Madeline de Jesus
Madeline de Jesus

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the American woman’s team won the gold medal in the 4×400 relay finals, easily breaking the Olympic record by nearly a second and trouncing silver medalists Canada by nearly 3 seconds, an eternity in sprint.

The 4×400 meters event, by definition, is a race run by four people. But due to the rules of track at the time, teams were allowed to list up to six people eligible for the relays, and if there were athletes who competed in heats, but who did not run in the finals, they could still be awarded a medal for helping their team to the medal podium.

Thus, at the LA Games, six women received gold medals, including Diane Dixon and Denean Howard, who helped Team USA to an easy victory in the preliminary 4×400 competition. They not only assisted in getting their team to the finals, they rested two of the team’s stars, Valerie Brisco-Hooks and Chandra Cheeseborough, so they would be fresh for the finals.

Team Puerto Rico, on the other hand, did not have that luxury it seems.

Madeline de Jesus was representing Puerto Rico as a long jumper and sprinter at the ’84 Games. During the long jump competition on August 5, she pulled her hamstring, and she knew she would not be able to suit up for the 4×400 relay six days later.

Only six days….but enough time to plan a caper.

According to this article, Madeline consulted with her sister Margaret who was a spectator at the Olympics. And they wondered if they could get away with it. No one knew that Madeline’s injury would keep her out of the relays, so if her sister could take her place in the relays, the Puerto Rican team would have a chance. After all, Margaret was a sprinter as well. She didn’t qualify for the Olympic team, but she had a particular quality that could make this work – Margaret was the identical twin of Madeline.

Madeline and Margaret de Jesus
Madeline and Margaret de Jesus

So Madeline suited Margaret up, presumably passing her sister all her credentials that gave her access to the village, the training facilities and the stadium. And on August 11, it was Margaret de Jesus lining up for the second leg of the 4×400 heat. Since there were ten teams competing for eight spots in the finals, Team Puerto Rico’s finishing time of 3:37.39 was enough to grab the eighth spot and qualify for the finals.

Margaret had fooled the world.

For a little less than a day.

Unfortunately for the de Jesus sisters, there was a journalist present for a Puerto Rican newspaper called

La Nación, This journalist had covered the sisters’ athletic accomplishments, and was actually able to tell the difference between Madeline and Margaret – a “beauty mark one had on her cheek.”

When the head of the Puerto Rican Olympic team heard of the deception, he immediately pulled his 4×400 team from the finals. After an investigation held by the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee, Madeline and Margaret were banned from future competition. The investigation also revealed that the relay team’s coach, Francisco Colon Alers, knew of the plan and allowed it, resulting in his lifetime ban from international competition. Sadly, the three other members of the track squad were also complicit, and they received a one-year suspension from competition.

Antigua and Barbuda finished almost two seconds behind Puerto Rico in the heats. Getting to the finals and racing one more time on the big stage would have been sweet…if not for those twins.

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Ed Caruthers at Santa Ana
Ed Caruthers at Santa Ana College

Still a freshman at Santa Ana College, high jumper Ed Caruthers was headed to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. Caruthers had always been a football player, and as a pretty good wide receiver/defensive back, he hoped one day to get drafted by an NFL team. Out of football season, Caruthers dabbled in track and field. Strangely, with little effort, Caruthers would win most high jump competitions. In 1964, he told me, he “went to the AAU championships, and lo and behold, I jumped 7 ft 1 inch, and beat John Thomas, which then qualified me for the Olympic trials.”

Even more strangely, Caruthers wasn’t even aware that the Olympics were that year – 1964. He was simply more interested in preparing for the football season that Fall. But when he won the finals in the high jump at the Olympic trials in September, he realized that he wasn’t going to play football for Santa Ana in the coming months, and so did not register for school. As he told me, his track coach was “happy as a lark,” while his football coach had a hole in his team.

So Caruthers the football player, who was an accidental Olympian, took off for Japan in early October, about a week in advance of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremonies. Caruthers was in good shape when he arrived, but with so much time before his competition, he needed to train. Unfortunately, it was hit or miss if a particular US team had dedicated coaches or not. The high jumpers, according to Caruthers, did not. And for a kid like Caruthers, who a month before wasn’t even aware the Olympics were taking place, a naïve kid who wondered why his teammates would not train with him, was suddenly thrust wide-eyed into the world of super mega-sports spectacle, complete with all the food you can eat.

