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High Jump: An Evolution Story

As much as it pains me to say this, I have to: in the ancient Greek Olympic Games, there was no event known as high jump. It was only in the 19th century in Scotland when the event was incorporated into the modern Olympic Games in 1896 for men. Women made their debut in this sport only in 1928. This field event has perhaps undergone the most radical changes in technique.



It all began with the scissor jump which is also known as the Western Roll. It was developed by DeHart Hubbard, an African-American athlete, in the late 1920s. The jump: the athlete approaches the bar with tremendous speed and jumps off one foot from the takeoff point while swinging the other leg upward and forward as straight as possible. The body then changes its orientation and with the back slightly arched towards the front, crosses the bar by scissoring the legs, bringing the takeoff leg first and then the other leg.



Then came the Straddle Technique; it is also known as the Eastern Cut-Off or the Straddle Roll. The athlete approaches the bar in a curved run-up. As the high jumper reaches the takeoff point, they jump off one foot while extending both their legs forward and upward at the same time. They then kick their lead leg upwards, trying to cross the bar, their trailing leg following. Following that, the athlete rotates their body and lands on the high jump pit on their back or on their shoulders.


In Mexico City circa 1968, Fosbury introduced a new technique to the world while

jumping backwards off the claimed ‘wrong foot,’ arching his body over the bar, during his gold-medal-winning journey. His technique was the subject of scorn and ridicule in multiple corners of the world, but over the years it has become the most widely accepted and respected high jump technique. The Flop involves an approach that is almost straight ahead, followed by twisting during the takeoff and going over headfirst with the back - arched - to the bar.


It is clear that high jump has evolved greatly over the past few decades; from the scissor jump to the straddle technique and Fosbury Flop, this sport has undergone drastic changes. I’m not sure what the high jump technique will look like in the future - whether it’ll remain the same for decades to come or change yet again - but what I can say with certainty is that even as seasons come and go. Times change, there will come numerous athletes who will be as in love with the sport in the future as people are today.


Mariya Lasitskene, 2020 Olympic Champion - High Jump 1st position



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