Long jumpers aren't leaping at experimental change that would crack down on fouls with take-off zone


EUGENE, Ore. — The prevailing message from long jumpers isn’t that big of a leap — leave their sport as is, fouls and all.

World Athletics has been examining a way to cut down on scratches in competitions by looking at a take-off zone rather than the take-off board that has been the norm in this event. That would mean every jump from within the zone would be measured, eliminating some of the art and science of hitting the sweet spot on the board at top speed for a far leap.

Though still being tested and not anything that will impact the upcoming Paris Games, the proposal is a potentially event-altering approach that has everyone from Olympic great Carl Lewis to gold medalist Brittney Reese to jumpers at the European championships and U.S. track and field trials weighing in.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece is so against the idea that, should it be adopted, he’d switch to the triple jump and end his long-jumping career.

“Why do you need to change this?” Tentoglou wondered after winning the long jump at the European championships this month.

The idea behind a change would simply be to make more jumps count and have fewer fouls and red flags that can drain the life out of a long jump contest. The sport‘s governing body is conducting tests all over the world and across training groups to see how effective the change might be. The testing will continue throughout the outdoor season.

“They would be taking way too much out of it,” said Reese, a three-time Olympic medalist in the long jump, including gold at the 2012 London Games. “You’re taking the science out of it and the difficulty out of it and making it easier to jump.”

The sport is looking for innovative ways to spice up some events, and long jump — once the domain of some of the greatest names in the sport’s history like Lewis, Jesse Owens and Bob Beamon — was near the top of the list.

“If you dedicated your life to hitting that take-off board perfectly and suddenly we replace it with a take-off zone, I totally get there might be initial resistance,” Jon Ridgeon, the CEO of World Athletics, said earlier this year in an episode of the “ Anything but Footy ” podcast. “We think it’s worth doing.”

It got the attention of Lewis, who wrote in a social media post in February, “You’re supposed to wait until April 1st for April Fools jokes.”

He later wrote: “I guess It supports what I’ve been saying, that the long jump is the most difficult event in track and field. That would just eliminate the … most difficult skill from the event.”

Lewis, a sprinter who also won four Olympic gold medals in the long jump, compared the change to making a basketball hoop wider to improve free throw shooting.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told NBC in an interview at world indoors that he’s invited long jumpers to give their feedback.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight. We will properly road test it,” Coe said. “If it doesn’t work, well, it doesn’t work. We’re not going to inflict it on people if it doesn’t work.”

Lewis argued in a social media post this sort of change won’t improve distances and certainly won’t, by itself, put Mike Powell’s 32-year-old world-record mark of 8.95 meters in jeopardy. Lewis said in his post that it boils down to technique and “a lack of discipline and consistency on the runway that exists will only get worse.”

Not since 2009 has a men’s long jumper recorded a top-15 all-time mark. On the women’s side, all of the top-25 marks are from 2002 or earlier, with the top mark of 7.52 meters set by Galina Chistyakova in 1988.

An impetus for a closer look at the long jump was sparked by the world championships last summer in Budapest, Hungary. Around 30% of the attempts in the men’s and women’s finals resulted in fouls.

“Yes, jumping far is cool,” American long jumper Marquis Dendy said. “And yes, it hurts when you see a red flag. But I think that it’s just part of the event. I’ve had plenty of far fouls. Do I want those back? No. I would rather go and watch the film and how can I execute to make myself better.”

In Dendy’s opinion, there’s room for compromise — show the mark even if it’s a foul. That way, fans can see what might have been.

“We don’t have to guess on what it was, and it still plays the same narrative,” Dendy said. “I just feel like (the take-off zone) just opens up a whole new asterisk of jumps.

“I’m sure there were fouls that Carl Lewis did that were probably nine meters, fouls that Mike Powell had that were extremely far. That’s a part of their journey.”

Reese took it a step farther — use the idea of a take-off zone for a street meet sort of competition.

“That would be cool,” Reese said. “But to just put it in a (big meet), I don’t care much for it.”

Neither does Tentoglou.

“I don’t like the long jump like that,” Tentoglou said. “If they do this, I’ll do the triple jump.”

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Dampf reported from Rome.

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AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games



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