The high jump competition was in the last two or three days so I was in Tokyo three weeks without competition. I didn’t have any coaching, and I didn’t go up to any coach and ask them either. I’m jumping by myself so I didn’t have that extra thing to push me higher. If John Rambo or John Thomas were out there training with me, I might have had the adrenaline going, wanting to show them. But (even though we were teammates) I was a competitor to them, so we didn’t.

Caruthers was not born of wealth, and was barely eating a bowl of cereal a day when he was a student in junior college. But when he came to Tokyo, and was privy to the bounty of the Olympic Village, he ended up eating eggs, waffles, bacon, cookies, ice cream, and lots of it. “I weighed 190 pounds when I arrived. After two weeks, I weighed 198 pounds. I thought maybe when you go to the other side of the world you gain weight, but no.” He just ate too much.

So prior to the high jump competition, Caruthers stopped eating. For three days, all he consumed was cornflakes, milk and salad. So, no, Caruthers was not feeling as strong as he wanted to at the start of the competition, nor feeling right or ready. As a consequence, Caruthers did not perform as well as he had expected, as he explained to me in detail:

I was getting up really good but I couldn’t tell what I wasn’t doing wrong. People in the stands who saw me jump said “we can’t believe you missed that… all you had to do is step one foot back”. I was about 3 – 4 inches over the bar. My plant wasn’t in the right place but I couldn’t tell. I’m 19 years old. The first jump was easy. But you have to make adjustments in your 2nd or 3rd jumps. At 7 feet everything has to be really refined and precise – there’s less room for error. I needed to make adjustments. After my second attempt I really needed someone to tell me but all I’m doing is I’m trying to run faster because I think I need more effort. I ended up jumping only 6-10 and a quarter.

Caruthers finished in eighth place. He sat on the bench and watched the others compete to the finish. Valeriy Brumel of the Soviet Union and John Thomas both jumped 2.16 meters, but could not go beyond that. Brumel took gold on fewer misses, Thomas silver and Rambo bronze. Caruthers thought, “damn, there are two guys on the medal stand I’ve beaten this year. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be on that stand.” He thought about the opening ceremonies, being together with thousands of athletes, all the flags of the world flapping around him, and “I’m right there in the middle of it. I am with the best athletes in the world.” He realized at his darkest moment that finishing eighth was not good enough, that his attitude and focus were inadequate, and that he wanted, needed to redeem himself in Mexico City four years later.

When Caruthers returned home to California, he was determined to focus more on track than on football. He was offered scholarships to play at USC or UCLA, but he picked the University of Arizona because it was 500 miles away from home, and from all the distractions of his friends and neighborhood. And he also wanted to make sure that he got his degree, and sought help from the university to ensure that he did well with his grades and graduated.

That’s what Tokyo did for me. Prior to that I only cared about two weeks from now. After Tokyo, my attitude was the difference between night and day. Training. Confidence. Everything. I knew what I was in school for. I had a schedule. I built up my strength. I refined my technique. I worked it so that I knew exactly what I should be doing to jump my best height.

In 1967, there was no better high jumper in the world than Ed Caruthers. He was primed for gold in Mexico City. He was determined. Nothing was to get in the way of his goal – to erase the memory of his poor performance in Tokyo. Nothing.

Nothing….except the Flop.

Ed Caruthers Dick Fosbury and Valentin Garilov
Ed Caruthers Dick Fosbury and Valentin Gavrilov

In 1967, Ed Caruthers was the number one high jumper in the world. As a senior at the University of Arizona that year, Caruthers won the high jump competition at the NCAA indoor championship and tied for first at the NCAA outdoor championships in Provo, Utah. Adding gold in the high jump at the Pan American Games in Montreal, Caruthers lived up to his nickname – “All World.”

On September 16, 1968, a few weeks before the Summer Olympics, Caruthers cleared 7′ 3″ (2.20 m) on his first attempt to win the US track and field trials and get his ticket punched for Mexico City. A 17-year-old named Reynaldo Brown surprised the field by also clearing 7′ 3″ on his first try to make the Olympic squad.

But the most watched athlete in the trials, Dick Fosbury, made 7′ 3″ on his final attempt. As Caruthers explained to me, if Fosbury had not cleared 7-3, then the third high jump spot would have gone to John Hartfield, who cleared 7ft 2 inches in fewer attempts than Fosbury.

