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Dick Fosbury, the Idaho Olympian who revolutionized high jumping, dies at age 76

Track and field high jumper, Dick Fosbury, poses in this 1969 press photo. Fosbury died Sunday at age 76.  (Spokesman-Review photo archives)
Track and field high jumper, Dick Fosbury, poses in this 1969 press photo. Fosbury died Sunday at age 76. (Spokesman-Review photo archives) Buy this photo
By Sally Krutzig Idaho Statesman

Dick Fosbury, the Olympic gold medal winner who went on to settle in Idaho, died at the age of 76 from lymphoma on Sunday morning, his publicist Ray Schulte confirmed on social media.

Fosbury was famous as the creator of the eponymous “Fosbury Flop” that revolutionized the sport of high jumping. The move would lead him to victory in the men’s high jump at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.

“His gold medal victory at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics not only cemented his place in U.S. Olympic history, but also left an indelible mark on the global athletic community, U.S. Track and Field CEO Max Siegel confirmed the death in a statement. “We will always be grateful for his contributions to the sport and his impact on generations of athletes who followed in his footsteps.”

Before Fosbury, high jumpers favored a leap that involved a scissor-kick with their legs, with their stomachs facing the pole. Fosbury developed an innovative method of flopping over the pole back first.

Nearly all Olympic high jumpers had begun using the technique by 1980, and Fosbury was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1981, according to the Hall of Fame website.

Fosbury was elected vice president of the U.S. Olympians Association in 2004, serving until he was elected president of the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians Association from 2016-2021, according to the association’s website. He founded the Idaho Chapter of USOA in 2007 and served as president of the World Olympian Association from 2007-2011, the website states.

Fosbury, who was born in Portland, later moved to the Ketchum area in 1977, according to his website, where he continued to be involved in track and field throughout his life.

He was the chairman of the Simplot Games in Pocatello for more than 20 years, according to Schulte. The competition is one of the largest high school track-and-field events in the world, bringing together more than 2,000 athletes from 20 different states, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and giving young athletes a chance to mingle with Olympians, according to the event’s website.

He once surprised high school athletes in Boise by showing up to hand out the state medals.

“I support track and field. It’s really what changed my life,” Forbury told the Idaho Statesman at the time. “I love the state level of competition. These athletes have such great enthusiasm and they’re trying so hard. They have just the best qualities of student-athletes, so this is really, really fun for me.”

Fosbury ran as a Democrat to represent Legislative District 26 in the Idaho House, which includes Ketchum, but lost to Rep. Steve Miller. He served on local boards, most recently becoming the Blaine County commissioner in 2019.

“The legacy of Dick Fosbury extends far beyond the high jump,” Idaho Democratic Party Chair Lauren Necochea said in a statement. “A long-time civil rights advocate and business leader, he was a pillar of the Wood River Valley. As an Idaho Democrat, he exemplified so many of our values: fairness, grit and innovative action. On behalf of the Idaho Democratic Party, I would like to extend my deep sympathies and condolences to the family and loved ones of Commissioner Fosbury.”

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