Home Sport & Leisure Reinventing the High Jump – a tribute to a No Rule Book advocate

Reinventing the High Jump – a tribute to a No Rule Book advocate

by Robbie Dellow
Dick Fosbury Flop at Mexico Olympics

The No Rule Book philosophy on (very) public display

Picture this – It is 1968 and 80,000 people have packed into the Mexico Olympic track and field stadium to watch the high jump final. Little do they know they will also witness the complete revolution of a global sport. 

Subsequently, American Dick Fosbury wins his gold medal for the high jump, and sets a new Olympic record in the process. But even bigger than all this was the disruptive changing of the entire global philosophy of the sport. A global display of the exact essence of the No Rule Book philosophy of questioning the norm.

Wind back 4 years and nobody had heard of Duck Fosbury. He was just an Oregon student of no particular athletic ability.  He tried to make it into the university football and basketball teams, but failed. He also tried track and field, choosing to concentrate on the high jump, but with very little success.  It was then that he started to question and experiment.

The technique used for the High Jump was largely performed by running straight up to the bar and using a scissor-style kick to hurl oneself over, landing on a padded pit. A young Fosbury started questioning this method and experimented with other ways of  clearing the bar more effectively.  After years of numerous trials and tribulations he perfected a radical curved run technique combined with  turning his body, arching his back and going over the bar backwards. 

He was laughed at, ridiculed, and even advised by athletic officials not to waste his time on something that was not a winning strategy.  But Fosbury persevered and it was only after winning the NCAA championships, and qualifying for the Olympic Games, that he started to be taken seriously. Now his Fosbury Flop style of high jumping is used by 98% of all high jumpers in the world.

It was only by questioning the norms of the time (The ‘Rules’), and ignoring the ridicule that comes with radical thinking, that we can make these great leaps forward. Dick Fosbury took a leaf out of the No Rule Book playbook by challenging traditional ways-of-doing, which ultimately cemented his place in the history books. 

Dick Fosbury high jump image

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