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It May Not Be Until Next Century, but a Woman Will High Jump 7 Feet

Is it ludicrous to talk about a woman high jumping 7 feet only 30 years after Charlie Dumas became the first man to jump that high?

Maybe, but that’s what Scott Davis was doing at the USA/Mobil meet at Eugene, Ore., last week.

Davis, a track and field statistician who compiles best marks for The Times, polled dozens of fellow track buffs, asking them all the same question: Which will happen first, a woman high jumping 7 feet or a man jumping 8 feet?

“I asked that question of 55 people at Eugene, and these people were not meatballs,” Davis said. “They were all track and field authorities--statisticians, coaches, ardent fans and athletes. The result was that 37 of them felt a woman jumping 7 feet would occur first.

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“Most of them felt the women’s world record is on a steeper curve right now. And they felt men’s high jumping has kind of flattened out. Many of them felt that Bulgaria’s Stefka Kostadinova is the one who’ll break the 7-foot barrier for women. She’s got the world mark up to 6-9 3/4 now and she’s only 21.”

The men’s world record is 7-10 3/4.

Davis said that Kostadinova, after jumping her world-record 6-9 3/4 at Sofia last month, had the bar raised to 6-10 3/4, a height that would have won a men’s silver medal at the 1956 Olympics.

“She never made an attempt at that height,” Davis said. “The crowd went nuts at the 6-9 3/4 jump and came onto the field.”

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Former world record-holder Dwight Stones believes that a man will jump 8 first.

“There’s only one woman in the world now capable of 7 feet, Kostadinova,” he said.

“Competition is very important in the high jump--you need someone pushing you. So even though women’s sports in general and track and field in particular is accelerating at a rate that sometimes makes the men look like they’re standing still, I still think a man will jump 8 first, and I think it’ll be either Patrik Sjoberg of Sweden or Dietmar Mogenburg of West Germany.”

If the progression of the men’s high-jump record is any indication, the women might not get to 7 until the next century, Davis pointed out.

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“The first man to jump 6-9 was Walter Marty of Fresno State, in 1934,” he said. “Dumas didn’t get seven until 22 years later.”


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