Dick Fosbury’s ‘Flop’ Olympic title, 50 years later

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Saturday marks 50 years since Dick Fosbury extended the U.S. track and field team’s dominance at the Mexico City Games with his revolutionary “Fosbury Flop” to take high jump gold, clearing an Olympic record height. Fosbury reflected on his career and that gold medal in “The Wizard of Foz: Dick Fosbury’s One-Man High-Jump Revolution,” published last month. Here is an excerpt from that book on the Mexico City final … 

WHEN DICK FOSBURY curled backward over the bar, “a yowl” erupted from the Mexico City crowd like nothing Seattle Times columnist Georg N. Meyers had heard in the stadium all week. Never mind that the bar was set at the ho-hum height of 2.03 meters (6’8″); the reaction for Fosbury was strikingly loud. “From then on,” Meyers wrote, “every time the freckle-faced youngster from Medford poised and started at the bar, nothing else in the stadium existed for the fans.”

“Only a triple somersault off a flying trapeze with no net below could be more thrilling,” scrawled a German reporter, down the pressbox row from Meyers, on a notepad. Around the world, viewers seeing the style for the first time did double takes.

“I grew up with the roll and the straddle,” said Per Anderson, a jumper in the US, “but when I saw Fosbury on TV from Mexico City it absolutely took my breath away. The speed, lightness, and simplicity totally changed the way I looked at high jumping.” With the stadium crowd predominantly Mexican and with Mexico having no competitors in the event, it quickly became apparent who their favorite was: Dick Fosbury. The jumpers were all different sizes, shapes, and skin colors. They represented different countries. They wore an array of uniforms. But only one jumped backward over the bar. “The Mexicans love style,” wrote The Oregonian’s Leo Davis. “They adopted Dick immediately.”

This was it. Fosbury’s final attempt at 7’4¼”. He walked to his mark. At that precise moment, US marathoner Kenny Moore, in fourteenth place, was nearing the stadium from outside, his body wilted from having run twenty-six miles at 7,350 feet above sea level. A murmur emanated from the crowd as Fosbury took his mark. Moore started through the tunnel, where he glimpsed the rustcolored track, green grass, and through eyes blurred by fatigue, a highjumper. An American? Some white jumper. Foz?

Meanwhile, Fosbury’s focus sharpened. Anything “to fix” from the last jump? Nope; 7’4¼” was there for the taking. He knew it. He just needed to trust his body. You got this. He clenched and unclenched his hands in front of him and began his rocking, waiting for the merger of heart, mind, and soul. Whatever it takes. The murmur of the crowd rose a notch, then another. Ride their energy. Can do. Must do. Will do. Ever so subtly, the rocking back and forth intensified; there would be thirtyseven total, the crowd counting each one, the last few as if triggering a launch-pad countdown . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . ignition.

He took eight strides, each pulsing with purpose. Then came liftoff, followed by 0.9 seconds of silence—the reach for the sky, the arch of the back, the thrust of the hips, the moment of truth, the moment of relief, the softness of the Don Gordon pit on his back. Estadio Olímpico erupted with shrieks of delight; no moment, not even Beamon’s jump, had ratcheted up the roar of fans like this.

When Fosbury splashed down with the bar still in place, his joy became the joy of 80,000 fans, his smile their smiles, his two-finger peace symbol their two-finger peace symbol. For the fans, the celebration only sweetened after a weary Caruthers missed his final attempt. Not that he had failed (an Olympic silver medal is no athlete’s failure) but that Fosbury and the Flop had succeeded.

One of the worst prep high jumpers in Oregon was the new champion of the world, an Olympic gold medalist. For the first time since the 1956 Olympic Games, an American high jumper was atop track and field’s Mt. Everest.

Fosbury and Caruthers shook hands. The motor drives whirred. The crowd’s roar continued, as if the fans didn’t want to let go of their adopted hero. Fosbury shook hands with Gavrilov, the Soviet who eight months before in Seattle had first seen the Flop and said “it can’t be done.” He jogged around like a kid on stage after a school play who was waving at his parents.

Moore, the US marathoner, had broken into the sunlight of the stadium just in time for Fosbury’s jump. He had looked at the high-jump reader board: “2.24.” My God, Olympic record. “Way to go!” he yelled as he began his lap on the track. Fosbury pointed to a marathoner ahead of Moore. “Get that guy!” he yelled.

Dick’s mother, Helen, hopped up and down while hugging the Polks. Wagner whooped and hollered like a school boy, pumping his fedora into the sky with jabs from his arm. In Grants Pass, Dick’s father, Doug was “so thrilled I just about jumped through the ceiling,” he later told the press. “Told ya, told ya, told ya!” yelled Gail, back in Eugene.

Wizard of FozNearby, Sweet hoisted his beer bottle in the air. “To the wizard of Foz!” And 141 miles up, in outer space, Walt Schirra and the crew of Apollo 7 silently completed another lap around earth, oblivious to the madness in Mexico City.

In the press box, an Associated Press reporter typed a thirty-word message that, in minutes, chattered across thousands of teletype machines in newsrooms around the world: “Sports Bulletin. (Mexico City) — Dick Fosbury . . . the upside-down jumper from Medford, Oregon . . . has won the Olympic high jump with a leap of seven-feet, four and onequarter inches.”

Down the row, Meyers, who back in January had called Fosbury “the funniest high jumper you ever saw” after the Seattle Invitational, placed his fingers on his portable typewriter and began his Monday story with the description that, “World records were a peso a dozen, but the glamour boy of track and field in the 1968 Olympic Games was a rawboned Oregonian who went belly-up to a Gold Medal and the most explosive ovation of the Mexico City entertainment.”

