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Fosbury: A beautiful mind?

Medford Olympic high jump champion Dick Fosbury, inventor of the Fosbury Flop, has been featured in a variety of corners.

Including Psychology Today.

Edward Wasserman, Ph.D., studies learning, memory and cognition at The University of Iowa. His article appears HERE on the Psychology Today website, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Fosbury's gold-medal jump in Mexico City in 1968.

The article, under the heading "The Mind Menagerie," includes video and photos and a note that Fosbury wasn't the first to flop.

Wasserman writes:

"Perhaps the clearest and most compelling case of a behavioral innovation arising without planning and foresight is the now-famous Fosbury Flop. 50 years ago, along with millions of other television viewers on October 20, 1968, I watched in utter amazement as Oregon State University’s 21 year-old Dick Fosbury revolutionized the sport of high jumping with a gold-medal and Olympic-record bound of 7 feet, 4 1/4 inches at the Mexico City games. Fosbury accomplished this fabulous feat by sailing over the crossbar head first and backward! As colorfully described that day by the Los Angeles Times’s legendary sportswriter Jim Murray, “Fosbury goes over the bar like a guy being pushed out of a 30-story window.”


"In this way, the Flop evolved, not from design, but from an entirely trial-and-error process which combined repeated effort with the biomechanics of Fosbury’s gangly 6’4” physique."

He cites an observation by Sports Illustrated writer Richard Hoffer (2009) ... "but what looked like an airborne seizure was actually Darwinian activity. Those tics and flailings that served to get him even a quarter inch higher survived. The rest were gradually pared away.”

Bob Welch's book on Fosbury, "The Wizard of Foz" tells of a couple other high-schoolers using a similar technique to the Fosbury Flop. Wasserman notes one who came before Fosbury:

"Giving credit where credit is due, (Bruce) Quande must be deemed the first Flopper, as he had been using the backward technique some 2 years prior to this 1963 (Grants Pass Rotary) meet. Nevertheless, Quande never enjoyed much success during high school or in his later high jumping career at St. Olaf College.

"Said Fosbury after learning of Quande’s earlier efforts: 'I think it’s real interesting. Our stories sound parallel. This will be an historical asterisk.' And, so it is."