Monday, October 22

Aim High in Case You Flop

By Grant Davies

On this day (-2) in 1968, a guy named Fosbury flopped spectacularly. In fact, his flop was bigger than any that had previously been recorded in history. In Olympic history anyway.

His name was Dick Fosbury and he was in Mexico City to see if he could jump over a bar that was set higher than it had ever been set before in an Olympic high jump event.

The bar was set 7 feet 4 1/4 inches from the ground and Dick sailed over it to set a new record. Actually, he flopped over it rather than sailed, and there is a significant difference. At least there was back then.

When Dick was back in high school he sucked at the high jump event, but he had an acumen for physics and wasn't afraid to try something new in order to beat his teammates. So instead of doing the conventional "scissor kick" technique that everyone else was being taught, he tried out his own approach.

He decided to experiment, and after trying a few things he settled on perfecting one method. He described it to others this way; "I take off on my right, or outside, foot rather than my left foot. Then I turn my back to the bar, arch my back over the bar and then kick my legs out to clear the bar." He added, "from a physics standpoint, it allows the jumper to run at the bar with more speed and, with the arch in your back, you could actually clear the bar and keep your center of gravity at or below the bar, so it was much more efficient." He was a pretty smart kid.

His style was described derisively by one writer as a "fish flopping in a boat", and by another  as "a guy falling off the back of a truck." One guy even said it looked as if he was having a seizure when he did it.

Other jumpers who witnessed it early on never thought very much of it. That is, until he started to jump higher than them. Funny how that can change a competitor's mind. (It's said that other people were experimenting with similar type moves around the same time, but history doesn't record their names, so screw 'em. History is harsh and life's a bitch.)

After winning the gold medal using his old high school and college technique very few people ever went back to the old way of doing it again. In fact almost every elite jumper has used his method since then and no one has ever won the gold using anything else since 1980.

So if you are having trouble competing at anything and someone makes fun of you for trying something different, just flip them off and tell them you would be happy to have your idea flop, just like Fosbury's did.

Source material - History.com and Wikipedia.

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