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High jump pioneer Dick Fosbury has died, aged 76

The US star turned the conventional wisdom on its head with his new approach which would become immortalised as the "Fosbury Flop".

Athletics legend Dick Fosbury, who revolutionised high jumping with his signature “Fosbury flop” has died, his agent confirmed on Monday. He was 76.

Fosbury’s agent Ray Schulte said in a statement that the 1968 Olympics gold medallist had died early Sunday from lymphoma.

“It is with a very heavy heart I have to release the news that longtime friend and client Dick Fosbury passed away peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning after a short bout with a recurrence of lymphoma,” Schulte said.

“Dick will be greatly missed by friends and fans from around the world. A true legend, and friend of all!”

Innovative technique

Born in Portland, Oregon in 1947, Fosbury was to become one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field for developing the innovative high-jumping technique which upended his sport in the 1960s.

Prior to Fosbury’s emergence, high jumpers typically attempted to clear the bar using the “straddle technique” in which they would take off face forward while attempting to twist their body mid-leap over the bar.

Fosbury however turned the conventional wisdom on its head with his new approach which would become immortalised as the “Fosbury Flop” and remains today the standard technique used by elite high jumpers.

Instead of tackling the bar head on, the rangy, 6ft 4in Fosbury would arc towards the bar on his run-up before taking off backwards and “flopping” over the bar.

Dick Fosbury in 1972.
Dick Fosbury of the USA clears the bar in the high jump event at the AAAU Championships, Oregon, USA. Picture: Tony Duffy/Allsport

‘Turned even upside down’

“Few athletes in history have done their thing as uniquely as Dick Fosbury,” former US high jump coach John Tansley wrote in 1980.

“He literally turned his event upside down.”

Fosbury first began experimenting with new ways of high jumping while still in school, but his new approach first gained global attention in 1968.

Victory at the US college championships was followed by a win at the US Olympic trials in Los Angeles.

At the Mexico City Olympics, Fosbury won the gold medal after clearing a height of 2.24m with his third jump — a new Olympic and US record — to pip team-mate Ed Caruthers, with the Soviet Union’s Valentin Gavrilov taking bronze.

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