HIGH JUMP CHAMPION
Dick Fosbury became a household name during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City when he won a gold medal in the high jump competition. Fosbury's innovative jumping style was dubbed the Fosbury Flop, and it was a technique that revolutionized the sport.
As a high school track and field athlete in Oregon, Fosbury had been instructed in the execution of the then current standard jumping technique, the straddle jump. To perform the straddle method, the jumper approached the bar and planted the foot closest to the bar, with the trailing leg kicked upwards. The jumper would then attempt to clear the bar with a rolling motion of their body in the air.
Fosbury struggled with the straddle jump, and at age 16 he began to experiment with a technique that involved a scissor kick movement at the beginning of the jump; Fosbury then turned his back to the bar at takeoff, taking himself head first and backwards over the bar with his body horizontal to the ground. The physical result achieved by Fosbury was a twist of the body followed by a somersault, as the knees were driven upwards as the head was directed across the bar.
Fosbury also employed a curved run up in his approach, as opposed to a straight on run at the bar. The curved run up, combined with the angular momentum created by the twisting motion of the jumper at take off, provided Fosbury with slightly greater lift. Fosbury also discovered that by positioning himself horizontal to the ground as he proceeded over the bar, adjustments could be made in the air with respect to his body position, such as a greater arch of the back and hips, to obtain the greatest possible height over the bar.
Using his new technique, Fosbury increased his jumps by over 12 in (30 cm) in its first year of use.
Using the Flop, Fosbury jumped to an Olympic record in Mexico City, 7 ft 4.25 in (2.24 m).
The most enduring aspect of Fosbury's jumping technique is the fact that virtually all elite level high jumpers since 1968 have adopted it. By the time of the 1976 Summer Olympics, all three high jump medalists used his technique. The world high jump record using the Fosbury Flop has been taken to 8 ft 0.5 in (2.45 m). Fosbury was elected to the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in 1992.