Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Fosbury Flop Debuts

Oct 20, 1968, the Fosbury Flop becomes the norm.

The 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City were significant for a number of reasons. But one of the most famous reasons took place in the track and field event of high jumping. High jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympic record and won a gold medal after his unconventional jumping style dazzled fans. The famous leap saw Fosbury land head first on the mat. The awkward looking move has become a part of Olympic lore in the United States.

Over the next few years the flop became the dominant style of the event and remains so today. Before Fosbury, most elite jumpers used the Straddle technique, Western Roll, Eastern cut-off or even Scissors-Jump to clear the bar.

Fosbury himself cleared the bar with his hands by his sides, whereas many athletes cross the bar with their arms held out sideward’s or even above their heads, optimizing their mass distribution.

Given that landing surfaces had previously been sandpits or low piles of matting, high jumpers of earlier years had to land on their feet or at least land carefully to prevent injury. With the advent of deep foam matting high jumpers were able to be more adventurous in their landing styles and hence experiment with styles of jumping.