Road To The Olympic Games

Track-field

Derek Drouin's gold-medal technique may revolutionize high jumping

Canadian high jumper Derek Drouin didn't just win an Olympic gold medal Tuesday night, but his slow run-up technique may be an approach other competitors start copying.

Canadian's slow run-up has the potential to be a game changer

Canadian Derek Drouin may be revolutionizing the high jumping technique. The last major change came 56 years ago when Dick Fosbury jumped backfirst. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

By Nick Murray, CBC Sports

Derek Drouin is raising the bar in high jumping.

The world champion and newly minted Olympic gold medallist is pioneering a new jumping technique in a sport that hasn't had a major game changer since Dick Fosbury decided to leap backwards at the 1968 Olympics. He, too, won gold with his revolutionary "Fosbury Flop."

Drouin's shakeup, though, starts before he leaps. It's a subtle change, albeit one that defies conventional jumping wisdom, which is making all the difference for the Canadian.

Drouin uses a slow run, bounding towards the bar. While it may seem simplistic, there is a sound method to his approach.  

"You see, jumpers try to run as fast as they can, and then they put their foot down and their leg isn't able to handle it," Drouin told the New York Times in a feature on his technique.

"So they just end up blowing through the bar."

The Times broke down the science behind the technique. Essentially, by going slower on his approach, he can keep his plant leg stiff on takeoff. If his leg bends, he'll lose the energy he's committed to his jump.

Only time will tell if other competitors mimic Drouin's approach.

Canada's all-time greatest high jumper

For Drouin, this gold medal puts the exclamation mark on an already distinguished career as the best high jumper Canada has ever produced. It also takes the pressure off the track and field team as Drouin's win is Canada's first gold medal in a track event since the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Drouin emerged into the spotlight with an unexpected bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, and then raised his profile by capturing the 2015 world title.

"It's a pretty good place to be," said Drouin, who four months ago was told by doctors he shouldn't jump for the rest of the season amid a nagging back injury.

"We've had a good tradition in high jump. So myself with my teammates, we're just trying to keep rewriting it."

While his place in Canadian athletics history is solidified, the 26-year-old's legacy in his hometown of Corunna, Ont., is immortalized — the town threw him a parade after his bronze at London 2012.

It's also where he learned high jumping after his kindergarten teacher introduced the sport to the class. Drouin went home, put a broomstick on top of two speakers, and two decades later is Olympic champion.

"I remember the first time being old enough to appreciate the Olympics," Drouin said after his win. "Since then I knew that I always wanted to be an Olympian. At the time, I didn't know what sport. I kind of just let that choose me.

"It's definitely been a dream for as long as I can possibly remember."

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