Remembering Dick Fosbury – 1st In A Series – John Carlos

By Jeff Benjamin

In the world of today, USA team results from the 1968 Olympics in Track & Field can easily be checked out anywhere on the internet. The World of today is also replete with easy ways to reach out and communicate with former teammates amongst the Mexico City Olympic competitors as well.

However,  when one looks at the time period over 50 years ago, communication and interactions between teammates were not as easy or as open as today.

Firstly, competitors were mostly focused on themselves and their training/performances to achieve Olympic glory. Many athletes were not there to socialize and “hang out.”

When the Games ended, geography came into play as well. The era was replete with the slow method of mail letter-writing, and long-distance phone calls was not cheap. In that time of the “Yellow Pages,” finding someone beyond your county or state was a time-consuming, arduous task. These inevitably resulted in people drifting apart through no fault of their own.

That’s why it took 25 years after 1968 for Dr. John Carlos to finally spend quality time with his teammate Dick Fosbury. One can say it was better late than never.

Blanka Vlasic and Dick Fosbury, Daegu WC 2011, adidas HQ, photos by Stuart Weir

“I remember Dick Fosbury as a free-spirited, gentle soul,” said Carlos of the innovative high jumping Olympic Gold Medalist, who passed away last month.
“In that time, he was a hippie free spirit, and I remember the bandanna – he was the whole 9 yards!”

Carlos, the Olympic 200 Bronze medalist who, with teammate Gold medalist Tommie Smith, will be forever known for their “Black Power” medal stand salute to protest America’s racism and Civil Rights struggles of the era. Carlos and Smith’s actions subsequently led to USA Olympic bans, death threats, and severe challenges throughout future years.

In recent years, Carlos and Smith have been justifiably credited and honored for expressing what they believed in.

But it was around 1992-1993 that Carlos and Fosbury finally got to bond over it.

“After a Track clinic we did together, Dick and I went to the movies together,” recalled Carlos. “It was the first time we had personal “one on one” time.”

For Carlos, who has devoted his life to educating kids and discussing the sad issues of American racism and prejudice  (which incredulously still linger on to this day), he had found a kindred spirit who was always behind him.

Dick Fosbury, Mexico 1968, photo by USOPC Archives

“I had them come to respect him as a genuine, open-minded, kind soul,” said Carlos.

“ He was always supportive of us!”

But the hurt of Fosbury’s passing is still there.

“Dick Fosbury was a good-hearted, tremendous Olympic Ambassador,” said Carlos.

“I’m still in shock over his passing…it’s thrown me for a loop.”