The Fosbury Flop

5 minute read · Issue Number 72 · June 11th, 2021

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The following is the story of an athlete that didn't have exceptional strength or speed; a man who was virtually unknown to sports fans and the general public; someone who, through his revolutionary approach and his ability to mute critics away, changed sports forever.

Here’s the story of Dick Fosbury.

Dick Fosbury

The year was 1947. A man named Richard Douglas Fosbury was born in the city of Portland.

Fosbury became a legend and an influential track and field icon because he unexpectedly won an Olympic medal with ease.

The crazy part?

He did it by using a completely different technique in his jump.

Here’s how he did it:

The Fosbury Flop

Due to his physiology, Fosbury struggled with the jumping techniques of the period.

Back then, athletes used the straddle or the scissors method:

Fosbury found it challenging to coordinate all the motions involved in the classic methods and experimented with other high jump methods.

Coming from an engineering background, Fosbury spent about five years perfecting his revolutionary technique.

He applied some mechanics and learned that a jumper center of gravity could stay below the bar by arching his back, even as the body sailed over it. So instead of approaching the bar face first, Fosbury did so with his back to it.

Here’s the result:

If you want to learn more about the physics behind the jump, check out this video:

The then bizarre backward leap was named “the Fosbury flop,” and the media and the Olympic committee highly criticized it.

By the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Fosbury took the sports industry by storm, winning a gold medal and setting a new US Olympic record in the high jump competition.

The Lesson

Through innovation, Dick Fosbury won the gold medal doing something no one saw before.

The absurd fact?

In less than ten years, all high jumpers adopted his style. The old techniques disappeared.

Fosbury challenged the status quo in the high jump competition to prove that even in sports, there’s always room for improvement.

Why wait for things to go wrong before we try to improve them?

In sports, business, and life, if you believe there is a better way to do something, think like Fosbury!

🎙 Halftime Snack of the Week

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The 51st episode of the podcast features an extraordinary guest — Sathish Chittibabu!

He's the CEO & co-founder of Fanisko – a company that helps sports brands increase engagement with their fans through digital activations and create new revenue opportunities.

We talked about sports technology, fan engagement, sales, marketing, the sports business, and more.

Listen on Apple | Spotify | Google


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Until next week,

Ronen Ainbinder

Twitter: @Ronenain
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