23 November 2012 – Barcelona, Spain – The 1968 Olympic High Jump men’s champion Dick Fosbury and the 2012 Olympic High Jump women’s champion Anna Chicherova appeared at the press point at the IAAF Centenary Gala in Barcelona. These were some of the highlights.
Dick Fosbury (USA)
How did you develop your technique back in the 1960s?
I was growing up in my hometown of Medford in Oregon and it’s an adaption of the old style scissors technique. I tried to learn the straddle technique but it was a complete failure. I tried to think about what was the most efficient way of clearing the bar but it took me a couple more years to evolve into the technique I had in Mexico City.
At Oregon State University, the coach there put me on a good programme of strength training and plyometrics, the type of training that’s done today. Another thing was that in Mexico I used visualisation, it was something that nobody talked about in those days, there were no sports psychologists. Al Oerter and Bob Beamon did it as well, but we did it on our own.
The first female to go over the bar backwards was (Canada’s) Debbie Brill and we first met in 1966 but fortunately I was five years older than her and I got a gold medal so it’s my name that has been linked with history.
It was only four years after your win in Mexico City when the first world record was set with the technique you developed. Were you surprised that it became so popular, so quickly?
I thought that after I won the gold, one or two jumpers would start using it but I never really contemplated that it would become the universal technique. It only took a generation. The last staddle jumper at the Olympics was in Seoul (in 1988). It took a little time for European coaches to start teaching it as they had only seen still photos and couldn’t understand running around a curve but it was still a surprise to me what happened.
Would you have liked to have carried on jumping for longer, as you only went to one Olympics?
In those days we didn’t have the system of support that is there nowadays so it was difficult to carry on competing after finishing at university. There were exceptions, but not many: my Mexico teammate Al Oerter went to four Olympics; another one, Ralph Boston went to three.
However, I came from a middle class family and it was time to start my career (as a civil engineer). Nevertheless, looking back, I feel that I accomplished far more than I ever thought I would. I never had any ambitions to be an Olympian when I was a child. At the back of my mind, I feel I could have jumped higher, but I’m very satisfied with my career.
Where is the men’s High Jump going?
Back in 1978, I predicted that I would see 2.50m in my lifetime but 2.45m (the current world record) seems to be something of mental and physical barrier.
Maybe (2012 Olympic champion Ivan) Ukhov needs some better head-to-head competition but I’m still living so maybe I’ll see 2.50m.
Anna Chicherova (Russia)
Your coach, Yevgeniy Zagorulko, was going to retire after the Olympic Games this summer. What part did you play in persuading him to continue?
My coach was talking about retiring during the period when I was preparing for the Olympics and this disappointed me a little bit, you don’t want to hear these things when you are training for the Olympics and hoping to fight for a medal.
Even before London, I was also clear that I knew I wanted to participate at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow next year so I was a little bit offended.
It was not just about me, there was training with him Aleksandr Shustov, Andriy Silnov and Yelena Slesarenko. However, Yelena and Andriy have won Olympic gold medals and I had not realized my Olympic dream.
Fortunately, Zagorulko changed his mind and decided to stay in the sport. We all helped change his mind. One thing was this year was a year full of anniversaries, I was 30, Zagorulko was 70 and I had been training with him for 10 years … and also the IAAF is 100 years old.
Tatyana Lebedeva took her children to training from a very young age, do you do the same with your daughter Nika (born in September 2010)?
Tatyana’s special but when I also go to training camp I take her and my mother. It’s true that children can be a distraction but my mother is a smart woman she takes my daughter away when I’m training although she can still see me. (Dick Fosbury, laughing – If I was your coach I wouldn’t stand for that.)
Your father was also a high jumper, do you think Nika will follow in your footsteps?
Actually, I started in sport very early, there are photos of me long jumping when I was three. However, I don’t want to influence Nika and I want my daughter to choose what she wants to do. I didn’t have much choice (laughs).
Phil Minshull for the IAAF