Spikes03 Mar 2015

Jumping backwards. Moving forwards.


Dick Fosbury

Ato Boldon speaks to high jump pioneer and 1968 Olympic champion Dick Fosbury for the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics.

Sometimes an athlete pulls a move out the bag that simply blows people’s minds. A select few invent a technique so sublime and revolutionary that their name is linked with it for evermore (remember, he initially gave it different name).

The Fosbury Flop, now ubiquitous but non-existent before its invention by a Portland visionary, is one such move (see also: the Cruyff Turn and the Stone Cold Stunner).

Dick Fosbury, the man who condemned the straddle jump to the high jumping dark ages, left the competition stunned with his backwards jump that saw him flop to gold at the 1968 Mexico Olympics with a championship record 2.24m.

In the latest episode of IAAF Inside Athletics Fosbury, who was 21 when he went to Mexico City, tells Ato Boldon he had little idea his technique, which he had been honing for some time, would create such a clamour when he debuted it at his first international championships.

“What I had developed worked for me,” he says. “The criticism of other coaches didn’t really matter as long as I was meeting the rules, meeting the standards.

“This technique that I had developed was how I got to the Olympic Games, how I made the United States team to represent our country.”

Fosbury, who after athletics went on to work as a civil engineer, is modest about his influence on the sport, and plays down his backwards jumping technique as natural evolution.

He says he loves to see people push the boundaries within the confines of the rules, which explains why he is delighted that today's high jump event is earning a reputation as one of the best quality, most competitive spectacles in athletics.

He believes the quality of the men’s field could see Javier Sotomayor’s 2.45m world record broken sooner rather than later.

“Sotomayor was very competitive. I saw him in 1987 in Rome at the world championships and he was very new but explosive, and you could see he would be very exciting to watch.

“Now today we have this high level of competition and that’s what will push one of those guys to set a new world record. It’s possible that two of them could do it in the same day.

“Once you have that head to head competition that’s what so exciting in sport. You can’t ever predict it; that’s why we love to watch it.”

Watch the full 11-minute IAAF Inside Athletics interview below: