Joe Faust, the young Californian who has this year said that he hopes to jump 7 feet 4 or 7 feet 5, is one of several high jumpers who can kick the crossbar of a football goal post, but they all do it with a straight leg. Valeri Brumel can achieve the same result with a bent leg. "This," says Charles Coker, a coach of the Los Angeles Striders and one of the world's foremost high jump authorities, "shows the power Brumel is able to develop in the upper thigh. He has done this through his extensive weight program and his intense desire to achieve greatness."
Coker likens Brumel to Parry O'Brien, who revolutionized the shot put, and Cornelius Warmerdam, who perfected the pole vault technique. "Brumel," he says, "is stronger than any of our top jumpers—John Thomas, Faust or Gene Johnson. As a 16-year-old weight lifter, he could press 35 pounds more than his body weight. That is tremendous. But he also has great speed. His approach to the bar is the fastest of any jumper I have ever seen. Because of his strength, Brumel is able to convert that forward momentum into upper thrust unparalleled in the world. When he slams that foot down for the takeoff, you don't realize the impact until you study it in slow-motion films. Brumel does it so quickly that it is deceiving."
Jim Tuppeny, assistant to Coach Jumbo Elliott at Villanova, says that after Brumel plants his left foot he leans back on his leg, coiling it like a whip, then rocks from heel to ball to toe and explodes upward. Using a combination straddle-dive technique, Brumel ducks his head in toward the bar—most jumpers carry their heads higher—making his leap look neat and compact. "The trailing leg," Tuppeny says, "is no problem with Brumel. With his speed, he is actually sailing. His center of gravity is very low and he just wraps himself around the bar, all very quick."
Thomas, by contrast, practically walks up to the bar, then nearly stops dead in front of it before lifting off. Coker is confident that Thomas, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall, could regain the world record if he would adopt the 6-foot Brumel's training methods and adjust them to his style. One American jumper who relied on speed and strength—5-foot-8 Clinton Larson of Utah—had amazing success back in 1916, when he jumped 6 feet 8. "But Thomas has the most potential of anyone today," says Coker. "He will have to generate great enthusiasm, however, punish himself with work, adopt a weight program and get himself lean and whip hard."
Other Americans who could eventually press Brumel are Faust, a 16-year-old New York schoolboy, Del Benjamin, who has already gone over 6 feet 7� and is now switching from the western roll to the straddle, and, surprisingly, Ralph Boston, the broad jumper. " Boston," Coker believes, "could develop into a high jumper who could press anyone in the world. He jumped 7 feet last year in practice. He has the talent. All he needs is the time and the willingness to sacrifice the broad jump."