Long Jumper Mitch Watt and Top End Speed

One of the questions I like to ask long jumpers and triple jumpers is, “How fast is your top end speed when you hit the take off board?”  Can you really hit max velocity after 17 or 19 strides?  Of course, there is a trade off between max velocity and control to get the maximum height off the board. 

Coaches claim you don’t reach top speed in a 40 yard dash. 

As well, Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay reach their top speed well after 60 meters.

The next question is how do you measure velocity?  A police radar gun?  Or simply use a Freelap and measure the final 10 meter split?  (The newer Freelap model can measure splits under 1.0 seconds)

Mitch Watt, Aussie Long Jumper

Mitch Watt (Photo Credits: Mark Cranitch, The Daily Telegraph)

Enter Mitch Watt.   In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, he is quoted to reach 10.1m/s at 10 strides.  That equates to 0.99 sec/10m.  While some of you might be ooing and ahhing those numbers, USA Triple Jumper Kenta Bell can reach 10.8m/s or 0.92 sec/10m for consecutive 10m segments.

In addition, Watt reaches 11.2m/s for 20 strides, which is is 0.89 sec/10m.

And finally, he has reached 11.4m/s on a sprint, which is 0.877 sec/10m.

If you want to compare these times with world class sprinters, here is a quick chart from 2008:

And for 2009 (from this article):

One thing is certain, speed is the name of the game, but long jumpers and triple jumpers are definitely a different breed of athletes than sprinters.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at SpeedEndurance.com
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Say it Jimson :) …Why don’t you say it!? I’m living with this unrevealed possible truth for years :) . I never dared to say it (because I’m not a track and field specialist).

    Actually , is the first time I’m seeing someone blogging it, but still sounds more like an “insinuation” :D than like a real possible statement. Nobody dares!

    I’m pretty sure that if we would consider sprint races on 30 – 60m and a different manner for start departures (as in trotting races), or why not, ranking the fastest men using split times… many titles would change their owner and pantheon’s gods of the sprint should look a little bit crowded.

    They are not different breed. The old coach (I’m always remembering this man) confessed to me that his juniors always reached out the national sprint play-offs (or even medals), without practicing the start technique or running full distance series (100 or 200m) during their preparation.

    Let’s not forget that some top sprinters (Carl is the most famous), were long jump champs too. Actually the question is if the TOP long jumpers are they “by default” (read natural/naturally :)) amazing or at least “fearsome” sprinters or vice-versa; WHY NOT, MAY BE IS WORKING IN BOTH SENSES – AS YOU SAY, THE SPEED IS THE GAME. HOWEVER I’D BET ON THE FIRST ONE…Why that?… Well, let’s talk…I’m not the specialist, is just an intuition.

    Actually I’m interested in speed’s manifestations as pure feature/quality/native gift or achievement of the athlete, and not about track and field times and records. Please, don’t misunderstand. I love track and field competions. But as coach and in this topic my concern is improving the speed at the rugby players.

    Rory Underwood was an English rugby player (not the fastest but a fast one) who reached or scored his personal best at 3.85 on 30 m. Please compare that with world class sprinters splits of his period (he was born in ’63)… I heard that Carl’s best split on 30m, was 3.87. I’m sure that in every sport you can find similar cases.

    My question is which is the best way to train them in order to help them reaching their potential. Any other possible manner (even temporary) or diversification from the usual running, running, and yet running,would be “a blessing and a fresh air and blood infusion” for their minds and motivation.

    • @OKtav, I should ask Margot Wells on the next interview. She has extensive knowledge of Rugby and Football (soccer) players, and is currently training some fast 60m sprinters.

  • You can’t simply extrapolate or compare a particular instantaneous top speed with a 10m split in a 100m race, since the latter equates to an average speed. Even during the top speed phase, i.e. fastest 10m splits, there is deceleration and acceleration with every stride.
    Case in point: Bolt reaching over 13 m/s in Berlin (see http://berlin.iaaf.org/records/biomechanics/index.html)

    • @Mike, yes, thanks for pointing that out. I wrote an article about that 4 years ago… buried somewhere in my archives.

    • Deceleration and acceleration is just a manifestation and not phenomenons – is what you see or what you can measure but not necessary what is happening…I’d consider it rather in terms energy transformation – as an oscillation – between the 2 forms of mechanical energy (kinetic and potential).

