American Dick Fosbury during the finals of the high-altitude competition at the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968.
New York – Shortly after his 76th birthday, the legendary American high-flyer Dick Fosbury died. The pioneer of the jumping flop style succumbed to cancer of the lymph nodes, which he had been fighting with for 15 years. The athlete's agent, Ray Schulte, reported on his Sunday death on Instagram today.
Fosbury experienced the most famous moment of his sports career on October 20, 1968 in the final of the high jump competition at the Olympic Games in Mexico. With his revolutionary back-first, shoulder-impact style of jumping, he cleared the bar at a height of 224 centimeters and won the gold medal in a new Olympic record.
Until then, high jumpers jumped with the help of a quick cut with their feet or side first. Fosbury also started with scissors and at the age of 15 exceeded 162 centimeters. But then he realized that it probably wouldn't go any higher, so he tried to change the style. At the time, the most used jump technique called the middle jump didn't work very well for him, moreover, it seemed unnecessarily complicated.
At midpoint, the high lifter was belly-up over the bar, and Fosbury realized that it would be much more efficient to have his center of gravity lower and cross the bar on his back. He also invented a new type of run with eight steps curved in the shape of the letter J. Using the revolutionary technique, he improved to 178 centimeters in just one year, and at the age of 18 he already won the US junior championship with a performance of 200 centimeters.
He took care of naming the new style one Oregonian journalist called it a “Fosbury flop”. At first, trainers considered this style dangerous and believed that there was a risk of breaking a ligament.
Fosbury's triumph in Mexico did not immediately guarantee the flop a privileged position. For a number of years, it was considered an alternative to the middle, with which the elite high-flyers were still able to win. Over time, however, the flop gained dominance, and at the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 it was already used by the vast majority of competitors.
“With the flop, you make much fewer moves in front of the bar and get over it flat, which reduces the risk that you're going to trouble some part of your body with it,” commented Fosbury, who in 2013 visited as a guest at the traditional high-altitude meeting in Hustopeče, commenting on his style.