high jumper dies at 76

Olympic gold medalist Dick Fosbury was an influential high jumper who changed the event forever, pioneering the technique now used by almost every competitive high jumper: the Fosbury Flop. He would be inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame as a result. His gold in 1968 proved to be his only appearance in the Olympics, but the maneuver he invented is now a mainstay.

Early Competition Highlights

Fosbury began experimenting with the move that would come to bear his name as early as high school, after finding the then common “straddle method” too difficult. The rules of the high jump did not require a competitor to clear the bar in any particular position, so Fosbury tried various methods before finding one that was comfortable for him. By his senior year in high school, he had the second highest jump in the state. In his sophomore year of college, he shattered his school record, landing him on the cover of February 1968’s issue of Track and Field News and paving the way for him to compete in the Olympics.

Changing the Sport

By June of 1968, Fosbury was cruising through the Olympic trials. That October, he was on the U.S. team. He set a new Olympic record of 7 feet and 4 ¼ inches, just short of the world record set by Valeriy Brumel five years earlier, and easily won the gold medal. Though other athletes were initially skeptical of his method, it soon caught on. By 1980, 13 of the 16 Olympic finalists used it. Today, almost every high jumper uses the Fosbury Flop. He would go on to teach occasional clinics, though he would no longer compete. Fosbury also entered politics, serving as Blaine County Commissioner after an unsuccessful run for Congress.

Tributes to Dick Fosbury