High Jump history

Dick Fosbury of the USA
The first recorded high jump event took place in Scotland in the 19th century. Early jumpers used either an elaborate straight-on approach or a scissors technique. In the latter, the bar was approached diagonally, and the jumper threw first the inside leg and then the other over the bar in a scissoring motion.
Around the turn of the 20th century, techniques began to modernise, starting with the Irish-American M.F. Sweeney's Eastern cut-off. By taking off as if with the scissors, but extending his back and flattening out over the bar, Sweeney achieved a more economic clearance and raised the world record to 6 feet 5.625 inches (1.97 m) in 1895.
Another American, M.F. Horine, developed an even more efficient technique, the Western roll. In this style, the bar again is approached on a diagonal, but the inner leg is used for the take-off, while the outer leg is thrust up to lead the body sideways over the bar. Horine increased the world standard to 6 feet 7 inches (2.0 m) in 1912. His technique predominated through the Berlin Olympics of 1936, in which the event was won by Cornelius Johnson at 2.03 metres (6 ft 8 in).
American and Russian jumpers held the playing field for the next four decades, and they pioneered the evolution of the straddle technique. Straddle jumpers took off as in the Western roll, but rotated their (belly-down) torso around the bar, obtaining the most economical clearance up to that time. Straddle-jumper Charles Dumas broke the elusive 7 feet (2.13 m) barrier in 1956, and American John Thomas pushed the world mark to 2.23 metres in 1960. Valeriy Brumel took over the event for the next four years. The elegant Soviet jumper radically sped up his approach run, took the record up to 2.28 metres and won the Olympic gold medal in 1964, before a motorcycle accident ended his career.
American coaches, including two-time NCAA champion Frank Costello of the University of Maryland, flocked to Russia to learn from Brumel and his coaches.
However, it would be a solitary innovator at Oregon State University, Dick Fosbury, who would bring the high jump into the next century. Taking advantage of the raised, softer landing areas by then in use, Fosbury added a new twist to the outmoded Eastern Cut-off. He directed himself over the bar head and shoulders first, sliding over on his back and landing in a fashion which would likely have broken his neck in the old, sawdust landing pits.
After he used this Fosbury flop to win the 1968 Olympic gold medal, the technique began to spread around the world, and soon floppers were dominating international high jump competitions. The last straddler to set a world record was the late Vladimir Yashchenko, who cleared 2.33 metres (7 ft 8 in) in 1977 and then 2.35 metres (7 ft 9 in) indoors in 1978.
Among renowned high jumpers following Fosbury's lead were: Americans Dwight Stones and his rival, Franklin Jacobs of Paterson, NJ, who cleared 2.32 metres an astounding 0.61 m over his head height; Chinese record-setters Ni-chi Chin and Zhu Jianhua; Germans Gerd Wessig and Dietmar Mögenburg; Swedish Olympic medalist and world record holder Patrik Sjöberg; and female jumpers Iolanda BalaƟ of Romania, Ulrike Meyfarth of Germany and Italy's Sara Simeoni.
Today all the best high jumpers in the world prefer the Fosbury technique. However, the last men’s world record with the straddle was 2.35 m in 1978, which would still be an absolute top performance today. It is clear then that the dominance of the Fosbudry flop originates in an easier-to-learn basic form rather than in fundamental biomechanical advantages. Beginners have better results with the flop and improve faster.