Olympic high jump champion Dick Fosbury, who revolutionised the event with a radically different jumping technique that was eventually named after him, has died at the age of 76.
Fosbury won gold in the high jump at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he jumped back first to clear the bar, a technique that has since been named the “Fosbury Flop” and is used by all high jumpers today.
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The straddle or scissor jump were common techniques in the high jump. But when foam matting was introduced to break the athletes’ fall, Fosbury used his new technique for the first time on the world stage.
The American set a then-Olympic record of 2.24 metres to take the gold and change the sport forever, with more and more athletes attempting the back-first jump as the technique gradually gained acceptance.
“With his groundbreaking ‘Fosbury Flop’ technique, Dick Fosbury not only won Olympic gold at Mexico City 1968 but also revolutionised the high jump. He was truly an Olympic pioneer and legend,” Team USA posted on Twitter.
At the age of 76, Dick Fosbury 🇺🇲 dies.
He is considered one of the most influential athletes in history, inventing the back-first technique in the men's High Jump!
He won Gold in the event at the Olympic Games in 1968 with 2.24m. pic.twitter.com/78lQ19OYqx
— oluwadare (@Track_Gazette) March 13, 2023
World Athletics said in a statement: “Fosbury’s innovation took the high jump to another level and he remained involved in athletics throughout his life, sharing his knowledge and skill with future generations … He leaves a remarkable legacy.”
The Montreal Games in 1976 marked the last Olympics in which a high jumper won using a technique other than the Fosbury Flop.
“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’s gold and his contribution to the sport also earned him a spot in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.