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Was It a Flop?

I always enjoy seeing this iconic picture of Dick Fosbury at the '68 Olympics, everything about it telling stories most won't even notice. In the photo our eyes go to the backward facing style, his body floating so high above the officials it looks like the bar is set at ten feet.

But what I notice is things you don't see. A pair of Adidas shoes that don't match, most people unable to guess why. He lost one? Thought it looked cool? Nope. Back then they only made one HJ shoe. There were no pairs.

The white one was a high jump shoe with two spikes in the heel, the blue one a Tokyo '64 shoe used by sprinters and distance runners, more than likely the matching item somewhere in his Adidas bag.

How about that crossbar? It's a triangular metal bar that hurt like hell if you landed on it, the edge digging into your back, leaving a welt that was visible for days. I'll bet a dime to a dollar they had ten more behind the pit, bars always bent into a 'V' whenever you came down on top of one.

At my school our HJ bars had more curves than a Formula 1 race track.

The standards appear homemade, the thin uprights certainly knocked over many times during competition, a concern by every jumper that they were replaced in the exact same spot. Pretty chintzy for the Olympics.

And the high jump pit, probably two feet high and ten feet deep, the landing pad certainly not more than three feet wider than the 13'2" crossbar, a far cry from the pits of today which are 12' deep and 20' wide. The chance of missing the pit was very real - especially when you are jumping at 7'4".

Only good jumpers realize how scary it is to land on a pit of these dimensions.

Dick Fosbury was the greatest track and field innovator of all time, only fiberglass vaulting poles coming close, neither of the shot put techniques by Perry O'Brien or Brian Oldfield having as much impact - although that could be argued.

And now he's gone. So I salute the Oregon State high jumper, the free-spirit from Portland Oregon, hoping he had a soft landing on his final jump - his legacy one that will never be matched.

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