• U.S.

High Jump: Final Frames Of the Olympic Games

2 minute read
Lee Griggs, Kumiko Makihara and Ellie Mcgrath/Seoul

Bulgaria’s Stefka Kostadinova, world record holder in the women’s high jump (6 ft. 10 1/2 in.), was a cinch for a gold medal. By the time the height reached 6 ft. 6 in., just three other women were still in the competition. When the bar went to 6 ft. 7 in., only American Louise Ritter was challenging her. At 6 ft. 8 in., both Kostadinova and Ritter jumped three times and missed, leaving the gold medal to be decided by a jump-off. Kostadinova in the first try knocked down the bar with her trailing heels. Next the American eked over, and the bar teetered. But it stayed up. Ritter, 30, thus became the first American to win this event since 1956, setting a new Olympic record in the process. “I knew it was going to take my best jump ever,” said Ritter, who had only once before jumped 6 ft. 8 in. Until last week, she was known as something of a hard-luck case. The jumper broke her ankle, for example, the day after she made the 1980 Olympic team. She also had a reputation for choking at big meets, placing only eighth in Los Angeles. But in Seoul it was Kostadinova who choked. Asked if she was happy with her effort, the Bulgarian snapped, “I am not satisfied. I can set the world record.” Maybe next time.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com