The radical change by World Athletics to erase 100 years of long jump history in one fell swoop
Juan Antonio Belmar
June 27, 2024

Debate and discussion was opened with the announcement by World Athletics President Sebastian Coe of a possible replacement of the controversial take-off board with a larger area from which to start the jump. Under the proposal, which is already being piloted, athletes will have a larger designated area on the track to start the jump. The distance will be measured from the exact point of take-off to where they land on the sand and – thanks to the new technology – detect the location of the jump to measure the length of the jump (currently, the starting point of a jump is taken as the edge of the board). World Athletics wants to avoid having so many nulls, with up to one-third of the jumps being unsuccessful in their execution.

Sebastian Coe’s revolutionary measure would leave behind the Olympic Games of Antiquity, back in 708 BC, and their subsequent reincarnation in the first Olympic Games of the modern era until Paris 2024. He understands the political costs and the criticism from athletes like Miltiadis Tentoglou, reigning Olympic, world and continental champion, who took issue with the move: “You need to run like a sprinter and reach the board perfectly; this is the difficult part of the long jump. The jump itself is easy. The complex part is still the running when you go for the final jump.”

Coe’s look continues to be pejorative with the arguments of athletes and coaches, he continues in the discursive line that athletics has to modernize, to get out of the lethargy of long competitions without any attraction for television and less for the people who attend the sports venues. He has spuriously said that classic athletics is the past and new times are coming with new ideas, despite the resistance of the most orthodox or the faithful followers of “pure” athletics.

I have yet to read a deeper and more technical analysis of World Athletics, where the athlete who competes is analyzed, from his physical and mental preparation, with the variables that are found in this test: from the race, the beat, the flight and the fall in the pit. These four stages that take place in a fraction of seconds imply a level of precision, concentration and stress that makes the difference between one athlete and another. Expanding this area of the jumping board and leaving it literally free to jump, neglecting technical skills in order to lower the percentage of nulls, is a simplistic argument. Under this new initiative may appear athletes without those qualities and talents, but who are constant and disciplined to the extreme of replacing those skills of those who make the show have meaning and life.

CARL LEWIS AND THE BIGGEST BASKETS

A few days ago I had the opportunity to read the statements of Carl Lewis, possibly the best long jumper in history, winner in a row of Olympic gold in Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, who made reference to the modification he wants to implement from the year 2026 World Athletics, sentencing: “I would simply eliminate the most difficult skill of the event. Why don’t they enlarge the basket for free throws in basketball? Because too many people miss.” So valid is this example from the four-time Olympic champion that it would be heresy to increase the diameter of the basket, which is 45.7 centimeters. Can you imagine LeBron James and Stephen Curry, with a bigger basket, it would be very boring to watch them in action: the magic of high-demanding sports is in the difficulties they encounter to execute it. The greater the difficulty, the more you are guaranteed an infartarte spectacle, where what is left over is the emotion and the limit situations.

As Sportsin is an open tribune to expose all points of view, it is necessary to point out that there are athletes and coaches of lower qualification, therefore defends this innovation that World Athletics is experiencing, highlighting the benefits it causes to the second line of long jump athletes, noting that they can compete with the best and avoid “some” nulls and improve their marks by shaking off the pressure of having the best in front of them.

I return to the best long jump athlete today, the Greek Miltiadis Tentoglou, who has a higher goal in Paris 2024, seeks to revalidate the gold obtained in Tokyo 2020+1, besides, his energies and preparation are in Olympic Games mode. But also, it is the flag of struggle of this generation and those coming to assume that high performance sport needs to protect and safeguard its origins, its roots, understand and understand that the transformations are made step by step, not with the virulence and onslaught that are imposing a group of leaders without prior consultation with the protagonists of this activity, recognized around the world as the heart of athletics, the athletes!

It strikes me that Sebastian Coe, being a former athlete and double Olympic champion of 1,500 meters, dissociates himself from the essence of athletics and assumes that he is responsible and the ‘new Messiah’ of an athletics devoted to television and to imperiously raise money to get out of that ancestral lethargy, because under his thesis, if athletics does not modernize, does not adapt to the new times and new digital formats, several of its events will tend to die with the passage of time.

At the closing of this Sportsin editorial, I still believe in the values of sport that are above any action that violates and dehumanizes the activity, that contravenes what is enshrined in the Olympic Charter itself, where the International Sports Federations themselves must be guided and governed, independent of the autonomy they have with their associates. Only time will tell us if these innovations or modifications that we see more frequently are introduced to sport to privilege the spectacle at the expense of high performance competition or, simply, with the passage of time we are going to be subjected ‘all’ to the entertainment industry and bet on sports adapted to pay television, moving away mercilessly from what athletics has given us in the last 128 years of history.

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