Athletics News

Olympic champion and high jump innovator Dick Fosbury dies

Olympic champion and high jump innovator Dick Fosbury dies

Mexico 1968 gold medallist who revolutionised his event by inventing the ‘Fosbury flop’ passed away from cancer just days after turning 76

One of the most iconic figures in track and field athletics, Dick Fosbury, died on Sunday aged 76 from cancer. The American popularised a backwards ‘flop’ technique and won Olympic gold at the Mexico Games in 1968. His innovative method and achievements went beyond his sport and captured the imagination of the general public.

Before Fosbury, athletes used the Western roll or straddle techniques with the torso going over the bar sideways or belly-down. But Fosbury leapt over the bar backwards – a technique that gave his body a lower centre of mass than other techniques.

Fosbury was always quick to point out that he was not the first to jump backwards as Debbie Brill, a Canadian who won Commonwealth Games titles in 1970 and 1982, was also using the technique at an early stage. But Fosbury said: “I was just blessed to be the first one to discover it and have success with it at this high level. So I got naming rights, something I am very proud of.”

Jumping in an age where athletes competed more for love than money, he once said that the flop technique “brought me gifts – not necessarily monetarily … but I have met presidents and kings, seen the world, shared my life with wonderful people. It opened doors and allowed people to perceive me in a positive light.”

Born on March 6, 1947, in Portland, Oregon, and showed talent from an early age. In an interview with Stuart Weir for AW a few years ago, Fosbury recalled his introduction to athletics at school: “In track and field our teacher had us try every event so I ran, I threw and I jumped. And he taught me to high jump using the Western roll where the jumper ran at the bar with a straight approach and aimed their arm and leg at the bar to go over belly first and land in the pit – which was the standard technique at the time.

Dick Fosbury (Stuart Weir)

“The other technique that he taught us was the scissors, where you run at the bar and clear the bar with your seat while your legs did a scissor kick over it. For me this was a simple technique. And of course in those days you were landing in sawdust or wood chip, which was a technological advance on sand. So the landing was as important as clearing the bar so that you survived the jump!

“As things improved, wood chip was a good environment for us to land in. All the schools had…

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