The number of athletes who have truly changed their sport is so small you could count them on one hand.

I don’t mean athletes who have moved their sport on, like Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters or Pele or Michael Jordan. I mean athletes who truly changed the direction of their sport.

Dick Fosbury was one of the select few who can claim to have altered their sport forever. And that is why the high jumper’s death last week has caused far more ripples than almost any other track and field athlete in history.

Fosbury’s influence is known, at least on a surface level, by even those who have only a fleeting knowledge of athletics. To have a technique eponymously named is not uncommon in the likes of gymnastics or figure skating where a new combination or move, often that touch more difficult than what has gone before, is named after the person who first successfully performed it.

But for it to happen in athletics is unique. Fosbury is the one and only individual in the sport who has enjoyed the privilege.

And that is why he is so remarkable; to have had the foresight to take what is standard in your sport, throw it out the window and come up with something that looks completely incongruous to everything that’s gone before is so unusual, it’s almost unheard of in sporting history.

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As most know, and as the countless obituaries of Fosbury have detailed, the high jump can be split into pre-Fosbury and post-Fosbury.

Until the American came on the scene, high jumpers cleared the bar by scissor-kicking over it. But when he emerged in the 1960s and decided to arch his back and curl his legs around the bar to clear it, it was as alien as running the 100m backwards would have been.

Yet the difference was clear. Fosbury went from struggling to clear five feet (around 1m 52cm) to, within just a few years, clearing almost six-and-half-feet (almost 2m). The improvement in his level was astonishing and set him on track to become Olympic champion in 1968 with a jump of over 7 feet 4 inches (2.24m) in what was an Olympic record.

Despite considerable scepticism in the early days, his technique, by this point, was well on its way to becoming widely accepted.

These days, it would be unheard of to see any elite high jumper use a technique other than the Fosbury Flop, as it became known.

The bravery and innovation of creating such a legacy should never be underestimated.

The mind of an elite athlete is a funny one. While there is the constant drive to improve, there is also a nagging worry that changing too much technically will be detrimental. There is, after all, a reason why things are done the way they are.

Technique in elite athletes differs surprisingly little. Yes, there are small differences and idiosyncrasies that set athletes apart from each other but in the main, technique is broadly similar.

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Few disagree about the fundamentals of running efficiently or striking a tennis ball well or throwing far.

The same, until Fosbury came on the scene, was felt about high jumping technique.

It takes someone special to decide that, in fact, there is a better way than the accepted technique.

When Fosbury remodelled the high jump, he changed, entirely, the shape and size of athlete who was likely to excel. The Fosbury Flop, by lowering the athlete’s centre of gravity, allowed far taller individuals than had previously been the case to jump high.

The American was warned, repeatedly, that his technique would not work, and that he would likely get injured. Clearly, that turned out to be untrue. If he had listened to those warnings, where would the high jump be now?

And so Fosbury proved that, for all the sports science and research into elite sport, sometimes gut instinct is the best accelerator of performance.


There is something about watching sport live that just can’t be replicated on the television.

It can really give kids the incentive to play a particular sport themselves and the bigger and better the venue in which they watch it, the greater the impact the experience will have on them.

Which is why the announcement that Caledonia Gladiators, Scotland’s basketball franchise that includes both a men’s and women’s team, are developing a £20 million five-court arena which will hold 6,000 spectators, is hugely encouraging news for Scottish sport.

With the men’s Caledonia Gladiators side currently playing at the Emirates Arena and the women’s at The Lagoon in Paisley, the set-up is far from ideal.

While this new facility is, clearly, great news for Caledonia Gladiators specifically in terms of having a permanent base, a world-class facility in which to play and also the potential to grow their fan-base, this is also an extremely significant step for sport in this country because the more world-class facilities we have in which to both play and watch sport, and all different kinds of sport, the better.