Greatest Moments In Olympic High Jump

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.

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1932 - Jean Shiley vs. Babe Didrikson

Jean Shiley kicks over the bar on her way to a controversial high jump gold medal in the 1932 Olympics. Keystone/Getty Images

Jean Shiley and Babe Didrikson staged a stirring duel at the 1932 Olympics. Both women tied the world record of 1.62 meters (5 feet, 3¾ inches), and then headed into a jump-off to determine the winner. The two Americans both improved to 1.65/5-5 in the jump-off. But Shiley was awarded the gold medal after Didrikson was controversially disqualified for the technical violation of “diving” over the bar. Even though Didrikson was forced to settle for the silver medal, she was recognized as the co-world record holder, along with Shiley.

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1968 - Dick Fosbury wins with "flop"

Dick Fosbury clears the bar with his revolutionary jumping style during the 1968 Olympics. Keystone/Getty Images

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, and then kicked his legs over. Fosbury cleared every height through 2.22 meters (7 feet, 3¼ inches) without a miss in 1968 and went on to win with a then-Olympic record jump of 2.24/7-4¼.

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1972 - Ulrike Meyfarth becomes the youngest champion

Ulrike Meyfarth won Olympic high jump gold medals in 1972 and 1984. Bongarts/Getty Images

Meyfarth became the youngest athlete to earn an individual Olympic gold medal when she won the high jump competition in Munich at the age of 16 years, 123 days. Meyfarth and Bulgaria's Yordanka Blagoeva were both perfect through 1.88 meters (6 feet 2 inches), but Meyfarth cleared 1.90/6-2¾ on her second try, while Blagoeva missed three times at that height. For good measure, Meyfarth proceeded to equal the existing world record by clearing 1.92/6-3½ on her first attempt.

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1980 - Gerd Wessig wins gold, and 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 2.36 meters (7 feet, 8¾ inches) in 1980. His previous personal best was 2.30/7-6½. Silver medalist Jacek Wszola of Poland suffered two losses on the day. First, he was eliminated from the competition after reaching 2.31/7-7. Then, even though Wessig had clinched the gold, he continued jumping and eventually topped Wszola’s former world standard of 2.35/7-8½.

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1988 - Louise Ritter wins jump-off

Louise Ritter (shown here at the U.S. Olympic Trials) won a jump-off to earn the 1988 high jump gold medal. Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images

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 2.03 meters (6 feet, 8 inches). In the tie-breaking jump-off Kostadinova missed again at 2.03. 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.

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1996 - Charles Austin sets the standard

Charles Austin clears the bar during the 1996 Olympic high jump competition. Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

American Charles Austin won the gold and set the current Olympic record in dramatic fashion in 1996. Poland’s Artur Partyka had cleared 2.37 meters (7 feet, 9¼ inches) while Austin had missed twice, and then passed. With only one, do-or-die attempt at 2.39/7-10 remaining, Austin cleared the bar to take the lead. Partyka missed at 2.39, and then passed and tried his luck at 2.40/7-10¾. But he missed twice to end the contest.

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Olympic High Jump Rules