Debbie Brill

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Debbie Brill
Debbie Brill 1972 b.JPG
Brill in 1972
Personal information
Full name Debbie Arden Brill
Born (1953-03-10) March 10, 1953 (age 64)
Mission, British Columbia, Canada
Sport High jump
Achievements and titles
Highest world ranking 1st (1979)
Personal best(s)
  • High jump (indoor): 1.99 m (6 ft 6 in) (1982, Former WR)
  • High jump (outdoor): 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) (1984, NR)

Debbie Arden Brill, OC (born March 10, 1953) is a Canadian high jump athlete who at the age of 16 became the first North American woman to clear 6 feet. Her unique reverse jumping style was called the "Brill Bend" and was developed independently around the same time as Dick Fosbury was developing the similar Fosbury Flop in the USA. This style of jumping revolutionized the event and is now almost exclusively the technique of elite high jumpers. Because Fosbury won the Gold medal at the 1968 Olympics, he is more often credited with the invention. Brill won the high jump at the Pan American Games in 1971, the IAAF World Cup in 1979, and at the Commonwealth Games in 1970 and 1982. She has held the Canadian high jump record since 1969.


Brill was born in Mission, British Columbia and started competing provincially in British Columbia in 1966, at age 13. The following year, she competed at the Canadian national level. Her first international competition was in 1968, at age 15.

Brill has held the Canadian National High Jump record since 1969, establishing her first Canadian High Jump record when she was 16. She set her final Canadian outdoor record in September 1984 with 1.98 metres (6 ft 6 in). Her indoor record of 1.99 metres (6 ft 6 in) was set in 1982. As of 2013, Brill's Canadian records still stand. She won the Gold medal at the first Pacific Conference Games in 1969. She would again win the Pacific Conference Games title in 1977.

Brill won the 1970 Commonwealth Games title, and the 1971 Pan Am Games. She retired after the 1972 Munich Games after becoming disillusioned with the Olympic experience; and returned to competition in 1975 and placed 4th at the Pan Am Games. She was disappointed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics where she failed to qualify for the final. She placed 3rd at the first World Cup in 1977, and won a silver medal at home in Edmonton, at the 1978 Commonwealth Games. In 1979 Brill won a gold medal in the athletics World Cup held in Montreal, Canada. She was the world's number one high jumper for 1979.

Having been ranked number one in the world by Track and Field News in 1979, Brill was one of the favourites going into the 1980 Olympics which Canada boycotted because of the U.S.S.R.'s military involvement in Afghanistan.[1] In January 1982, Brill established a World Indoor High Jump record of 1.99 meters in Edmonton, Alberta, 5 months after giving birth to her first son, Neil. She has a daughter, Katelin, and a son, Jacob. She is married to a physician, Dr. Douglas Coleman. She was again Commonwealth Champion in 1982 at the games in Brisbane.

From 1970 to 1985, in the annual Track and Field News merit rankings, Brill was ranked in the world's top ten for the high jump twelve times (the exceptions being 1973, 74, 76 and 81; with 76 being the only active year of the four). She was ranked in the top 5 six times. The only female high jumpers with more top ten rankings are Inha Babakova and Stefka Kostadinova, both with thirteen.

In 1983, Brill was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition for being "Canada's premier woman high-jumper".[2] In 2012, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.[3]

In 1999, at the age of 46, Brill broke the world masters record (age 45+) when she cleared 1.76 metres in Gateshead. In 2004, she broke the age 50+ masters record by clearing 1.60 m in Langley. As of 2016, Brill's world age group records still stand.



National titles[edit]

  • 11 times Canadian National High Jump Champion – 1968-71,1974,1976,1978,1980,1982-1984
  • 2 times United States National High Jump Champion – 1979, 1982
  • AAAs National (UK) High Jump Champion – 1971
Representing  Canada
Year Competition Venue Result Height
1969 Pacific Conference Games Tokyo, Japan 1st 1.71 m
1970 British Commonwealth Games Edinburgh, United Kingdom 1st 1.78 m
1971 Pan American Games Cali, Colombia 1st 1.85 m
1972 Olympic Games Munich, West Germany 8th 1.82 m[4]
1975 Pan American Games Mexico City, Mexico 4th
1976 Olympic Games Montreal, Canada no-height
1977 Universiade Sofia, Bulgaria 2nd 1.90 m
Pacific Conference Games Canberra, Australia 1st 1.88 m
1977 World Cup Düsseldorf, Germany 3rd 1.89 m
1978 Commonwealth Games Edmonton, Canada 2nd 1.90 m
1979 Pan American Games San Juan, Puerto Rico 3rd 1.85 m
World Cup Montreal, Canada 1st 1.96 m
1982 Commonwealth Games Brisbane, Australia 1st 1.88 m
1983 World Championships Helsinki, Finland 6th 1.88 m
1984 Olympic Games Los Angeles, United States 5th 1.94 m
1985 World Indoor Games Paris, France 3rd 1.90 m
1986 Commonwealth Games Edinburgh, United Kingdom 5th 1.88 m

Note: At the 1976 Olympic Games, Brill had three failures at her opening height of 1.75 m in the qualifying round.


  1. ^ "WOMEN’S WORLD RANKINGS, 1956–2010". 14-wHJRank.pdf. Track and Field News. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Order of Canada citation
  3. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal". Archived from the original on 2012-12-04. 
  4. ^ "IAAF standings 1972–1985". – The official athletics website. IAAF. Retrieved 25 June 2011. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
United States Louise Ritter
USA National High Jump Champion
Succeeded by
United States Coleen Rienstra
Preceded by
United States Pam Spencer
USA National High Jump Champion
Succeeded by
United States Louise Ritter