Dick Fosbury was a rising junior at Oregon State University. Reynaldo Brown was entering his senior year at Compton High School.
The two high jumpers were at different points in their lives entering the Mexico City 1968 Olympic Games, using different jumping techniques. Brown used what was then the traditional straddle method to clear the bar, while Fosbury was revolutionizing the sport with his famed Fosbury Flop en route to the gold medal.
Despite their differences, the Olympic experience was one to remember for both athletes as they partnered for a StoryCorps conversation.
“I was excited and nervous and mostly curious about being in the Olympic Village with athletes from countries that spoke different languages, dressed differently, ate different foods,” Fosbury said. “It was a real opener.”
“That was wonderful for me, man, being young like I was,” Brown said. “I wanted to absorb it all. Even though we all spoke different languages, we all understood each other.”
When Brown mentioned his fondness for the Mexico City Opening Ceremony, Fosbury chuckled at a memory.
“I missed that,” he said. “The night before, I went out to the pyramids where they were bringing the torch from Greece.”
Out with a group of Team USA swimmers, they saw the torch relay then went out with a group of Mexican athletes, thinking that returning to the Olympic Village would not be a problem.
“We stayed out all night and got in the biggest traffic jam in the world,” Fosbury said. “So we missed out.”