until 1968 Olympic GamesMade fun of Dick Fosbury. His unconventional high jump style, his attempt to jump over the bar with his back arched, caused him to be referred to as brutal names by the US media. “The laziest high jumper in the world”; “a fish swimming in a boat”; “a two-legged camel” in reference to its flamboyant run. This Los Angeles times He thought it looked like a “man thrown out of a 30-story window.”
But Fosbury’s ability to use their words and channel them into the positive was one of his many strengths. “As an athlete, you’re an artist,” he said. “We all do sports, we love attention. So if you’re getting some attention – even if you’re being teased – that’s fine. I realized that they weren’t making fun of me, but that they were enjoying something completely different.”
One criticism hurt. Fosbury, who died at 76He was just 21 when he reached the Mexico City Olympics in ’68. His technique was a hot topic on the track, and a couple of venerable German coaches took him to the sidelines and set out to reveal the harsh truth: As long as he continued to use this maverick style, he would never succeed. high jump. He told them, “I’m going to use what I have and we’ll see the results.”
Five years ago, Fosbury was ready to quit the sport. He was struggling with the trending scissor technique, and the results got worse when his high school coach encouraged him to try the more traditional ‘Western roll’. He decided to try another track meetup with the scissor jump adaptation he was working on with his hips raised above the bar, and the seeds of the Fosbury Flop were planted that day.
The method immediately boosted his personal record a few inches, and four months before the Olympics, a relatively unknown Fosbury won the US national college championships. There were still doubts about his technique and concerns about safety, with good reason – foam mats for the high jump had not yet been widely deployed, and Fosbury had damaged his spine enough to prevent conscription in Vietnam. However, he at least ignored his own coach’s skepticism and won the Olympic trials two weeks later, earning a surprise spot at the Games.
On that October day in Mexico City, the audience was ecstatic. Fosbury knew how to get a crowd to work – after all, he was a player in his own eyes – and would drive them crazy before showing off his trick, so when the decisive moment came the whole crowd wanted him. To succeed. “When we reached the top of the gold medal, everyone in the stadium was quiet,” he recalled. “Once I clear the space between my body and my bar, I will never forget that feeling.”
Fosbury’s shocking gold medal was a tale of innovation and ingenuity, but it was also a story of daring to be different – what can happen when you ignore what other people think. Fosbury was not like the others; this was a man who missed the opening ceremony to go out into the desert alone and watch the sun go down. The high jump revolution required a man to hear their criticism and do it anyway.
Even after winning Olympic gold, many of its fiercest competitors continued to shy away from the Fosbury Flop, and it was only young jumpers or those on the fringes of the elite who embraced this new idea; It took a generation to fully get hold of the event.
It brings to mind Wilt Chamberlain, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but whose free throw success is deplorable. Over the course of a season, he clumsily switched to underhand technique and his score percentage went up. But the “granny kick” was ridiculed and he stopped and went back to fighting the traditional way. Chamberlain even hired a psychiatrist to work with him extensively in the field. “A month later, the psychiatrist was a better free thrower than I was,” Chamberlain joked.
Pride got in Chamberlain’s way, but arrogance is God’s gift to little men, and despite attempts to mock Fosbury, he never hesitated. There is an irony, then, that it was victory, not doubt, that turned him from his path. Fosbury loved the attention, but up to a point and soon discovered that he preferred punching rather than looking down. “I didn’t want to be on a pedestal. I got my medal and I wanted to be on the court with everyone else.”
Unable to qualify for the 1972 Olympics, he retired and studied engineering, a subject fit for a man who rewrote the mechanics of his sport. His legacy continues: The high jump provided one of the iconic moments of Tokyo 2020 by two rivals, Mutaz Essa Barshim and Gianmarco Tamberi. agreed to share goldand of course by deploying the Fosbury Flop they both won. “I never imagined it would become universal,” Fosbury once said. He was as humble as he was talented, but mostly brave; the pioneer who turned cynicism into gold.