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Jumping Technique

There was a high jumping pit at Queen Elizabeth's School with a bamboo bar and sand and Peter became drawn to this and spent hours after school trying to clear the bar at varying heights. Early on he was using the old style scissors technique. 

The school library had a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Peter spent hours browsing the book, and attempted to emulate the Western Roll style pictured. Unfortunately, the pictures didn't show which was the take-off foot and led to Peter developing an unusual style which hampered his jumping until he came under the coaching of Arthur Gold.

Peter recalled: "The Public School Championships were run by the London Athletic Club, and Arthur Gold (later knighted), who eventually became my coach, took an interest in me, and it was through really my association with him, not immediately, but probably a year or two down the track that I was shown how to do the Western Roll. Before then, using my version of the Western Roll, I could do 6 foot consistently but I could never do 6 foot 1. And then one of the London Athletic Club events we travelled to Newport and I’d had a bit of a problem with my landing and I was pretty sore in one of my hips – my backside, and I decided that that day I couldn’t land on my left leg because that was jarring things so I would do an old fashioned scissors and I did I think 6’2½” which set a Welsh record doing the scissors. And I thought my western roll can’t be very good because I’m not jumping that high. 

Once I had good coaching, I gradually went from 6’4”, 6’5”, 6’6” and things improved because obviously my technique should be helping me and it had to much better than doing the scissors".

In February 1953, All-Sports in New Zealand had this to say before the 1953 New Zealand Track and Field Championships:
"Peter Wells must again carry of the high jump, a title he won at Wellington in 1951. Of the 1949 British Championships, Jim Alford (1938 Empire mile champion and one the best coaches in the world) wrote "we certainly haven't seen the best of young Wells yet. Only a few days ago I saw him in Wales jumping 6ft 2in with a scissors. On Saturday he used a type of Western Roll for his earlier jumps and then a straddle at 6ft 2in, 6ft 3in and 6ft 4in". Alford would today be proud of Wells technique, his Western Roll being finely controlled, precise, a beautiful thing to watch - and effective.

Peter did experiment with the straddle technique from time to time, or when injury made it more comfortable to use the straddle style. 

...to come

Handkerchief on the Cross Bar
A quirk that appears to be unique to Peter during his career was to tie a handkerchief on the bar before each jump so he could line-up his leading foot correctly. This handkerchief can be seen in many of the photo's taken of Peter jumping. 

However it seems Peter may have not been the first high jumper to do so. A letter to the editor of Athletics News published on 26th August 1929 drawing attention to over-zealous judging, recalled an occasion "when B. Howard Baker was attempting to break the British High Jump record, a judge called out "stop" just as Baker was about to spring. The reason was that Baker had tied his handkerchief to the bar as a sighting mark, and the judge considered that a contravention of the rule that the cross-bar must be composed entirely of wood"

Peter never had such troubles, and often had officials putting the handkerchief on the bar for him when it was his turn to jump.
Example of Peter Wells jumping with handkerchief tied to the bar.

Peter suceeding at 6ft 6in

Peter experimenting with the straddle in 1957