impossible. Though intensely competitive, Fosbury, a bony 6'4" and 183
pounds, was not particularly well-coordinated. The Soviet Union's Valery
Brumel, who held the world record (7'5�"), had once won a bet by touching a
basketball hoop with his foot five times in a row. Fosbury had once lost a bet
by failing to clear a stuffed chair in OSU's Theta Chi fraternity, breaking his
hand in the process.
Such was the
paradox of Fosbury, a guy who couldn't beat a frat brother but who did beat the
world's toughest high-jump field ever. In 1968 in Mexico City, facing 13
entrants who had cleared seven feet or better, Fosbury coolly cleared every
height through 7'3�" without a miss. Unable to make that height, Valentin
Gavrilov, the Soviet Union's best hope with Brumel injured, had to settle for
the bronze medal. It was down to Fosbury and teammate Ed Caruthers for the
both Fosbury and Caruthers missed twice, setting the stage for the Flop seen
round the world. With the 80,000 stadium spectators hushed and a huge
television audience watching, Fosbury sprinted, sprang, arched his back and
cleared the bar; he bounded from the pit with a boyish grin on his face and his
arms in the air. It was an Olympic and American record. When Caruthers missed,
the gold medal was Fosbury's. His style had passed the ultimate test.
everywhere began bending over backward to make their points. At the 1972
Olympics in Munich, 28 of the 40 competitors in the men's high jump were
Floppers. In 1973, Dwight Stones cleared 7'6�" to become the first male
Flopper to set a world record. And remember Radetich, Fosbury's teammate, who
called the style a joke? He stopped laughing long enough to convert, setting a
world indoor best and ultimately reaching 7'6".
expressed what a lot of people were trying to reach for back in the '60s,"
says college friend Tom Greerty. "Everyone was talking revolution, but
there was still this herd mentality of copycats; one guy grew his hair long, so
everybody else did. But The Foz, he had something truly different. The Foz was
the only true revolutionary I ever met."
41, is a civil engineer in Ketchum, Idaho, where he lives with his wife, Karen,
and their six-year-old son, Erich. Though he is hardly unknown in the area,
neither does he bring local restaurants to a standstill when he enters. After
Fosbury returned from The Superstars competition in Florida last February, a
neighbor looked puzzled. "Why," he asked, "would they invite a