01 March, 2015

Long jump experimentation

I am usually ranting at the IAAF being faint-hearted when it comes to rule changes that would help improve performances. In fact I am convinced that any substantial rule change will come only when adventurous competition organisers have shown, by organising succesful competition under non-standard rules, that it is time to change something.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the organisers of the 2015 Malmö Games were going to try to do something about the horizontal jumps fouls.


The Malmö Arena

According to the meeting director, Rajne Soderberg, “the long jump and other horizontal jumps are a challenge with fouls due to over stepping on the fault line. The long jump board will be 20 cm wide and the take off in front of the board will be measured from the edge of the board. This means the person who actually jumps the longest will win, not the person whose take off is as close to the fault line”.

I can perfectly understand the rationale of the organisers concerning the 20 take-off board. After all, they are not going to invest in a rule-non-compliant board (which would, moreover, invalidate all the results of the event) just for a single meeting. An in fact, with the new synthetic tracks, taking off from the runway instead of the wooden board does not present a substantial disadvantage.

The Malmö experiment was a definite success. The jumps were measured from the point of take-off, as long as there was not a foul and athletes were on the board. (This last point is a relative drawback, but since the athletes are accustomed to more stringent rules, taking off from the board is not such a huge constraint. My own proposal is for a 60 cm take-off board, but I would be really glad if the Malmö rules were to be adopted by the IAAF).


Ivana Spanovic, the serbian world bronze and european silver medalist, won the competition with a 6.99 m jump, measured at 6.83 m from the board’s edge. Seven women took part at this event with the gain from the “real take-off point” measurement ranging from 3 to 16 cm with a mean value of 10 cm. That’s far from negligible and, were the new way of measuring to be adopted, it would give a real boost to performances (both women’s and men’s).

Fortunately there is a video of Mike Powell’s world-record jump at the 1991, Tokyo, World Championships, showing him taking-off at 5-6 cm form the edge of the board. Were we measuring the real length of the jump we would have an over 9 m world record since that time (something that, given the present level of men’s long jump, sounds like science fiction).

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