Athletics News

Why the boardless long jump idea has struggled to take off

Why the boardless long jump idea has struggled to take off

Latest on World Athletics’ controversial rule change proposals, plus the parkrun stats squabble, ultra runners in the Dragons’ Den and why Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s rivalry with Josh Kerr is tame compared to the 1980s

One of the most interesting events at the World Indoor Championships did not take place in the Emirates Arena but a couple of miles away instead at a Coaches’ Club get-together on St Vincent Street in Glasgow city centre. Superbly organised by former British athletics coaching supremo Frank Dick and supported by World Athletics, the final afternoon included a presentation on the controversial long jump proposals.

Jakob Larsen and Florian Weber took to the stage to explain the background to the ideas followed by an interview with Jon Ridgeon, the World Athletics chief executive who inadvertently broke the news about plans for a “boardless long jump” during a podcast earlier this year.

Listening to World Athletics’ side of the story in more detail, it was impossible not to have sympathy for them. The idea has been lambasted but is in a very early testing phase and has to clear several hurdles before it will be introduced at major international events in 2026 at the earliest.

It’s one of four long jump innovations that World Athletics is looking at. Also, there is no guarantee it will even be introduced. In other words, it’s not the fait accompli that many assume it is.

Ridgeon said World Athletics had a duty to look at potential changes because data tells them that certain events are struggling to maintain their appeal in an increasingly competitive sporting world. Current long jump rules, he added, were invented well over a century ago when there was no television or social media, not to mention the kind of hi-tech equipment that has the ability to revolutionise the sport if we make smart use of it.

Of course the ideas aren’t particularly new. According to myth and legend, Jesse Owens jumped further than nine metres in the 1930s when the need to hit a take-off board was removed. In addition, there is a chapter devoted to “the boardless long and triple jump” in the brilliant 1993 book The Future of Track & Field by masters athlete and Stanford professor Alphonse Juilland.

Following current world No.1 Miltos Tentoglou’s widely publicised criticism of the ideas, though, in addition to four-time Olympic long jump champion Carl Lewis’s fierce comments on social media, there were some voices of discontent at the…

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