You have seen how the collective spirit of a team changes the course of a game. But every now and then in the sporting world, there comes along that one exceptional athlete who makes such a big difference, that it changes the sport forever. Whether it is in a team sport or an individual effort, be it an innovation or just pure domination of the sport, these athletes managed to alter how the world viewed and played the game. So spectacular are their achievements, that these Game Changers have at times even gone on to change the very rules of the game forever!
Let’s look at some of these sporting legends.
America’s star athlete Dick Fosbury invented the famous ‘Fosbury Flop’ that forever changed the sport of high jump. In the early 1960s, most of the high jump pits were covered with sand or soft foam for the athletes to land on. This made the sport a very dangerous one, forcing athletes to either land on their feet or land carefully to avoid any injuries. Many elite athletes used formerly dominating techniques like the straddle technique, Western roll, Eastern cut-off, or scissors jump to clear the bar. In the 1968 Summer Olympics, when Fosbury took part in the high jump event, he invented a new and improved technique that resulted in him landing on his back after clearing the bar. Soon after a bit of tinkering, the famous ‘Fosbury Flop’ style was born that made an athlete look like “a fish flopping in a boat.” The Fosbury Flop was so efficient at clearing the bar that it remains the only high jump technique used today at all levels of the sport.
Track and field is a sport that serves as a hallmark for numerous record setters. One such sportsman is Edwin Moses. With 122 consecutive races won against world-class champions, for nine years and nine months, he was the most dominant athlete of his time. He broke the rule of thumb of taking 15 steps between each hurdle and took only 13 steps in 400-metres hurdles. With his impressive long stride and his fascinating speed, he could easily complete with any athlete. At his first international meets in 1976 Olympics held in Montreal, he won a gold medal by setting a world record which he ironically broke in the next round of the competition held on the same day!
The cricket ground is one space that has given birth to many new techniques of playing the sport. While there are several game-changers in this field who have contributed to the sport, the king of spin bowler title goes to former Pakistani player Saqlain Mushtaq. He invented the new off-spin delivery technique called ‘Doosra’ (means ‘the second one’ in Urdu). The doosra spins in the opposite direction to a regular off-break delivery. It’s the equivalent of the ‘Googly’ in leg-spin bowling. For a doosra, the ball is spun from the back of the hand with a lot of top-spin, though the bowler’s wrist action is the same as a normal off-break delivery. This makes it difficult for a batsman to hit the ball. Today, the doosra is a common weapon in the repertoire of formidable spin bowlers.
Tennis is today seen as a sport fancied by both men and women, but such was not the case back in the 1970s. This remarkable change was brought by the ace tennis champion Billie Jean King, who won six Wimbledon singles championships and four U.S. Open titles and was ranked No. 1 in the world for five years. On September 20, 1973, King was challenged for the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ by the former No. 1, Bobby Riggs, with a claim that women were inferior and couldn’t handle the pressure of the game. The match was a huge media event with over 30,000 spectators witnessing the winning shot of King. Her victory was not only one for women’s tennis but also a victory for women’s rights, a historic moment when the world stopped and took notice.
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