanese table tennis player who invented grippy sponge rubber in 1950 or so. He was world champion once EASY, then everybody used it and that was it for him :p ahhh, engineers <3

  11. He looks like that one weird kid that’s doing some crazy weird stuff but he’s actually a genius and everyone judges him because they are closed minded

  12. I say replace the landing with concrete and see how well his innovative high jump technique works then.

  13. By the time I went to High School in 1976, to an 11 year old, 1968 seemed like pre-history, but the 'Fosbury Flop' was already established.

    Interestingly a female Olympic medalist in the high jump had previously been to our school a few years' earlier and her record was marked on the equipment that we used. For all the machismo among the lads, it was daunting to see just how high a GIRL from our school had jumped and not one of the boys ever got close to it.

  14. So basically he went head first and people were like woah.🤔 wouldn’t blame them. All these years people were jumping breached.

  15. 세상은 단 한명에 의해 바꿔집니다. 그리고 모두들 그를 따르고……지금도 그렇고 미래도 그렇겠죠 ^^

  16. Like the Fosburry Flop, swimming have their Suzuki's underwater. Except, they had to make amendments to the rule to not allow it ;D

    JAVIER SOTOMAYOR CUBA High Jump World Record – WR – 2.45 m.

  18. As a sophomore in high school Fosbury couldn't clear 5'2". But then he took at great leap backwards! His junior year he cleared 6' 3" and broke his school's record. Four years later he jumped 7' 4.25", breaking both the American and Olympic records. Today he's considered one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field.

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