This years Long Jump competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games was a memorable and fairly unbelievable one to say the least. Not because of huge jumps, record performances or personal bests. Instead it was unbelievable because of the incredible (in)consistency of performances sub par of their ability, right across the board. (no pun intended)
During the Friday night Long Jump Qualifications, I was sitting in the stands, and I knew something was not right with the results. The IAAF A standard is 8.20m, and the 8.10m was the automatic qualifier for the Final round. (Top 12 performances go to the the Finals)
Only 2 men jumped over 8.10m, and that was USA’s Marquise Goodwin and Brazil’s Mauro Vinicius da Silva. The eventual winner, Greg Rutherford, jumped 8.08m.
Here are some amazing stats from the competition:
- The average distance each person jumped was a massive 45cm LESS than their SEASONS best
- There was only 1 seasons best jump (and that was by 2cm)
- There were ZERO personal best jumps.
- Only 1/42 jumpers jumped the Olympic A standard
- Only 7/42 jumpers jumped the Olympic B standard
Look at the track events… there are several SB, PB and NR (Season’s Best, Personal Bests, & National Records) set every day!
So why didn’t we see a lot of great performances?
So the important question is why? The weather seemed good. Wind was slight and temperature was warm. The atmosphere was amazing and the competition was supposed to be of the highest order.
I don’t know the exact answer but my first guess is the lightning fast Mondotrack, which is great for sprinters, but could be a hindrance for jumpers.
You may remember the 1991 World Championships where Mike Powell and Carl Lewis had the best jumps in the history of the long jump. That was the same track surface where 6 men broke 10.00 seconds in the 100 meters, and that was 21 years ago!
This track is fast, super fast. Looking at every 100m race and we can clearly see this.
But why would this be a problem?
Well, although everyone believes the long jump is a pure speed event this isn’t actually true. Yes speed is very important but it can hurt the long jumper just as much as it can help them. Even an increase of 0.03 or greater faster than usual could cause many problems.
The first problem is handling the takeoff. Too fast at takeoff means flat jumps, bad technique and a lack of control. You could manage to get lucky a nail the takeoff at this new speed and boom, huge jump. We actually saw this a couple of times from Aleksandr Menkov, once from Da Silva and once from Tyrone Smith. The problem was they were all fouls!
This leads me to another issue.
Too fast on the runway can cause a bunch of issues with approach rhythm and consistency. This was very evident when watching Mitchell Watt and Goodwin as their approaches were all over the place. Many others clearly had issues as well with approach consistency. We saw a lot of over steering also. This only shows that many of the jumpers realized their approaches were “different” in some way. There is a good chance that the speed of the track played a large role in the poor performances.
Greg Rutherford is “Mr. Clutch”
Regardless of all the voodoo science and armchair critics, it all comes down to that one given day, with the 6 best jumps.
All 12 athletes have to deal with the given conditions on that given day. And be the best compensator.
So congratulations to Greg Rutherford on winning the 2012 London Olympic Games Long Jump competition.