A hero of mine passed away earlier this month.
He was a true legend and innovator.
Dick Fosbury changed an entire discipline of athletics forever.
Because of him the Fosbury Flop is now the standard way of competing in the high jump.
But it wasn’t always so.
Until he appeared in the early 1960’s multiple other methods were in use by the world’s elite jumpers.
The scissors, eastern cut-off, western roll and the straddle were the most common of these.
By his own admission he was average at all of these.
So he began experimenting.
His way involved running towards the bar at great speed and then leaping headfirst with his back towards the bar.
It’s now standard practice. But back then it was a radical break with.
By the time Dick Fosbury reached university he had all but perfected his technique.
Now, this 6ft 5 engineering student, was enthralling spectators with what became dubbed as the Fosbury Flop.
This was no flop! It was in fact the most important breakthrough in the sport in 100 years.
In 1968 he went to Mexico as a member of the USA’s Olympic track and field team. On his 3rd attempt he cleared 2.24m. With this he won gold and broke the world record.
He literally raised the bar. Not only by working harder but by developing an entirely new method.
By 1980, 13 of the 16 Olympic finalists were using the Fosbury Flop.
His radical break with led to two of the longest standing world records in Olympic history.
- Javier Sotomayor (Cuba) is the current men’s record holder. He jumped 2.45 m (8 ft 1⁄4 in) in 1993. That’s the equivalent of trying to jump over a set of football posts. Imagine that!
- Stefka Kostadinova (Bulgaria) has held the women’s world record of 2.09 m (6 ft 10+1⁄4 in) since 1987. Also the longest-held record in the event.
Before Dick Fosbury came along everyone had a limit of six foot and one half inch. (1,85m).
It was a bar that would not be raised.
No amount of trying harder on the scissors method would have got Fosbury the gold or Sotomayor over 8 feet.
From Dick Fosbury we learn that it’s hard to achieve new outcomes with old mindsets and behaviours.
Yet we do this every day.
What got us success may no longer be relevant when the world evolves and moves on.
It’s a blind spot. We double down on our ‘strengths’ which have now become our weaknesses.
What can we do about it?
Awareness is a good first step.
- What’s really going on around me?
- Am I in tune with the times?
Taking some risks is a good second.
- Try something new.
- Deviate from old patterns and methods.
- Think twice about accepted thinking and practice (including our own).
Be prepared to be ignored and laughed at.
Dick Fosbury challenged the norm. He took it upon himself. No waiting for permission or approval.
Then he worked on it long and hard enough to see a result.
Watch Dick Fosbury at the 1968 Olympics above
It took a brave and determined person to do so.
But by doing so he paved the way for others.
That’s why he’s a HERO of mine!
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