Legendary high jumper Dick Fosbury’s death: Before the Fosbury flop there was Quande Curl

Dick Fosbury, the man who revolutionised the high jump, by using his unique technique to win gold at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, passed away at the age of 76 ‘after a short bout with a recurrence of lymphoma’. Fosbury went over the high jump bar backwards after arching his body. Fosbury’s technique was completely different from what high jumpers used back in the day – the straddle, the western roll, the scissor kick- all done with the jumper looking towards the landing area before landing.

Fosbury set the then Olympic record of 2.24 metres and within a year almost all jumpers had adopted his technique which came to be known as the Fosbury Flop.

However, a little known fact is that it was perhaps another jumper who first used a similar technique but he never really made it big so never got acclaim or the credit. The story of how Bruce Quande was discovered is interesting.

Dick Fosbury Olympic high jump legend Dick Fosbury, dead at 76 on Sunday. (Image: IOC)

Three decades after Fosbury left the world in awe, Rial Cummins, a sports reporter for the Missoulian newspaper was going through the archives when he spotted the picture of a high school jumper at a reputed track and field meet. The black and white photo was of an athlete named Bruce Quande and he was jumping backwards.

“I always figured if you ran at the bar really hard, used a scissor and then a twist, you could (jump) better. It wasn’t rocket science,” Quande was quoted as saying by

Quande started trying different techniques in the year 1959.

“I thought if I doubled my runway, I could get more speed and that could somehow translate to jumping higher. I always tell people it wasn’t that complicated,” Quande added.

Gold medal winner Dick Fosbury raises his arm on the victor’s podium of the Olympic stadium, Oct. 20, 1968, in Mexico City. (AP File)

He says he tried the Western Roll technique, which was the most popular in high schools but it didn’t really work for him.

“All those guys did the roll, and I would try the roll. My coaches wanted me to use it and I had a little success with it, but then when I missed the bar I would go back to flopping,” Quande was quoted as saying by

Dick Fosbury of Oregon State tries a seven foot two inch high jump with his head first style in the New York Athletic club track meet at Madison Square Garden in New York, Feb. 17, 1968. (AP File)

Quande says he jumped 1.87 metres in senior high school and his technique of clearing the bar was known as the Quande Curl.

However, Quande was not consistent enough and could not really make a mark at the higher levels of competition.

“I kept working at it, but it was hit and miss. As you know, consistency is key in these events.”

He stopped jumping because of the possibility of neck and back injuries because the landing area in those days was made of wood chips and saw dust.

“Between when I jumped and they jumped, the foam pads came in and it made all the difference in the world for high jump and pole vault,” Quande said. “You could bounce when you landed.”

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