So Caruthers, was going to his second Olympics, after faring poorly in Tokyo in ’64. As AP put it in a September 30, 1968 article, “on the basis of his past record and his timely readiness, Caruthers must be the favorite.”

Unfortunately, being a favorite is not a guarantee or even a promise. The line between first and fifth are slim centimeters. And the high jump competition can be a painfully long process. Here’s how Caruthers recalled the competition to me:

2.22 meters is 7-3 1/4. At that height, I had it down to a science. I wanted to jump 7′ 3″ or 7′ 4″ by my sixth time. Initial jumps are 6-6 (which I could skip). A lot of the others missed, so it took a long time to just get to a height I wanted to jump, at 6 11. I had already warmed up, but I had to sit for about 90 minutes because those guys were missing so much. So my plan didn’t work out.

I ended up missing twice both at 7′ 0¼”(2.14 m) and 7′ 1¾” (2.18 m), probably because I wasn’t warmed up. So I was getting scared. I didn’t warm up like I was supposed to, or get my speed going like I needed to. I wasn’t hitting my plant well. It was a long day for the rest of the guys, but it didn’t affect Fosbury at all. He had no misses. He was right on.

As many sports fans know, Fosbury introduced a revolutionary style of jumping. It may not seem so revolutionary today, because everybody leaps over the bar head first, one’s back arching over the bar with one’s legs whipping upwards and over, hopefully landing on the mat on one’s back staring at the bar in its place. But in 1968, everyone else straddled the bar, their foot being the first thing over the bar, and Fosbury’s Flop was thought to be so unusual and awkward, people were amazed it worked.

After three hours, only three men had cleared 7′ 2½” (2.20 m): Fosbury, Caruthers, and the Soviet, Valentin Gavrilov. Fosbury and Gavrilov may have had the mental edge, as they both had not missed a jump, while Caruthers had missed as many as 4 times up to that point.

However, when the bar was raised to 7′ 3¼” (2.22 m), Gavrilov crashed out, missing on all three attempts. Caruthers missed once, but then cleared the height. Fosbury, still on a roll, made the height on his first attempt. Thus it was down to Fosbury and Caruthers for gold.

The bar was raised to 7′ 4¼” (2.24 m). Caruthers told me he was tired, having jumped 10 times over a long dragged-out period. They both missed their first two attempts, but Fosbury made it over on his third.

And so now I’m trying to figure what do I do. Even if I clear it, I’m fighting myself. Do I not jump and wait to the next height around 7′ 5″ or do I go ahead and jump here, pass and get three more jumps? I can’t lose the silver medal. If I clear it I get three more tries.

But I’m getting tired. If I pass, it gives me another 6 minutes to sit there and get relaxed and put everything into one more jump. What did I want to do? I was really close on most of my attempts. Maybe I just get this height and sit down and relax. Fosbury started to have issues too.

I chose to go ahead and try to jump it. I’m over the bar but hit it coming down. My trailing leg, my left leg, hits the bar, scraping it as I’m coming down. If I had been an inch further out, I would have cleared the bar. That was the competition right there.

Caruthers and Fosbury pushed each other, setting the Olympic record three times in the course of the battle. Fosbury would emerge as one of the stars on arguably the best US team in Summer Olympic history. Not only that, Fosbury’s success in Mexico City changed the thinking of track coaches and high jumpers around the world, immediately impacting how high jumpers jumped. Four years later in Munich, more than half of the high jumpers employed Fosbury’s technique. And from 1972 to 2000, 34 of 35 Olympic high jump medalists “flopped.”

As Caruthers reflected, Fosbury’s way of jumping “was a novelty. But when he won gold, all the kids wanted to copy him.” And when Caruthers thought back to that September day at the US Olympic trials, when Fosbury made his fateful last leap to clear 7′ 3″, his body brushing the bar, he today understands that moment may have changed history.

If Fosbury had not cleared 7-3, John Hartfield would have made the team and Fosbury would have stayed home. If Fosbury had not been on the team, Caruthers may have stood on the top podium with a gold medal, and perhaps even more significantly, the Fosbury revolution would not have happened.

