Corunna’s Derek Drouin is not only an Olympic gold medalist, he’s an innovator whose unconventional style is changing the sport of high jump.
As the New York Times noted in a multimedia report on elite athletes earlier this month, Drouin combines an unusually slow run-up with a stiff takeoff leg to clear a bar nearly eight feet high.
“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 Times.
In addition to his customized approach, Drouin also uses a unique arm placement. As he approaches the bar his left arm is almost completely straight up before his right leg even hits the ground.
According to a Maclean’s Magazine breakdown published Aug. 17, as his actual jump commences Drouin swings both arms in the run-up and the extension of his left arm guides the rest of his body over the bar.
“That’s against any formula you’re going to see,” Drouin told SportsNet magazine earlier this month.
The sport of high jump has seen little innovation since 1968 when American Dick Fosbury introduced the “Fosbury flop” to the world.
Fosbury used a diagonal approach and a ‘back-first’ clearance of the bar, a version of which most competitive high jumpers still employ today.
Whether Drouin’s technique has the same impact on the sport as Fosbury’s remains to be seen.
Drouin was perfect on all six of his attempts in Rio and clinched gold with a jump of 2.38m – just two centimeters shy of the Olympic record.
Silver went to Mutaz Barshim of Qatar (2.36m) and bronze to Ukraine's Bohdan Bondarenko (2.33m).
Canada hadn’t won a gold medal in high jump since 1932, when Duncan McNaughton pulled off the feat at the Los Angeles Olympics.