The American leapt backwards over the bar to win gold at the 1968 Mexico Olympics in a technique which became known as the ‘Fosbury Flop’ and is used by high jumpers today, BBC Sport reported.
At the Games Fosbury set a then record of 2.24 metres using his method.
Writing on Instagram, Fosbury’s agent Ray Schulte said his client “passed away peacefully in his sleep early Sunday morning after a short bout with a recurrence of lymphoma.”
Fosbury began experimenting with the ‘flop’ at school and, encouraged by his coaches, he had all-but perfected it by the time he was in higher education.
In the Olympic high jump final of 1968, the 6ft 5in athlete cleared 2.24m on his third attempt to win the gold.
“He changed an entire event forever with a technique that looked crazy at the time but the result made it the standard,” said American four-time Olympic champion and BBC pundit Michael Johnson.
“Our sport lost a true legend and innovator with the passing of Dick Fosbury,” said the USA Track and Field (USATF).
“He invented the ‘Fosbury Flop’, was a gold medallist at the 1968 Games, and remained an advocate for athletes his entire life. Fosbury’s legacy will live on for generations to come.”