“That one jump in the trials in Lake Tahoe – if he didn’t make that last jump, it would have taken another two or three Olympic Games before anyone tried it. But because he won the gold medal, high jumping changed forever.”

jean-shiley
Jean Shiley and her scissor-kick style

She was a bolt out of the blue in 1932. Mildred Didrikson, nicknamed “Babe” because she could wallop a baseball, was suddenly a track and field phenomenon. She had single handedly dominated the US Women’s track and field championships that year. At the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, she had won gold in the 80-meter hurdles and the javelin throw. So as she prepared for the high jump competition, the press, the crowd in the stadium, and people all over America were expecting to see Babe Didrikson win her third gold medal.

But another American, Jean Shiley, was not going to just let Babe take it. Shiley from Pennsylvania was actually known at the time as the world’s best high jumper, but at the Los Angeles Olympics, she was playing second fiddle to the Babe. The masses wanted Babe to win her third gold medal. But athletes who knew Didrikson….not necessarily. Here’s how Shiley described her predicament in the book, Tales of Gold:

The women’s track and field events ran for a week, and at the Games Babe was the Sun King. On Sunday she won the javelin. Then on Wednesday she won a controversial decision in the hurdles. By that time the crowds were all behind her. They have their heroes and heroines. And the newspapers got into it, too. The following Sunday was the high jump, and the night before all the girls were in my room telling me, “You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it.” Oh, boy, they were really putting the pressure on me.

In the end, the crowd got to see Didrikson and Shiley face off for gold. The world record holder in the high jump, Lien Gisolf of the Netherlands, could not clear 1.6 meters. Then Canada’s Eva Dawes succumbed to the height of 1.62 meters, her efforts winning her the bronze medal. Both Didrikson and Shiley would go on to clear 1.62 meters, and set a world record at 1.65 meters, only for both to fail three times to clear 1.67 meters (5 ft 5 inches).

The rules of the time required a jump-off, a sudden death competition to clear a height incrementally higher than 5 ft 5 in . First the bar was raised another inch to 5 ft 6 in (1.676 meters). Shiley knocked the bar off its supports. Didikson barely cleared the bar with her body only to have her leg tap the bar and knock it off in her descent. So the bar was lowered to 5 feet 51/4 inches. Shiley soared higher in competition than she ever soared before, and lept over the bar. It was now up to the Babe, who lept and made it safely across. A tie…again.

babe-didrikson-1932
Babe Didrikson and her Western roll style

But then something strange happened. According to the book, Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion, Didrikson was said to have made an illegal jump.

Then Babe ran toward the crossbar and leaped off the ground, kicking up her feet and rolling in midair as she went over the bar. It was another tie – or was it? The judges huddled. According to Olympic rules then in effect, a high jumper had to clear the bar feet first. If the jumper went over the bar head first in a “dive,” the jump was disqualified. The judges ruled that Babe had dived. The first-place gold medal went to Jean Shiley, the silver to Babe Didrikson.

The rules at the time stated that the jumper’s feet must cross the bar first, which is why most athletes, including Shiley, employed a scissor-kick style. But Babe’s style is what was called the Western roll, a popular style where one’s arm and head, face down, are essentially the first parts of the body over the bar. Why was this ruling strange? Because Didrikson, as the press pointed out, had been jumping that way the entire competition. If the judges were going to rule her jumps illegal, they should have done so from the first jump.

The ruling stood, and according to Shiley, Babe was seen in the public as a victim, cheated out of her third gold, while Shiley was the villain. In the end, Shiley said she understood, knowing that Didrikson inspired great emotion in others. She in fact considered Babe to be the Muhammad Ali of her time in her egocentric confidence. She also considered Didrikson to be a fun person to be with, and a friend.

Babe Didrikson inspired either great enthusiasm or great dislike. At that time, even though they competed in sports, girls were to be young ladies, and I think a lot of girls found her behavior a little beyond how they thought a young lady should act. The Babe was very brash, and she bragged a lot, but she was also very humorous, especially when she wasn’t getting all the attention. She’d pull a harmonica out of her pocket and start to play it just to get attention. And nobody did anything better than she did. I don’t care if it was swallowing goldfish; she would have to swallow more fish than anybody else. It wasn’t Muhammad Ali who started this “I’m number one” stuff. Babe started it.

She was just so different from all the rest of the girls that it grated on their nerves. It could have been jealousy. That’s the way Babe was, and it bothered some of the girls, but it didn’t bother me. I was captain of the 1932 team, and I had to represent all of the girls. I had been on the 1928 team, and I learned that there are a lot of people in the world, and they are very different and very interesting. So Babe didn’t bother me; in fact, she and I became friends and remained so even though we’re two entirely different people.

babe-didrikson-javelin-1932
Mildred “Babe” Didrikson at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics

Role models are essential, particularly to groups under-represented.

In the first half of the 20th century, women around the industrialized world were told that exerting themselves too much in sports would not only be unlady-like, it might be bad for their health.

In America, one woman refuted those assumptions, brashly.

Babe Didrikson was the female version of Jim Thorpe. Whatever sport she took up, she did very well, often better than most others, female or male. She was an exceptional diver, bowler, baseball player and roller skater. Out of high school, she was the star on the Employers’ Casualty Insurance Company of Dallas women’s basketball team.

At the national track and field championships in 1932, the one that would determine participation in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Didrikson won an amazing six events – the broad jump, the shot put, the javelin, the 80-meter hurdles, the baseball throw, as well as tying for first in the high jump – all in a three-hour period. Her individual total points of 30 was greater than the next best team score of 22 points, accumulated by 22 athletes.

babe-didrikson-hurdles-1932

At the 1932 Olympics, Didrikson would win two gold medals and a silver and become one of the sensations of the Los Angeles Games.

And she was just getting started.

Packing star power, Didrikson was able to get paid in ways that other female athletes could only dream of: singing and playing the harmonica on vaudeville, doing so while hitting plastic golf balls into the delirious audience…making thousands of dollars per month, a king’s ransom in those days.

In 1934, Didrikson began to play golf seriously, and went on to become the best female golfer in the world, wining 82 golf tournaments as an amateur and a professional. For one stretch in 1946 and 1947, she won 14 straight gold tournaments. Her influence was so great that she co-founded the LPGA – the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

But she was a pioneer, so she had to do so under challenging conditions. People around her and the press in particular would call her gender in to question, openly telling her to stay home. “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring,” one sports columnist wrote in the New York World-Telegram.

What is surprising, according to this New York Times article, is that the great Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, who was named “Woman Athlete of the Half Century” in 1950, is little known today, her museum in Beaumont, Texas, rarely visited.

While girls who like sports today have a growing number of female role models in the 21st century, one of the greatest took the world by storm some 70 to 80 years ago. And this Babe is worth a look.

Iolanda Balas in Tokyo_Tokyo Olympiad 1964_Kyodo News Service
From the book, XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964 Asahi Shinbum

One of the most dominant female athletes in history passed away this week. Iolanda Balaș was not only the first Romanian woman to win an Olympic gold medal, she was the sole world record holder of the high jump for over thirteen years, setting a new record 12 times in that span from June 1958 to July 1961.

Balaș won her first gold medal during that period at the Rome Olympics in 1960. She had not missed a jump in the entire competition, and so had extra jumps. After winning the competition at 1.73 meters, she went after the Olympic record. Leaping 1.77, 1.81 and 1.85 meters, she broke the Olympic record three times before calling it quits.

At Tokyo in 1964, Balaș did it again, not missing a jump, and winning the gold medal at the height of 1.82 meters. Again, with bullets to spare, she took a shot at the Olympic record and broke it twice, first at 1.86 meters, and then finally at 1.90. She reached this incredible height, apparently, despite a torn tendon.

Balaș was 79.

Watch her emerge victorious in Rome in this video.

High Jump, John Thomas, Lands in Sawdust after Successful 2-Meter Bar Jump, at Olympics - Allposters.com 
High Jump, John Thomas, Lands in Sawdust after Successful 2-Meter Bar Jump, at Olympics – Allposters.com

He lost to two Russians in 1960. And then he fell to a Russian again in 1964.

John Thomas from Boston was a favorite to win the high jump in Tokyo, but could not meet the heightened expectations of a country. Thomas and the gold medalist, Valery Brumel, both cleared a height of 2.18 meters, but neither could clear 2.20 meters. Due to the way high jumping is scored, Brumel had fewer attempts than Thomas on an earlier jump, so won the gold on a tie-breaker.

As he told Stars and Stripes, “I think I did a good job. I wasn’t outjumped. I don’t know how close I came to clearing the bar on that last try. Everyone said I was close, but I don’t know. I felt something hit…it just wasn’t good enough this time.”

Thomas also revealed that he would return home and have an operation on a hernia, a condition that had been identified earlier in the year. But nothing hurt him more than what he perceived as a bitter public and press. In a press conference the day prior to the finals,

“I don’t care what the people think,” the AP quoted him as saying “I am on my own. I can’t trust fans and supposed well-wishers any more. They are fickle and vacillating. If I win, they’re with me. If I lose, they’re the first to desert me and call me a bum. They have no use for losers. They don’t give credit to a man for trying. They have appreciation only for the champion the man who finishes first. I felt proud at getting a bronze medal. But everybody else thought I was a goat. People who had been slapping me on the back ignored me as if I had the plague. I was called a quitter, a man with no heart. It left me sick.”

John Thomas_podium_Tokyo

His rival, Brumel, felt that Thomas was treated unfairly, telling Sports Illustrated that the jumper from Boston faced a “torrent of abuse”.

Valery Brumel at the Tokyo Games in 1964, from the book
Valery Brumel at the Tokyo Games in 1964, from the book “The Olympic Century: XVIIIOlympiad”

They say confidence is key to victory. Competitors smell fear like sharks sense blood. When the Soviet high jumper, Valery Brumel, arrived in Tokyo for the Summer Games, his minders made sure no one would see him.

Since winning silver in Rome in 1960, Brumel drove himself with a ferociousness in numerous competitions leading up to Tokyo, and according to the book, “The Olympic Century Volume 16 – The XVIII Olympiad” by Carl A. Posey, Brumel was feeling “that deepening fatigue that comes from driving the machine too hard, too long.” Additionally, he had just lost the Soviet championship to Robert Shavlakadze, who also beat Brumel for gold in Rome. So he trained in a secluded area in Meiji Park, or stayed hidden in a room with his masseur playing chess.

At this stage, Brumel was beaten and haggard, and his 2.01 meter jumps in practice were far from championship level, They were, however, the best he could do.

When Brumel was at his best, people marveled at his form, what the Russians called “pouring the body over the bar like a cascade of clear water.” This was 1964, four years before Dick Fosbury revolutionized high jumping with his “Fosbury Flop”. In the first half of the Sixties, jumpers were still doing the spin roll, and Brumel’s technique was considered one of the best.

“At the heart of Brumel’s special brand of high jumping was a sequence of carefully orchestrated moves that Nijinsky might have envied. A big, powerfully assembled man, Brumel made his run-up with an awkward-looking sprint as he shifted his elbows forward to compensate for his upper body’s gradual backward lean as he approached the bar. He had trained with weights, so that his takeoff was like the explosive uncoiling of a spring. Then, for a moment, he was flying. To clear the bar, every extremity had to be under the fine, split-second control of a bird’s primary feathers. First the folded right leg went over, then the head, the big, friendly mouth extended in a white grimace of maximum effort. The right arm flipped back, adding thrust to bring the rest of his large body over the bar. Once the left arm cleared, the left leg kicked upward, adding dynamic balance. ”

And yet, as the competition in Tokyo began on October 20, Brumel could barely find his form, or generate the energy and enthusiasm necessary to compete for gold. Needing all three attempts, Brumel barely qualified by clearing a height almost every other competitor cleared (2.03 meters). “I appealed to God,” Brumel said later. “Jesus, why are you doing this to me? I’ve never done anyone any harm.”

So on a damp and chilly day on October 21, Brumel started the long slog of the finals, a journey of despair and exhaustion, in which the last man standing would be doing so, barely. As did most of the 20 competitors in the finals, initial jumps of 1.9, 1.95, 2.00, 2.03 and 2.06 meters were easily exceeded. But at 2.09 the competition went from 17 to 10, and then at 2.12, only 5 were left, including Brumel, American’s John Thomas and John Rambo, Swede Stig Pettersson, and Brumel’s Russian rival, Shavlakadze.

Rambo cleared 2.14 meters in one try, but it took Brumel, Thomas and Shavlakadze three attempts, Brumel missing badly in his first two. But something happened when the bar was raised to 2.16. It all came together and the tired Brumel flew over the bar in his first attempt. Thomas made it over in two, while his teammate made it in three, but Pettersen and Shavladkadze crashed out of the competition. And at 2.18 meters, as day ceded to night, Rambo fell by the wayside. At this point, the competition was essentially over.

As Brumel recalls,