The high jump is a jump made over a horizontal bar in track and field events. It is a jump for height that includes an approach run, a raised horizontal bar, and a soft or cushioned landing area. It has been competed in since the Olympics of ancient Greece, is featured at both high school and collegiate levels, and is now a popular sport in the modern Summer Olympic Games every four years. It has produced such popular athletes and terms as Dick Fosbury and his “Fosbury Flop.”
The high jump begins with a run-up on a curved runway, usually 15 m (49.2 feet). The jumper then proceeds to jump over the bar without knocking it down, though the jumper's body may touch the bar. While they are restricted by few other rules, jumps must be made off of one foot and without any aid. The jumper, whether succeeding over the bar or knocking it down, lands onto the softened area under the apparatus. This area, commonly made of sand before the 20th century, has been replaced by foam or cushions allowing for an easier and safer landing.
The high jump can be executed in many ways, as they follow no restrictions, but have followed general trends throughout the history of this event. The most popular jumps have included the scissors jump, which employs an upright posture with the legs split to decrease the height of the body; the Western straddle, or roll, which features a face down horizontal jump over the bar, with one leg leading the body; and the Fosbury Flop, which revolutionized the high jump method.
The Fosbury Flop, popularized by Olympic gold medalist Dick Fosbury in 1968, introduced the high jumping world to a backward jump that has been the standard for jumpers since. It features a low center of gravity during the run-up, a curved approach, and a rotating body up to the bar. A somersault-like motion and an arched back, with legs and shoulders kept low before snapping over the bar, allow for an extremely low center of mass.
With the help of the Fosbury Flop, high jumps heights have steadily increased in around the world for over a century. In the early 20th century, the high jump mark stood around 1.97 m (6.6 feet) with early methods. By 1956, the mark had moved up to 2.1 m (7 feet), and by 1977 had moved up to 2.33 m (7.6 feet). The world record for this event, both indoor and outdoor, is held by Cuban jumper Javier Sotomayor, who jumped 2.45 m (8.04 feet) in 1993.