Dick Fosbury, the lanky leaper who revamped the technical discipline of high jump and won an Olympic gold medal with his “Fosbury Flop,” has died. He was 76.

Fosbury died Sunday after a recurrence with lymphoma, according to his publicist, Ray Schulte.

Before Fosbury, many high jumpers cleared their heights by running parallel to the bar, then using a straddle kick to leap over before landing with their faces pointed downward. At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, Fosbury took off at an angle, leaped backward, bent himself into a “J” shape to catapult his 6-foot-4 frame over the bar, then crashed headfirst into the landing pit.

It was a convention-defying move, and with the world watching, Fosbury cleared 7 feet, 4 1/4 inches to win the gold and set an Olympic record. By the next Olympics, 28 of the 40 jumpers were using Fosbury’s technique. The Montreal Games in 1976 marked the last Olympics in which a high jumper won using a technique other than the Fosbury Flop.

“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.”


Over time, Fosbury’s move became about more than simply high jumping. It is often used by business leaders and university professors as a study in innovation and willingness to take chances and break the mold.

“It’s literally genius,” said 2012 Olympic high jump champion Erik Kynard Jr. “And it takes huge courage, obviously. And took huge courage at the time to even consider something so dangerous. Due to the equipment then, it was something that was a little on edge to attempt.”

Fosbury started tinkering with a new technique in the early ’60s, as a teenager at Medford High School in Oregon. Among his discoveries was a need to move his takeoff point farther back for higher jumps, so he could change the apex of the parabola shape of his jump to clear the bar. Most traditional jumpers of that day planted a foot and took off from the same spot regardless of the height they were attempting.

“I knew I had to change my body position, and that’s what started first the revolution, and over the next two years, the evolution,” Fosbury said in a 2014 interview with The Corvallis Gazette-Times. “During my junior year, I carried on with this new technique, and each meet I continued to evolve or change, but I was improving. My results were getting better.”

The technique was the subject of scorn and ridicule in some corners. 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 wrote that Fosbury looked like a fish flopping in a boat.

Fosbury liked “Fosbury Flop.”


“It’s poetic. It’s alliterative. It’s a conflict,” he once said.

In a chapter in his book about the Mexico City Games, journalist Richard Hoffer wrote that Fosbury once received a letter from an LA medical director suggesting his technique would lead to “a rash of broken necks.”

“For the good of young Americans, you should stop this ridiculous attack on the bar,” the letter said.

As a kid, Fosbury threw himself into sports as a way of dealing with the grief after his younger brother, Greg, was killed by a drunken driver while the two boys were riding bikes. Unable to stick with the football or basketball teams, Fosbury tried track but struggled there with the preferred jump of those days — the straddle.

Fosbury’s biographer, Bob Welch, wrote that Fosbury was fine dealing with people ridiculing his style because, to him, it still wasn’t as painful as the sorrow he felt for the loss of his brother.

Innovation won out. Decades later, Fosbury’s flop remains a hit, and his willingness to take a chance remains a lesson from which almost anyone can learn.
“He was as innovative as Henry Ford was to the Model T,” Kynard said. “He’s the creator of what we still do to this day.”



DAVIS CUP: One of many highlights of Bob Bryan’s time as half of a record-breaking men’s doubles duo was helping the United States claim the 2007 Davis Cup — the last time the country won the competition. Now Bryan will try to end that drought from the sideline.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced Bryan’s appointment as Davis Cup captain, succeeding Mardy Fish. Bryan’s first matches in charge will come during the group stage in September.

BNP PARIBAS OPEN: Defending champion Taylor Fritz routed Sebastian Baez 6-1, 6-2 in the third round at Indian Wells, California.

Also advancing was Stan Wawrinka, who defeated No. 7 seed Holger Rune, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5. American Tommy Paul beat ninth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

No. 8 Felix Auger-Aliassime avoided the upset bug and beat Francisco Cerundolo, 7-5, 6-4.


In women’s action, No. 5 Caroline Garcia outlasted Leylah Fernandez, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-1 and No. 10 Elena Rybakina beat defending champion and doubles partner Paula Badosa, 6-3, 7-5.


U.S WOMEN: Two days after becoming the most successful World Cup skier in history, Mikaela Shiffrin marked her 28th birthday with the appointment of a new personal head coach in the hopes of getting “a fresh and new way of thinking” moving forward.

The U.S. ski team said Karin Harjo, a pioneer for female coaches in Alpine skiing who has served as head coach of Canada’s women’s team this winter, will take up the role in April and join Shiffrin for postseason training and an equipment testing camp.


U.S. MEN: Gregg Berhalter remains a candidate to stay on as the U.S. men’s national team coach after a report by a law firm determined he did not improperly withhold information about a 1992 domestic violence allegation involving the woman who later became his wife.

The report, released publicly by the U.S. Soccer Federation, also concluded that Berhalter’s conduct “likely constituted the misdemeanor crime of assault on a female.”

Berhalter’s contract as coach expired on Dec. 31 and Anthony Hudson, one of his assistants, was appointed interim coach on Jan. 4. The coaching decision will be made after a new sporting director is hired.


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