Down press row, Arthur Daley of the New York Times started his story. “No track and field athlete at the Olympic Games drew more whoops of delight or shrieks of disbelief from the crowds—and presumably from millions of pop-eyed television viewers—than did Dick Fosbury, the architect of an acrobatic maneuver that has become known as the Fosbury Flop,” he wrote.

Once the celebration died down, Fosbury tried three times to set the world record at 7’6″. He was close on the second, but it wasn’t to be. No matter. With his jump of 2.24 meters (7’4¼”), Fosbury had broken the Olympic record, besting Brumel’s and Thomas’s 2.18 meters (7’1¾”) mark from 1964. And he had jumped higher than any American in history, eclipsing Thomas’s old mark of 7’3¾”. He had jumped higher than all but two jumpers in the world, and with both having retired, was now the greatest active high jumper on the planet.

Soon an abbreviated Associated Press story was sent around the globe: “In an Olympic Games marred by political bickering, Black Power displays and rancor on many sides, [a] gangling 6-foot-4 college boy, a third-stringer on the U.S. Olympic team, delighted 80,000 people at Olympic Stadium by winning the high jump with one of the most unorthodox performances ever seen in bigtime sports.”

Beneath the stadium, Fosbury escaped a throng of reporters—“How does it feel?” . . . “How did you come up with this style?” . . . “What were you thinking?”—and melted into a deep sense of satisfaction. Ten months of competition. Of pressure. Of expectations. Of waiting. Of wondering. It was now all over, replaced by an unfamiliar sense of relief and relaxation, which he wasn’t going to let a throng of reporters spoil.

“Sorry, no interviews,” he told the officials. “But Señor Fos—.” “Sorry. I’m wiped. And wanna see my mom.” Along with the other two medal winners, he hid from the press while awaiting the medal presentation. Nearby, marathon medalists entered a room for drug testing.

Finally, in the evening darkness, Foz stepped to the top perch on the podium, all smiles, for the medal presentation. The National Anthem played and the American flag rose in the Mexican night, Dick’s patriotism manifesting itself not so much in a connection to a country but a city, Medford, full of flawed people like him, but folks who’d believed in him. Who sent him a telegram when he was at his lowest. All smiles, no tears. When the song ended, he flashed a quick peace sign, then spontaneously raised his right fist in solidarity with his friends Tommie Smith and John Carlos, now back in the US. Nobody booed or hissed.

Beyond a few marathon stragglers, the high jump had concluded the eight-day track and field competition. Smith, Carlos, Fosbury, and the rest of the US men’s team had won fifteen gold medals and twentyeight total, fifteen more than the Soviets’ count. The US had set eight world records. Beamon had uncorked perhaps the single most amazing athletic performance in track and field history. Sprinters Smith and Carlos had defied Brundage and made a victory-stand statement about human rights that rocked the world.

And Fosbury’s gold-medal Flop had put an exclamation mark on it all.

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MORE: How to watch ‘1968,’ NBC Sports film on Mexico City Games

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships TV, live stream schedule

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Every race of the world Alpine skiing championships airs live on Peacock from Feb. 6-19.

France hosts the biennial worlds in Meribel and Courchevel — six women’s races, six men’s races and one mixed-gender team event.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the headliner, in the midst of her most successful season in four years with a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts. Shiffrin is up to 85 career World Cup victories, one shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s record accumulated over the 1970s and ’80s.

World championships races do not count in the World Cup tally.

Shiffrin is expected to race at least four times at worlds, starting with Monday’s combined. She earned a medal in 11 of her 13 career world championships races, including each of the last 10 dating to 2015.

Shiffrin won at least one race at each of the last five world championships (nobody has gold from six different worlds). Her six total golds and 11 total medals are American records. At this edition, she can become the most decorated skier in modern world championships history from any nation.

She enters one medal shy of the record for most individual world championships medals since World War II (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt) and four medals shy of the all-time record. (Worlds were held annually in the 1930s, albeit with fewer races.)

She is also one gold medal shy of the post-World War II individual record shared by Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson.

The other favorites at these worlds include Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top female downhiller this season, and the two leading men: Swiss Marco Odermatt (No. 1 in super-G and giant slalom) and Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (No. 1 in downhill).

2023 World Alpine Skiing Championships Broadcast Schedule

Date Event Time (ET) Platform
Mon., Feb. 6 Women’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Tues., Feb. 7 Men’s Combined Super-G Run 5 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Combined Slalom Run 8:30 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 8 Women’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 9 Men’s Super-G 5:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 11 Women’s Downhill 5 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 12 Men’s Downhill 5 a.m Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Tue., Feb. 14 Team Parallel 6:15 a.m. Peacock
Men’s/Women’s Parallel Qualifying 11 a.m. Peacock
Wed., Feb. 15 Men’s/Women’s Parallel 6 a.m. Peacock
Thu., Feb. 16 Women’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Fri., Feb. 17 Men’s Giant Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Giant Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Sat., Feb. 18 Women’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Women’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 2:30 p.m.* NBC, Peacock
Sun., Feb. 19 Men’s Slalom Run 1 4 a.m. Peacock
Men’s Slalom Run 2 7:30 a.m. Peacock
Highlights 3 p.m.* NBC, Peacock

*Delayed broadcast
*All NBC coverage streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for TV subscribers.

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Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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