Unlike the scissors or flop style of jump, where the jumper approaches the bar so as to take off from the outer foot, the straddle jumper approaches from the opposite side, so as to take off from the inner foot. In this respect the straddle resembles the western roll. However, in the western roll the jumper's side or back faces the bar; in the straddle the jumper crosses the bar face down, with legs straddling it. With this clearance position, the straddle has a mechanical advantage over the western roll, since it is possible to clear a bar that is higher relative to the jumper's center of mass. In simple terms, the western roll jumper has to raise the width of the body above the bar; the straddle jumper has only to get the thickness of the body above it.
There are two variants of the straddle: the parallel straddle and a more diving version. With the parallel straddle, the lead leg is kicked high and straight, and head and trunk pass the bar at the same time. Charles Dumas, the first high jumper to clear 7 ft, and John Thomas (silver medal at the 1964 Olympics) used this technique. Valeriy Brumel (gold in 1964) dove a little bit, his head going over the bar before his trunk. Probably the most extreme exponent of the dive straddle was Bob Avant, who cleared 7 ft. in 1961. Avant's technique was close to a pure dive, with just a small knee lift on his lead leg.
The last world record jump with the straddle technique was Vladimir Yashchenko's 2.34 m (7 ft 8 in) in 1978. (His best result was 2.35 m (7 ft 8+1⁄2 in) obtained in Milan at the 1978 European Athletics Indoor Championships). That was improved upon in 1980 by a flopper, Jacek Wszola of Poland. The last Olympic gold medal in the high jump events using that technique was won by East Germany's Rosemarie Ackermann in 1976.
There is some debate over which of the two techniques is more efficient in clearing of the bar. Although both have advantages and disadvantages, the Fosbury flop is considered by many easier to learn, especially for younger jumpers, and thus has become the dominant technique.
In 1993, an American high jumper Steve Harkins brought back the straddle style in the Master's division, beating a 'flopper' at the World Championships in Miyazaki Japan. Harkins used the 'head down first' style as did Brumel. At 6' 71⁄4" at the U.S. National Championships in Bozeman, Montana; in March 1993, Harkins was the highest jumper ever in the Master's to have used the straddle style. Another late user of the style was East German decathlete and Olympic gold medalist Christian Schenk, who retired in 1994.
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