Gold medal heights in the high jump at the Summer Olympics 1896-2016

The high jump has been a permanent fixture for men at the Olympic Games since 1896, while the women's event was first introduced in 1928. The current world record for men was set at 2.45 meters by Cuba's Javier Sotomayor in 1993, and the Olympic record was set at 2.39 meters by the US' Charles Austin in 1996. For women, the world record was set at 2.09 meters by Bulgaria's Stefka Kostadinova in 1987, and the Olympic record was set at 2.06 meters by Yelena Slesarenko in 2004. The United States has taken the most medals in the high jump, claiming 13 golds in the men's event and 4 in the women's. The only athletes to have won two golds were Romania's Iolanda Balaş in 1960 and 1964, and West Germany's Ulrike Meyfarth in 1972 and 1984 (with these two golds, Meyfarth holds the records as both the youngest and oldest gold medalist in the high jump).

The Fosbury Flop

Throughout Olympic history, the most popular high jump technique continuously changed and developed over the decades, including scissor, cut-off and straddle techniques. As the sand and dirt landing areas were replaced by foam mats in the mid-1900s (making the landings safer and more comfortable for athletes), more experimental techniques came into play. In the 1968 Olympics, Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump by using the straddle's technique of bending the body to lower the center of mass, however Fosbury changed this by jumping off his outside foot, and leading with his upper body while facing upwards, then quickly raising his legs as momentum carried him over the bar. Fosbury set a new Olympic record at 2.24 meters and took the gold medal; over fifty years later, "the Fosbury Flop" technique continues to be used by almost all top level high jumpers.

Ray Ewry

Between 1900 and 1912, a standing high jump event was held for men. US specialist Ray Ewry won gold in the first three of these events, making him the only male athlete to have won multiple golds in an Olympic high jump event. The heights recorded by Ewry were between 1.57 meters and 1.66 meters, roughly twenty to thirty centimeters below the winning jumps in the traditional high jump. Ewry also took five additional golds in the standing versions of the long jump and triple jump, making him one of the most successful athletes of all time, tied with Usain Bolt on eight golds, and zero silver or bronze medals.

Gold medal winning heights in the Men's and Women's high jump at the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2016

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Release date




Survey time period

1896 to 2016

Supplementary notes

This data was collected using the official site, as well as a spreadsheet from the Guardian that includes data from 1896-2008 (available here), 2012 and 2016 data was compared with that from Encyclopaedia Britannica, and several news outlets were used to update the table when medals were reassigned (i.e. for doping offenses).

The winning athletes (male listed first) and their represented countries are as follows:
1896 - Ellery Clark (US)
1900 - Irving Baxter (US)
1904 - Samuel Jones (US)
1908 - Harry Porter (US)
1912 - Alma Richards (US)
1920 - Richmond Landon (US)
1924 - Harold Osborn (US)
1928 - Bob King (US) & Ethel Catherwood (Canada)
1932 - Duncan McNaughton (Canada) & Jean Shiley (US)
1936 - Cornelius Johnson (US) & Ibolya Csak (Hungary)
1948 - John Winter (Australia) & Alice Coachman (US)
1952 - Walt Davis (US) & Esther Brand (South Africa)
1956 - Charles Dumas (US) & Mildred McDaniel (US)
1960 - Robert Shavlakadze (Soviet Union) & Iolanda Balas (Romania)
1964 - Valeriy Brumel (Soviet Union) & Iolanda Balas (Romania)
1968 - Dick Fosbury (US) & Viorica Viscopoleanu (Romania)
1972 - Jüri Tarmak (Soviet Union) & Ulrike Meyfarth (West Germany)
1976 - Jacek Wszola (Poland) & Rosemarie Witschas-Acke
1980 - Gerd Wessig (East Germany) & Sara Simeoni (Italy)
1984 - Dietmar Mögenburg (West Germany) & Ulrike Meyfarth (West Germany)
1988 - Gennadi Avdeenko (Soviet Union) & Louise Ritter (US)
1992 - Javier Sotomayor (Cuba) & Heike Henkel (Germany)
1996 - Charles Austin (US) & Stefka Kostadinova (Bulgaria)
2000 - Sergey Klyugin (Russia) & Yelena Yelesina (Russia)
2004 - Stefan Holm (Sweden) & Elena Slesarenko (Russia)
2008 - Andrey Silnov (Russia) & Tia Hellebaut (Belgium)
2012 - Anna Chicherova (Russia)
2016 - Derek Drouin (US) & Ruth Beitia (Spain)

*Russia's Ivan Ukhov won the gold medal, with a jump of 2.38m, however his medal was rescinded in 2019 due to doping violations. As of May 2020, the medal has not been reallocated. The silver medal was awarded to the US' Erik Kynard, who recorded a jump of 2.33m.

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