Dick Fosbury, the lanky leaper who completely 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, high jumpers cleared their heights by running parallel to bar, then leaping over with a scissors kick, often with their faces pointed downward. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, he took off at an angle, leaped backward, bent himself into a “J” shape to catapult his 6-foot-4 frame over the bar, then landed head-first on the mat.
Fosbury cleared 2.24 meters (7 feet, 4 1/4 inches) in Mexico City to win the gold and set an Olympic record. By the next Olympics, 28 of the 40 jumpers were using Fosbury’s technique. Today, it is by far the most-used technique for elite high jumpers across the globe.
“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.”
Fosbury started tinkering with a new technique as a teenager at Medford High School in Oregon. Among his discoveries over the years was a need to move his takeoff point farther back for higher jumps. Most jumpers planted a foot and took off at the same spot regardless of the height.
Fosbury’s technique took a while to catch on. 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 that day wrote that Fosbury looked like a fish flopping in a boat.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition