The Wizard of Foz
Dick Fosbury’s One-Man High-Jump Revolution
Bob Welch, Dick Fosbury, Ashton Eaton
- 288 Pages
- September 4, 2018
- ISBN: 9781510736191
- Imprint: Skyhorse Publishing
- Trim Size: 6in x 9in
Finalist for the 2018 Armory Foundation Book Award, presented by TAFWA (Track and Field Writers of America)!
In 1968, perhaps the finest US Olympic men’s track-and-field team ever stirred the world in unprecedented ways, among them the victory stand black rights protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in Mexico City. But in competition no single athlete mirrored the free-thinking ’60s better than Dick Fosbury, a failed prep high jumper who invented an offbeat style that ultimately won him a gold medal and revolutionized the event. No jumpers today use any other style than his.
Yet few know the struggles Fosbury endured to achieve his success, as he and Bob Welch recount in The Wizard of Foz. From the tragic death of a younger brother to nearly dying himself, from flunking out of college to nearly being drafted, Fosbury cleared far more obstacles than a high-jump bar. And even when he had seemingly made the US Olympic Team, he faced a "redo" that nobody saw coming.
This book tells a story of loss, survival, and triumph, twined in a person (Fosbury), a time (the '60s), and a place (a fantasy-like Olympic Trials venue high in the Sierra Nevada) clearly made for each other. It is a story of a young man who refused to listen to those who laughed at him, those who doubted him, and those who tried to make him someone he was not.
Dick Fosbury is known worldwide as the inventor of the Fosbury Flop high-jump style, with which he won the Olympic medal in 1968. After competing, he followed the passion of his youth—civil engineering—at Oregon State University and supplemented that with an array of the numerous opportunities that came his way, many because of his “Fosbury Flop” fame. The USA Olympic Hall of Famer travels the world, inspiring young athletes and corporate partners alike while promoting track and field. Fosbury resides in Bellevue, Idaho.
Ashton Eaton is the 2012 and 2016 decathlon Olympic gold medalist and current world record holder.
"Welch begins his chapters with the greatest collection of stirring epigrams I’ve ever found in a single work. That means it is a history filled with the suffering of pursuing a new idea in a world fanatically ready to doubt. It is about the power of invention, and the need for wisdom in teachers confronted by that invention. Fosbury and our society have needed decades to be able to fully tell or accept Dick’s story. Now it is done, and Welch does magnificent justice to it all.” —Kenny Moore, Olympic marathoner, former Sports Illustrated writer, and author of Bowerman and the Men of Oregon
“Competing in the Olympic trials is stressful and nerve-racking enough, but to have to do it twice? Dick’s read gives us a peek into an athlete’s world and more importantly the politics that have seeped their way into the sport!” —Debbie Meyer, three-time Olympic champion and Sullivan Award winner
“Great read! Bob Welch has the rare ability to provide context to what some might consider to be purely a sports story. He evokes a time and place that many of us remember well, and provides insight for those who came after. This is a ‘history book’ in the best sense of that phrase.” —Tom Jordan, author of Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine
"Whether you're a track nut who has long known of the Fosbury Flop or just have an appetite for a good story, The Wizard of Foz is a fascinating window into one of sports history's most unlikely revolutionaries. With breezy prose and impassioned research, Bob Welch makes a captivating case that Dick Fosbury's life is about so much more than a gawky kid from Oregon trying to jump high. A must read for track and field geeks or anyone who loves an underdog story. Which is just about all of us." — Mary Pilon, author of the NY Times bestsellers The Kevin Show and The Monopolists
“Dick Fosbury has always been one of the most compelling figures in American sports. Through Bob Welch’s fascinating look at Fosbury’s extraordinary story, we see just how the high jump’s innovative but enduring style was created. Foz’s ingenuity combined with Welch’s purposeful prose results in one great book. It’s anything but a flop.” —Kerry Eggers, sports columnist, Portland Tribune
"What a great tale! How a high school athlete re-invented his sport, then dominated it and went on to win Olympic gold and become a household name. And somehow he still ended up an authentic, principled nice guy." —George A. Hirsch, chairman of the New York Road Runners and the former longtime worldwide publisher of Runner's World
“The Wizard of Foz raises the bar in showcasing the life of a man who revolutionized the high jump. Whether you’re a track enthusiast or not, it’s a must read.” —Tom Pappas, former world decathlon champion
“Newly employed at Track & Field News in the late 1960s, I imagined knowing much about Dick Fosbury. Lately I’ve learned that I knew little beyond his Flop and resulting statistics. Bob Welch’s book teaches in wonderful detail about the man behind the method.” —Joe Henderson, former writer/editor for Track & Field News and Runner’s World
“In a moment of mid-air inspiration, a mediocre prep high jumper named Dick Fosbury changed the course of his event, and his life. Such is the impact of the ‘Fosbury Flop’ that the label itself seems virtually forgotten—it’s simply the way all high jumpers compete these days. In The Wizard of Foz author Bob Welch excellently captures the angst of the teen-age high jumper who became an Olympic gold medalist during the turbulent late 1960s. It’s the rest of the story you never knew.” —Ron Bellamy, former (Eugene) Register-Guard sports editor and winner of the Track and Field Writers of America’s Jesse Abramson Award for Excellence
“As an author of sports books, I’m no stranger to athletes-overcoming-the-odds stories. But Welch’s Fosbury tale is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Though flat-out true, it has the feel of fantasy, particularly when Dick is struggling to make the Olympic team at a high-mountain venue where giant pines stretch to the sky from within the track’s infield. But such fantasy clashes with the volatile ’60s. Ultimately, Fosbury not only changes the world, but the world changes him, particularly in his seeing the light regarding the insidious racism so many wanted to ignore.” —Mike Yorkey, coauthor of After the Cheering Stops: An NFL Wife’s Story of Concussions, Loss, and the Faith That Saw Her Through
“The Wizard of Foz is more than a sports story. It’s a wonderful narrative about the culture of innovation, rooted in the pioneer spirit of Oregon.” —Paul Swangard, TV track and field commentator and Olympic Games in-stadium announcer
“Masterfully written with exactness of countless memories. This book from the beginning is a testament of family love through the pain of family tragedy. The social growth wrapped around the mental anguish of Dick’s options through a time of social change did not interrupt his battle to defeat the many competitive negatives received on his journey to capture elusiveness.” —Tommie Smith, 200m gold medalist, Mexico City 1968 Olympics
"One of the finest track and field books I’ve ever read, this is far more than just another sports yarn. From the moment of inspiration, when the “Fosbury Flop” is invented, to improbable Olympic triumph, the reader is taken on the extraordinary journey of an unlikely revolutionary who overcomes the doubters, the ridicule, and personal pain to turn the world of high jumping 'upside-down.' Set amidst the tumult of the ’60s, the tale is intense, illuminating, and filled with exquisite detail—a one-man uprising well worth celebrating." —Curtis Anderson, Director of Communications, TrackTown USA
“Dick Fosbury has always been someone I’ve looked up to. Reading his story has only increased my respect for him and my sport. A highly recommended read.” — Jesse Williams, 2011 world-champion high jumper