(1 minute read)

“A mind stretched by a new experience, can not go back to its original dimensions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

In the mid 1800’s, high-jump competitions were known to be held at various Highland Games in Scotland.

Then, in 1896, they were included in the first modern Olympic Games, where the accepted style was to be known as the Scissors technique.

Not until the 1930’s did high-jumpers from the USA and Russia begin experimenting with a technique allowing them to clear greater heights – the Western Roll, or The Straddle.

These techniques would remain the norm, until a teenager from Oregon in the USA, frustrated by his own performances, challenged the process. Were the straddle and the scissors the only 2 methods permitted? No! These were traditions, but not rules. (The key rule to comply with was a one-foot take-off).

With an open-minded approach to the challenge, teenager Dick Fosbury decided to change things up. Over the next 2 years, he would experiment with a whole new technique, where he was going over the bar backwards, leading with his head as his back arched and knees bent, before flicking his feet into the air.

Ridiculed at first, (one local sports journalist claimed he “looks like a fish flopping into a boat”) he set records at his high school and state championships, before claiming gold at the 1968 Olympics.

Now, as the standard high-jumping technique worldwide, we can observe the grace – and elevation – of the Fosbury Flop, thanks to a teenager from Oregon, who approached his challenge with an open mind.

To learn more about the evolution of the high-jump and the Fosbury Flop, check out this clip on How One Man Changed the High Jump Forever (4 min 23 sec).


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