Dick Fosbury, the athlete who revolutionized the high jump, dies | Sports

Those who were born in 1969 maintain before whoever it takes that that was the best year to be born, a year of ingenuity, of the arrival of man on the Moon, of the faith that the atom and progress would end all the problems of humanity. , but those who at that time already had the use of reason, went to high school or university, will argue with them, and will tell them that there has been no year like 1968 that has moved humanity more, that has marked more. May 1968, Berkeley, the hippy movement, the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King, the Prague Spring, pop, the prodigious decade and, after the massacre in the Zócalo, in Mexico City itself, in October, the Olympic Games that They symbolized all of that and more. The Games of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, and their black glove, on the podium, the blackpower, conscious youth, Bob Beamon jumping 8.90m, and Dick Fosbury, a boy from Portland (Oregon), barely 21 years old, jumping backwards high. It was the great revolution in athletics, the birth of fosbury flop, and its founder, the revolutionary father, died yesterday, at his home in Ketchum (Idaho), “peacefully in his sleep”, as his agent announced, victim of a recurrence of lymphoma that was diagnosed in 2008. He was a mature man with white hair, a road engineer established on a farm, in the great prairies of the West, a fan of snowboarding in winter and mountain biking in summer, and committed to the underprivileged, a fighter against racism, and even a defeated candidate for the Democratic Party to Congress. On March 6 he had turned 76 years old.

“All the kids who did athletics in San Sebastián, as soon as we saw him, we went to Anoeta to jump on our backs,” says Ramón Cid, triple jumper and coach; “and it was hilarious.” And so all over the world. The debate on the superiority of one style or another did not last long. Roller purists were able to enjoy a few more years thanks to the great Yatchenko, who raised the record to 2.35 meters. Finished Mexico 68, Fosbury returned to the faculty of him. The dean gave him a choice: athletics or his career. He hung up his shoes and became an engineer.

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The Cuban Javier Sotomayor, the man who has jumped the highest, 2.45 meters, thanks to the fosbury flop, the only track and field technique known by the name of its inventor, defines him as a “revolutionary.”Thanks to him, a few jumpers have had, including me, great results over 2.40 meters”, says the athlete from Matanzas. “Taking into account that with the previous style, the ventral roller, it was going to be very difficult to reach that high, I have to say that one of those grateful for his great innovation is me. I join the pain of all his relatives and all his friends, and all his followers, including me. Rest in peace”.

Fosbury, second from the left, along with Sotomayor, Sjöberg, Barshim and Bondarenko, four athletes who jumped more than 2.40 meters, lowered the bar to 2.45 meters.
Fosbury, second from the left, along with Sotomayor, Sjöberg, Barshim and Bondarenko, four athletes who jumped more than 2.40 meters, lowered the bar to 2.45 meters.

Just mentioning his last name produces a domino effect, a chain. The three syllables of he evoke an image. The image -a horizontal athlete, navy blue tank top, white shorts, a adidas white on one foot and the other black on the other, frozen on his back, his arms limp at his sides, his head slightly twisted, on a ribbon- awakens the memory of a moment, on October 20, 1968, in a stadium, the Olympic in Mexico City.

Fosbury arrived at his revolutionary style because of a flaw: his inability to assimilate the complex belly roll. He only knew how to jump and did not stop until he jumped backwards. He started practicing it years before Mexico 68. He would reach the bar and turn around, then do a back flip and go over it. The move allowed him to gain height by keeping his center of gravity below the bar, which required less jumping power. Thus, after 12 jumps, he defeated Gavrilov and Carruthers in the Olympic final, broke the Olympic record with 2.24 meters and touched 2.29, with which he would have beaten the world championship of the unfortunate Soviet Valery Brumel, the maximum species of the perfection who had a broken leg in a motorcycle accident. Brumel saved his record, but the next day his style began to die.

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For Luis María Garriga, to say Fosbury is to say all of that and also something else. For Garriga, who in his youth was the best high jumper in Spain – he held the national record in 2.12 meters – Fosbury is also a sound, a guttural noise, and a scream. “Of course, then it was not like now, that anything that happens anywhere immediately arrives on television, by satellite, by internet, to the four corners,” says Garriga, one of the 13 participants in the Olympic final in Mexico, one of the 12 athletes amazed by Fosbury; “But, of course, we had heard of Fosbury, of the way to jump from him. We even had a film that we had run hundreds of times through the moviola to analyze it. So I wasn’t too surprised by Fosbury either. What I remember most vividly is the way he concentrated. Fosbury would go to his mark on the ground, he would remain standing for more than two minutes and begin to move his hands and make noises in his throat. And he seemed like he was forgetting the world. So much so that among the stands, silent as ever, shouts of impatience could be heard: ‘Come on!, come on!’.

The silence. The chronicles say that, for the first time in a Games, the stadium did not cheer the entry of the marathon winner, the Ethiopian Mamo Wolde. And it was not out of antipathy, but because it coincided with a jump from Fosbury. And Jorge González Amo, a middle-distance runner, a participant in the 1,500m, remembers how on the morning of the qualification, the spectators crowded around the curve of the stadium where the saltadero was located. “It was amazing. They were the best Games”, says González Amo; “Modern athletics was born, the tartan track, the fiberglass poles, the foam mats to land on after jumping, without which the Fosbury would have been impossible on pain of breaking their necks in the sand, sawdust or serous pits, like the ones that were before.”

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The best thing about Fosbury’s style, his revolution, his way of facing the bar, was that he allowed much greater speed. “He opened the high jump to a type of athletes who were not worth it before, to the very tall and thin ones,” says Arturo Ortiz, still a national record holder (2.34m); “Before, when the ventral roller, when Valery Brumel was the myth, the prototype was an athlete with very powerful legs, very strong. He couldn’t get that fast with the last three steps up to the beat. In all the specialties of athletics he governs the same maxim: the faster, the better. And the fosbury flop It allows you to do everything faster.”

Ortiz has Fosbury’s image engraved “in his cortex” as he has Beamon’s or the one on the 200 podium: Smith, Norman and John Carlos, fists raised, black glove, Jesse Owens. And he does with her an exercise in abstraction, reduction, purification. “It’s exciting, something new under the sun,” she says; “He had the courage of geniuses, to let himself be carried away by intuition, to be the first to do it. The value of the pioneer. After Kandisky, it’s so easy to jump into painting a blank canvas. Before, no one had dared. That’s what happened with Fosbury.”

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