Olympic high jump champion Dick Fosbury, who revolutionised 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 in the high jump at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, where he 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 said on Instagram.
“The track and field legend is survived by his wife Robin Tomasi, son Erich Fosbury and stepdaughters Stephanie Thomas-Phipps… and Kristin Thompson.”
The straddle or scissor jump were common techniques in the high jump. But when foam matting was introduced to break the athletes’ fall, Fosbury used his new technique for the first time on the world stage.
The American set a then-Olympic record of 2.24 metres to take the gold and change the sport forever, with more and more athletes attempting the back-first jump as the technique gradually gained acceptance.
“Dick Fosbury was always true to the Olympic values and served the Olympic Movement in a number of functions, including as President of World Olympians. He will forever be remembered as an outstanding Olympic Champion,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said.
“With his groundbreaking “Fosbury Flop” technique, Dick Fosbury not only won Olympic gold at Mexico City 1968 but also revolutionized the high jump. He was truly an Olympic pioneer and legend,” Team USA posted on Twitter.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Dick Fosbury, a true legend and pioneer in the world of track and field. Dick’s innovative technique of the ‘Fosbury Flop’ revolutionized the high jump event and forever changed the sport,” said Max Siegel, CEO of USA Track & Field.
“I had the privilege of seeing first-hand how Dick tirelessly advocated for the well-being of athletes, particularly retired athletes,” said Michael Conley, USATF Board Chair and High Performance Division Chair.
World Athletics said in a statement: “Fosbury’s innovation took the high jump to another level and he remained involved in athletics throughout his life, sharing his knowledge and skill with future generations… He leaves a remarkable legacy.”
“Dick Fosbury had revolutionized the practice of this sport with his sublime audacity. Thoughts to his loved ones,” said Amelie Oudea-Castera, France’s Minister of Sports and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Fosbury’s gold and his contribution to the sport also earned him a spot in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.
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