Athletics high jump legend Dick Fosbury dead at 76: agent
LOS ANGELES – Track and field legend Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized the high jump with his signature “Fosbury flop,” has died, his agent confirmed Monday. He was 76.
Fosbury’s agent Ray Schulte said in a statement that the 1968 Olympics gold medalist died peacefully in his sleep from lymphoma early Sunday.
“Dick will be greatly missed by friends and fans around the world. A true legend and a friend to all!”
Born in Portland, Oregon in 1947, Fosbury would go on to become one of the most influential athletes in athletics history for developing the innovative high jump technique that revolutionized his sport in the 1960s.
Prior to Fosbury’s emergence, high jumpers typically attempted to clear the pole using the “straddle technique,” in which they would lift off face forward while attempting to rotate their body over the pole mid-jump.
However, Fosbury turned conventional wisdom on its head with his new approach, immortalized as the “Fosbury Flop” and still the standard technique for elite high jumpers today.
Rather than charge the bar head-on, the lanky, 6ft 4in tall Fosbury arced towards the bar on the run-up before taking off backwards and ‘floating’ over the bar.
“Few athletes in history have done their thing as uniquely as Dick Fosbury,” wrote former US high jump coach John Tansley in 1980.
“He literally turned his event on its head.”
Fosbury began experimenting with new types of high jump while still at school and discovered his new technique during a competition in 1963, in which he used an old technique to jump a personal best of 1.65m.
– Olympic Glory –
“Then they raised the bar and I knew I had to try something different to get over that,” Fosbury told Athletics Weekly in 2011.
“I knew I needed to raise my hips and to do that I needed to get my shoulders out of the way. And I broke the bar at the next level and ended up jumping 1.77m, so I went up 15cm that day.”
But it wasn’t until 1968 that Fosbury’s new approach gained worldwide attention.
Victory at the US College Championships was followed by victory at the US Olympic Trials in Los Angeles.
At the Mexico City Olympics, Fosbury won the gold medal after surmounting a height of 2.24m – a new Olympic and US record – in his third jump to overtake teammate Ed Caruthers while Valentin Gavrilov was out of the Soviet Union won bronze.
Fosbury’s performances at the Olympics electrified the stadium, and Mexican fans were enthralled by the lanky American college student’s bold approach.
“No athlete at the Olympics has evoked more whoops of joy or screams of disbelief from the crowd… than Dick Fosbury, the architect of an acrobatic maneuver that has come to be known as the Fosbury Flop,” the New York Times commented at the time.
Fosbury later said that he never saw himself as a revolutionary and did not expect his style to become the standard technique for high jumping.
“I’ve had the blessing and good fortune to have contributed to the sport, but I had no intention of doing so,” he told Athletics Weekly.
“I didn’t try to change the event. I knew my technique was my path to success. And I had this technique that was mine – mine alone.”
Fosbury was the only competitor to use the “Fosbury Flop” at the 1968 Olympics. By the 1972 Munich Games, 28 out of 40 competitors in this discipline had adopted his style.
“I thought that after I won gold, one or two jumpers would start using it, but I never really thought that it would become the universal technique,” Fosbury said in 2012.
“Even so, it only lasted a generation.”
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