Dick Fosbury: Wikis

  
  

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Olympic medal record
Men's Track & Field
Competitor for the  United States
Olympic Games
Gold 1968 Mexico City High Jump

Richard Douglas "Dick" Fosbury (born March 6, 1947 in Portland, Oregon) is a former track and field athlete who revolutionized the high jump event, using a back-first technique, now known as the Fosbury Flop. His method was to sprint diagonally towards the bar, then curve and leap backwards over the bar. He continues to be involved in athletics as President of the World Olympians Association [1]

Career

Fosbury, who was born in Portland, first started experimenting with this new technique at age 16, while attending high school in Medford.[2] He disliked the dominant style of the day, the "straddle method," and began experimenting with the outdated "upright scissors method", which he developed until he was jumping face-up with his legs together.[3] His high-jump technique was named the "Fosbury Flop" by an Oregon reporter. While unorthodox, high jump rules stipulate only that competitors may only jump off one foot at takeoff: there is no rule governing how a competitor crosses the bar, so long as he or she goes over it.

Dick Fosbury provided details on how he came to develop his unique style, when he sat for an interview with ESPN during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. That interview was published in February 1998 and can be read at this link:[1]

Fosbury's revolutionary technique was made possible by the introduction of a new landing surface. For over sixty years the high jump landing area was simply a pit of loose sawdust or sand and was only a few inches above ground-level. Jumpers using the scissors technique were able to clear the bar while upright and then land on their feet, while those using the Western Roll or Straddle made a three-point landing on their hands and lead leg. In the late 1950s, American colleges began to use bundles of soft foam rubber, usually held together by a mesh net. These bundles were not only much softer, but were also elevated about 3 feet (1 meter) off the ground. Historic photographs taken at the Drake Relays of the various jumping styles and landing pits can be seen at this link, including pictures of Fosbury:[2] By the early 1960s, American high schools were following the lead of the colleges in acquiring foam rubber landing pits. With the new, softer, elevated landing surface, Fosbury was able to land safely on his back without snapping his neck.

After graduating from Medford High School in 1965, he enrolled at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Fosbury won the 1968 NCAA title using his new technique, as well as the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Fosbury continued to refine his technique, developing a a curved, J-shaped approach run. This allowed him to increase his speed, while the final "curved" steps served to rotate his hips. As his speed increased, so did his elevation. Fosbury made little-to-no use of his arms at takeoff, failing to "pump" them upwards, keeping them down, close to his body: the next generation of floppers would add an arm pump. Fosbury's key discovery was the need to adjust his point-of-takeoff as the bar was raised. His flight through the air described a parabola: as the bar went up in height, he needed more "flight time" so that the top of his arc was achieved as his hips passed over the bar. To increase "flight time", Fosbury moved his takeoff farther and farther away from the bar (and the pit.) Jumpers have a natural tendency to be drawn in closer to the bar and it requires mental discipline to move out, rather than in. By way of comparison, classic Straddle jumpers plant their take-off foot in the same place every time, less than one foot away from a line parallel with the bar. Photographs of Fosbury attempting heights above 7 feet show him taking off nearly four feet (over one meter) out from the bar.

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, he took the gold medal and set a new Olympic record at 2.24 meters (7 feet 4.25 inches), displaying the potential of the new technique. Despite the initial skeptical reactions from the high jumping community, the "Fosbury Flop" quickly gained acceptance. In the Finals competition, only three jumpers cleared 2.20 meters (7 feet 2.5 inches), and Fosbury was in the lead by virtue of having cleared every height on his first attempt. At the next height, 2.22 m (7 feet 3.25 inches), Fosbury again cleared the bar on his first jump. His teammate, Ed Caruthers, cleared on his second effort, while Valentin Gavrilov of the Soviet Union missed on all three attempts and earned the bronze medal (third place.)[4] The bar was raised to 2.24 meters, which would be new Olympic and United States records. Fosbury missed on his first two attempts, but cleared on his third, while Caruthers missed on all three of his attempts.[5]

Four years later, in Munich, 28 of the 40 competitors used Fosbury's technique. By 1980, thirteen of the sixteen Olympic finalists used it. [6] Of the 36 Olympic medalists in the event from 1972 through 2000, 34 used "the Flop".[3] Today it is the most popular high jumping technique in modern high jumping.[7]

Personal life

Fosbury graduated from OSU in 1972 with a degree in civil engineering and is the co-owner of Galena Engineering, Inc. in Ketchum, Idaho, where he has lived since 1977.[8]

In March 2008, Fosbury was diagnosed with stage one lymphoma. He had surgery a month later to remove a cancerous tumor engulfing his lower vertebra. Due to concerns about tumor's proximity to the spine, it was not completely removed and he was put on a chemotherapy regimen. [9] In March 2009 Fosbury announced that he was in remission.[10]

Footnotes








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