Backyard Olympics — High Jumping Against Dick Fosbury

High Jump

Back in 1968, when I was 12 years old, I spent hours and hours in a grueling high jump competition with Dick Fosbury.

Okay, technically, Dick was winning gold at the ’68 Olympics in Mexico City, jumping an insane 7-4 1/4.

But in my mind, Dick was doing his revolutionary Fosbury Flop in my back yard.

He and I had a deal.  If I could jump my height that summer — 4-ft-4 on a good day — the gold medal would be mine. 

But before the competition could begin, great effort had to go into construction of an Official Olympics High Jump Pit.

As you can see in the photo, a worn white rope that stretched between the tether ball pole and the nearest tree was the “bar”.

Dad’s WWII Navy mattress was not quite Olympic-sized, but it worked well enough, unless your approach was a bit too fast and your rump landed on the rock-hard ground.

I had to teach Mr. Fosbury the ins and outs of competing in my backyard. Like, to get the best angle and speed for your approach, you had to push back against the fence. 

It would slingshot you away, unless the galvanized wire snagged your cut-offs or, occasionally, your flesh.

Your jumping technique was absolutely critical. 

If you missed a jump while competing in the Olympics, you simply knocked down the aluminum bar. No big deal.

If you missed your jump in my back yard, you either got a rope burn or were flipped upside down and landed on your head.  Dad’s skinny Navy mattress wasn’t much help for the latter.

Over the course of that summer’s grueling high jump competition with Mr. Fosbury — in between biking and baseball and wiffle ball and battle ball and football and water balloon fights and “skateboards of death”, and conspiring with my neighbor to make his little sister cry — I worked as hard as I’d ever worked in my life to clear 4-ft-4.

Tragically, at summer’s end, I had failed to unseat the legendary high jumper.  He took gold.   

It was  the first real failure of my budding athletic career, and it made me so mad that I cried.

But wait! There was an official challenge.

My Mom used the above photo to convince me (and the Olympic judges) that I had won.

If you look closely, my butt is sitting right on top of our fence, which, Mom assured me, was exactly 4-ft-4.

So Mr. Fosbury had to settle for silver.

A final note…

My attempt to break the Olympic and World record of 4-ft-6, by leaping off my speeding Deluxe Renegade bicycle, did not end well. 

The effort required significant first aid from Lady Dog, our beagle, who had to lick a lot of wounds. And Mom pretty much soaked me in Monkey’s Blood.


Click HERE to see how my neighbor and I made his annoying little sister cry by mocking her favorite doll, Baby Boo.

Or click HERE to read about back yard wiffle ball and Cyrano, the neighbor’s horny Giant Black Poodle.



One Response to “Backyard Olympics — High Jumping Against Dick Fosbury”

  1. Lillian L.. says:

    This makes me aware that your insanity is not a result of oldtimers setting in. Snort.

Leave a Reply