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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

High jump pioneer, icon and 1968 Olympic champion Dick Fosbury dies at 76

Olympic high jump champion Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized the event with a radically different jumping technique that was eventually named after him, died on Sunday aged 76, his agent Ray Schulte said on Monday.

Fosbury won gold for the U.S. in the high jump at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where the six-foot-four athlete jumped back first to clear the bar, a technique that has since been named the “Fosbury Flop” and used by all high jumpers today.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that longtime friend and client Dick Fosbury passed away peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning after a brief recurrence of lymphoma,” Schulte wrote on Instagram.

The lanky leaper died Sunday after a recurrence with lymphoma.

Before Fosbury, high jumpers cleared their height by running parallel to bar, then leaping over with a scissors kick, with their faces pointed downward.

Fosbury cleared 2.24 metres to set an Olympic record. By the next Olympics, 28 of the 40 jumpers were using Fosbury’s technique.

Fosbury started tinkering with the 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 Fosbury looked like a fish flopping in a boat.

‘Changed entire event forever’

“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.”

“Yesterday, one of the most famous figures in the high jump passed away,” said Amelie Oudea-Castera, France’s Minister of Sports and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Dick Fosbury had revolutionized the practice of this sport with his sublime audacity. Thoughts to his loved ones.”

Fosbury’s gold and his contribution to the sport also earned him a spot in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife Robin Tomasi, son Erich Fosbury and stepdaughters Stephanie Thomas-Phipps and Kristin Thompson.”

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