Dick Fosbury, who revolutionised the high jump with his innovative backward style that became known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’, has died at the age of 76.
Ray Schulte, Fosbury’s former agent, announced the news in an Instagram post which said that the Olympian had died “peacefully in his sleep” following a “short bout with a recurrence of lymphoma”. In 2008 Fosbury announced that he had been diagnosed with stage one lymphoma, but said in an interview six years later that he was in remission and clear of the disease.
Fosbury is survived by his wife Robin Tomasi, son Erich and stepdaughters Stephanie Thomas-Phipps and Kristin Thompson.
Who was Dick Fosbury - what is the ‘Fosbury Flop’?
Fosbury was an American high jumper and is considered one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field, revolutionising the high jump with his technique now known as the “Fosbury Flop”.
While nowadays it’s pretty standard for high jumpers to leap over the bar head first and backwards, it wasn’t always this way - this technique was actually created by Fosbury. Previously, high jumpers would clear the bar face down using a variety of techniques, like the straddle, the scissors and the Western roll.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2012, Fosbury explained that the technique came about when he was experimenting with different styles in high school.
He said: “I felt I had to do something different to clear the bar and I tried lifting my hips, which caused my shoulders to go back, and I succeeded. I made a new height, I tried again, and successively I was able to clear six inches higher than my previous best, and that change made me competitive, it kept me in the game, and I converted from sitting on the bar to laying flat on my back.”
Fosbury eventually earned a partial scholarship to Oregon State University, where he continued to hone his technique - and it proved successful enough for him to bag a place on the US Olympic team which took him to Mexico in 1968.
Fosbury used his new technique to win the gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, setting a new Games record of 2.24 metres in the process, and paving the way for the style to be universally adopted by future generations in the event.
The following day, the 21-year-old Fosbury failed in his first two attempts at 2.24 but sailed clear on his third and final jump, ushering in a new era for his sport and suggesting he could go on to challenge for the world record.
In fact, Fosbury would never again jump as high as he had in Mexico City. He failed to qualify to defend his crown at the 1972 Olympics, but his legacy was intact with well over half of the 40 high jump competitors by then using his trademark style.
When did he die?
Fosbury passed away on Sunday (12 March) morning, according to his agent Ray Schulte, who shared the news on his Instagram.
He wrote: “It is with a very heavy heart I have to release the news that longtime friend and client Dick Fosbury @dickfosbury68 passed away peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning after a short bout with a recurrence of lymphoma.
“The Track & Field legend is survived by his wife Robin Tomasi, and son Erich Fosbury, and stepdaughters Stephanie Thomas-Phipps of Hailey, Idaho, and Kristin Thompson.
“A”Celebration of Life” is being planned by the family and will take place within the next few months. Details will be made available shortly.
“Dick will be greatly missed by friends and fans from around the world. A true legend, and friend of all!
“Rest In Peace Dick”