What a different place he world of high jump would be had Dick Fosbury not thought of having a go at it backwards.
I’m a dreamer. I’m reliably informed by John Lennon that I’m not the only one, but still, that’s what I am. One recurring daydream that started shortly after I came upon the notion of doing all this involves discovering that far from being blunderingly inept at all things Olympic, there might just be an event that I’ve never tried before but turn out to be astoundingly good at.
In idle moments I imagine the Great Britain pole vault coach scratching his head and looking at a clipboard as I fall back to earth having cleared the bar by a foot. He is confused and exclaiming “But… that’s a British record. By half a metre. You’re in the team for Beijing.”
I confessed this dreaming habit just now to my colleague and friend Statue John while we smoked very un-Olympic cigarettes in the alleyway beside our office. He confessed in his turn that he has spent many idle hours thinking about “doing a Fosbury” – coming up with a revolutionary technique for performing one of the events that ensures victory despite a lack of what is commonly held to be the usual physical requirements of an Olympic champion.
At the 1968 games Fosbury revolutionized the sport of high jumping with just such a new technique, which became known as the Fosbury Flop. Instead of leaping facing the bar and swinging first one leg and then the other over the bar in a scissoring motion - the dominant method of the time - Fosbury turned just as he leapt, flinging his body backward over the bar with his back arched, following with his legs and landing on his shoulders.
The best John and I could come up with was some new swimming technique that would allow you to win the 50m Freestyle despite having a massive beer gut, baggy swimming trunks and (John insisted) a lengthy mullet unrestrained by anything so naff as a swimming cap.
Certain events heavily regulate techniques – for instance, I’m fairly sure that John’s suggested new long jump technique involving landing headfirst and rolling forwards (anyone who has seen the A-Team will know that such a technique can carry a man far enough to land a safe distance from and exploding jeep) would not only result in a concussion but also be against the rules of the event.
But others (like freestyle swimming and most of the track events) just involve covering a set distance as quickly as possible. Michael Johnson has a fair claim to being one of the greatest track athletes of all time, and he modelled his running style on that of an ostrich. His coaches told him it wouldn’t work, but he refused to listen (his training partners had to tell him he had gone a bit far when he started burying his head in the long jump pit mind you).
So rack your brain, loyal reader, and post a suggestion – be it pole-vaulting with a pole twice as long as the ones the experts use, or paying homage to Dick Fosbury by running the hundred metres backwards – all suggestions will be heard. And then roundly mocked, no doubt.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Posted by John McClure at 5:28 pm