Long jumpers take aim at potential take-off rule changes

athletics22 February 2024 17:00| © AFP
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Ivana Spanovic © Gallo Images

Proposals by World Athletics to trial a "take-off zone" in the long jump in a bid to eliminate foul jumps have fallen flat with athletes.

Jon Ridgeon, a former British high hurdler who is now chief executive of track and field's governing body, announced earlier this week that the concept of the zone would be trialled in multiple locations throughout the outdoor season later this year.

Currently, long jumpers have to launch themselves into the pit from behind a set wooden board. One spike over such board results in a foul jump being called.

The new proposal would see all jumps counting, with the distance measured from the take-off point within the given zone and landing point.

Ridgeon said the proposal had come about after a study of the long jump competitions at last year's world championships in Budapest showed that a third of all jumps were foul due to athletes overstepping the fixed board.

American Carl Lewis, who won long jump gold at four consecutive Olympic Games, was quick to criticise plans to trial the "take-off zone".

"You're supposed to wait until April 1st for April Fools' jokes," Lewis said on X, previously Twitter.

"I guess it supports what I've been saying, that the long jump is the most difficult event in track and field."

Altering the concept of taking off from behind a board to within a zone, Lewis argued, "would just eliminate the most difficult skill from the event. Just make the basket larger for free throws because so many people miss them".

Current women's world champion Ivana Spanovic also criticised the proposed change.

"The biggest problem is that the people who change the rules of this sport are those who have never had contact with this sport," the Serbian said.

"You are changing the rules of the game without consulting those who make the sport exist. You ignore their views, you don't respect their opinion and you ignore the problems that lead to their injuries."

Ridgeon accepted that "some controversy" would no doubt accompany a potential change "in a sport that was basically invented 150 years ago".

"If you have dedicated your life to hitting that take-off board perfectly and then suddenly we replace it with a take-off zone, I totally get that there might be initial resistance," the Briton said.

"We will spend this year testing it in real life circumstances with very good athletes. If it doesn't pass testing, we will never introduce it. We are not going to introduce things on a whim.

"We really want to spend the next two years thoroughly working them through. This is not about next year, but making sure we have got a sport that is fit for purpose for another 150 years."