      I still believe that in sprint performance, the ground contact technique is essential. It is also the hardest thing to teach (actually to explain, but attention, I didn’t say that is the hardest to obtain or to achieve); is an “intuitive” or a native reaction, actually a reflex act;…. and from the point of view of the ground contact reflex’s “stimulation”/”shaping”/”training”/”encouraging”,…”something” push me to give some significant credit to jumpers…. I mean to specificities of the jumping training methods and techniques…especially when we are talking about speed efforts in non-linear and variable regime.

      In spite of my words, comparing splits is not here to certificate or validate a point of view, neither to compare performances of the two categories of athletes and decide who is the fastest (or who is right) …But is interesting for the debate, also might open a new perspective on speed training and confirms some intuition (even field observations). The performances of the two categories are no so different…till a certain point their training have similar characteristics (at least some exercises, if not the volume and charges), but they put the accent on different elements and some techniques are different too …Even shoes are different…BUT AT THE END THEY SCORE SIMILAR TIMES (AT LEAST FOR SPLITS)…Why not comparing them if you know why are you comparing them!?

      The mystery could be solved out easy – ask Carl Lewis, he is best one to answer to that question…Till than take a look on this bibliographical note and think what you want:
      At age 13, Lewis started to compete in the long jump, and while attending Willingboro High School, he emerged as a promising athlete.[5] As a junior, he was one of the top long jumpers in New Jersey, and by his senior year he was one of the top long jumpers in the world. Lewis was initially coached by his father, who coached other local athletes to elite status, including Tom Farrell, a local runner and eventual junior Olympic medalist and sub-4 minute miler. Many colleges tried to recruit Lewis, and he chose to enroll at the University of Houston where Tom Tellez was coach. Tellez would thereafter remain Lewis’ coach for his entire career. Days after graduating from high school in 1979, Lewis broke the high school long jump record with a leap of 8.13 m (26 ft 8 in).[6]

      Lewis immediately decided to make a living off his athletic abilities, even though track and field was nominally an amateur sport. Upon meeting Tellez for the first time after arriving at the University of Houston in the fall of 1979, Lewis said, “I want to be a millionaire and I don’t ever want a real job.”[7] At year’s end, Lewis achieved his first world ranking as tabulated by Track and Field News, an American publication and self-described “Bible of the Sport.”[8] He was 5th[9] in the world in the long jump. (All subsequent ranking references are according to Track and Field News.)

      Lewis qualified for the American team for the 1980 Olympics in the long jump and as a member of the 4 x 100 m relay team. Though his focus was on the long jump, he was now starting to emerge as a sprint talent. “

      • Of course if we have energy conservation and transformation – we have momentum conservation too. For elastic collisions (the famous ground contact) in my language we have the notion of momentum transformation…. Because the deceleration is not only the result of environmental forces influence/action (which is almost the same for all the athletes – or if not, it does not play a major role), but is mostly due to the abortion of the shock of the ground contact…and the next acceleration (following the deceleration) is just the very complex result of “a magic combination”… I’ll not start here. Everyone who learns how to interpret and to handle this combination… well, he will be the “master of the rings” :)

  • There are few things I’ve forgot to mention (or I was wrong). The old coach I was talking about;… Well, he was a high jump coach (not even long jump) and his athletes were supposed to be “specialized” in high-jumping but they always loved to compete for sprint finals… of course this was supposed to bring points for the team. Very important thing (I think) that I’ve missed, is that he told me that his athletes were competitive in sprint race just until the age of 16 (in average starting with the childhood and during the first 6 years of practice). Over this age, the specialization starts making the difference.

    And the mistake is that the comparison between the rugby player and Carl Lewis was not about split times, but about their best performance on 30 m.

  • It is well known that for jumping far, one has to reach top speed at the take-off board.
    However, the 10m split times do not correlate directly to 100m times.
    After Mike Powell’s world record in 1991 in Tokyo, a journalist asked him how he jumps so far, when his 100m time is “ONLY” 10.3 sec. Mike answered: “I train to run fast 30m, not 100m”.
    Maybe (I am not sure) if long jumpers train to run fast 100m, they will not be so good at 30m.
    Sometimes training for speed endurance too much reduces the top end speed.
    Training has to be specific, especially nowadays, when it’s difficult to be Jesse Owens or Carl Lewis.

    Finally, I’d like to wish Mitchell Watt good health, good luck and good maintenance of his sport shape, so that he win the long jump at the Olympic Games in London this summer!
    8.55 m should be enough for this purpose.