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Greatest Moments In Olympic High Jump

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The high jump has been one of the most highly-competitive Olympic events, particularly on the men’s side, as no man has ever won more than one high jump gold medal. Just two women (Iolanda Balas of Romania and Ulrike Meyfarth of West Germany) own two high jump golds apiece.

1. 1968 - Fosbury wins with "flop"

Although he didn't invent the technique that came to be known as the "Fosbury Flop," Dick Fosbury revolutionized high jumping with his gold medal performance at the 1968 Olympics. Instead of kicking his lead leg over the bar, Fosbury pivoted and sailed head first, with his back to the bar, then kicked his legs over. Fosbury cleared every height through 7 feet, 3-¼ inches without a miss in 1968 and won with a then-Olympic record jump of 7-4¼ (2.24 meters).

2. 1980 - Wessig wins gold, then sets record

East German Gerd Wessig was not only a surprise gold medalist, but he became the first man to set a world record during an Olympic high jump final with a leap of 7 feet, 8-¾ inches (2.36 meters) in 1980. His previous personal best was 7-6½. Silver medalist Jacek Wszola of Poland suffered two losses on the day. First, he was eliminated from the competition after reaching 7-7. Then, even though Wessig had clinched the gold, he continued jumping and eventually topped Wszola’s old mark of 7-8½.

3. 1988 - Ritter wins jump-off

Louise Ritter of the U.S. and world record holder Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria were the last women standing in 1988, but both missed all three attempts at a then-Olympic record height of 6 feet, 8 inches. In the tie-breaking jump-off Kostadinova missed again at 6-8. Ritter then made her approach run one foot longer, leaped and grazed the bar going over. The bar remained in place, giving Ritter the gold medal.

4. 1996 - Austin sets the standard

American Charles Austin won the gold and set the current Olympic record in dramatic fashion in 1996. Poland’s Artur Partyka had cleared 7 feet, 9-¼ inches while Austin had missed twice, then passed. With only one, do-or-die attempt at 7-10 (2.39 meters) remaining, Austin cleared the bar to take the lead. Partyka missed at 7-10, then passed and tried his luck at 7-10¾. But he missed twice to end the contest.

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