Olympic High Jumper Dick Fosbury Dead at 76 After 'Short Bout with a Recurrence of Lymphoma'

"Fosbury not only won Olympic gold at Mexico City 1968 but also revolutionized the high jump. He was truly an Olympic pioneer and legend," Team USA posted on Twitter

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25: Olympic gold medalist Dick Fosbury attends The Disruptive Innovation Awards during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at Jack H. Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on April 25, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
Photo: Noam Galai/WireImage

Dick Fosbury, a high jumper who won gold in the 1968 Olympics and is highly recognized as a revolutionary athlete, has died. He was 76.

His agent, Ray Schulte, announced his death in an Instagram post on Monday. He explained that Fosbury "passed away peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning after a short bout with a recurrence of lymphoma."

"The Track & Field legend is survived by his wife Robin Tomasi, and son Erich Fosbury, and stepdaughters Stephanie Thomas-Phipps of Hailey, Idaho, and Kristin Thompson," he added.

Schulte touched on Fosbury's legacy in track and field athletics by writing that he was "a true legend, and friend of all" and "will be greatly missed by friends and fans from around the world."

Fosbury was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 2008, reports Athletics Weekly, and previously had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on his lower vertebrae.

"With his groundbreaking 'Fosbury Flop' technique, Dick Fosbury not only won Olympic gold at Mexico City 1968 but also revolutionized the high jump. He was truly an Olympic pioneer and legend," shared Team USA in a Twitter post on Monday recognizing Fosbury's achievements.

The technique was unseen at the time, as athletes in the sport had never performed a back-first high jump, according to Olympics.com.

Corvallis, Ore: Conventional high jumpers the world over are watching with interest the antics of lanky Oregon State junior Dick Fosbury who goes over the bar backwards. Here the 6-4 engineering student from Medford, Ore. Shows his style during an Oregon State--Univ. of Southern California meet April 29th, 1967.

"Fosbury was the first athlete to jump 'back first,' shifting his center of gravity and revolutionizing a discipline that had been largely unchanged in 50 years as athletes maintained the forward-facing straddle technique," they add.

At the Olympic Games, the technique allowed him to set a high jump record of 2.24 meters (7 feet, 3 inches) that stood unmatched until the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, according to Olympics.com.

In a 2017 interview for the NBC Sports film "1968", he shared that he first used the technique during a competition in April 1963 when he was 16 years old, according to NBC Sports.

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"I converted the old 'scissors' style, where a jumper would hurdle over the bar, and their legs would do a scissor kick," he said then. "I changed that style and modernized it to make it more efficient."

In 2018, his alma mater, Oregon State University, commemorated the 50th anniversary of his Olympic Games win by unveiling a statue of him performing the jump on the university's campus.

According to the university, Fosbury's achievements have also given him honors in the Oregon State Sports Hall of Fame, the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame, the World Humanitarian Hall of Fame, the National High School Hall of Fame, and the State of Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.

Updated by
Ingrid Vasquez

Ingrid Vasquez is a Digital News Writer at PEOPLE. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor in Journalism. Before joining the team, she worked as an Editor at FanSided and provided work in the celebrity and lifestyle space for brands that include Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, EW, and more.

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