This is our third article on the Long Jump controversy. Mike Rowbottom, Deji Ogeyingbo and now, Stuart Weir have opened the conversation on how we should change the sport, if we should change the sport, and who we should listen to as we consider changing the sport. 

Changing the format of the long – and a few other events

World Athletics has announced a plan to change the format of the long jump so that there would be no fouls with every jump counting and being measured from take-off to landing. CEO of World Athletics, Jon Ridgeon, said that they needed to make every jump count and “add to the jeopardy and the drama of the competition.” Ridgeon told the Anything But Footy podcast that a third of all jumps at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest did not count, adding: “That doesn’t work; that is a waste of time.”

The proposal was almost universally criticized. Carl Lewis, winner of four consecutive Olympic golds in the long jump, wrote on X: “You’re supposed to wait until April 1st for April Fools’ jokes.” Lewis’s more serious response was that running at full speed and taking off from a small board was a highly skilled operation and that the new proposal would dilute the skill involved in the long jump.

Jon Ridgeon, COO, World Athletics, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

Jazmin Sawyers posted a video on social media, saying: “I don’t think there is anything wrong with the long jump, and having the board is part of the drama. I appreciate that they are trying to do something, but this is how I view it. I don’t think this particular innovation is a good idea. I don’t think this is what the long jump needs.”

In the build-up to the World Indoor Athletics Championships, there were press points with several British athletes who were invited to comment on the proposal and other potential changes to our sport.  Some interesting views were expressed.

Josh Kerr

“I probably can’t speak specifically on the long jump side of things because I obviously don’t have a leg to stand on there, but I get what they are trying to They’re trying to keep engagement and ensure sure that the best jumpers in the worldjust measured across the board so that people can get excited about how theyeople can jump. And so, from the standpoint of a 1500-meter runner, I can understand where World Athletics is coming from. We want to keep engagement and ensure people are excited about the sport. And maybe people don’t obviously love the idea, but I love that they’re thinking about those things.

Josh Kerr, 3000m gold, WIC Glasgow, with Yared Nuguse, silver, photo by Dan Vernon Photo

“I like some of the changes that the folks at World Athletics have made in terms of qualifying, so not having the fastest losers or whatever those spots are meant to be called now and not having those has really helped explain things to some of my family members and I think actually it’s worked really well at the World Championships. And, maybe having this extra round at the Olympics might be a bit confusing, especially the name of it, the repechage, or whatever it’s called.  We’re trying new things, and they keep it exciting, and I think you can try things, and if it doesn’t work, you can pull them away like I enjoy the aspect of a sport that loves to develop what they have and try to keep people engaged. So, maybe they don’t hit it every time, but I think it’s an excellent idea that they’re trying to experiment with things to ensure that the fans are engaged”.

Molly Caudery

“It’s an interesting one. I was talking to Jaz [Sawyers] about it a little bit, and I don’t think I agree with it. If they are to do it, it’s almost a completely different event. It changes the sport because part of it is getting your run upright on the long jump runway. And they’re talking about the surface, and there are so many cons and only very few pros. So if I could have my choice, I wouldn’t change anything.

This is Molly Caudery. She has just won the world indoor title in the pole vault. Molly delivered at WIC Glasgow 2024, photo by Martin Bateman.

“I also think the pole vault right now is perfect. I think it’s such a technical sport, and that’s a huge part of it. If they said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about the bar, and it’s just about how high you go I think it would take away a lot of the excitement of watching the competition because what people enjoy is athletes battling it out with spectators wondering, ‘are they gonna make it on their third attempt?’  It’s a real technical aspect if you understand and enjoy pole vaulting.  I do think it could definitely take away from the sport”.

Morgan Lake

“I think they tried to change the high jump a bit, maybe three or four years ago. We get a minute to jump, and then with fewer people, there’s two minutes, and then you get 3 minutes to jump.  I think they tried to change that to 30 seconds just for TV time and to make it a quicker event.  It pulled the event because it ended up with people making more attempts at the bar.  So, previously, they’d get it with their first attempt. They’re getting on their third attempt, as they’re being rushed. So they tried to innovate that way but just got rid of it.

Morgan Lake, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

“I have been thinking about it: what change would make a difference? Obviously, long jumpers now have a take-off zone, which is essentially a take-off zone.  We can take off from anywhere, and well, they could change it and give us a small box to jump from, so you have to take off this far from the bar. At present, Barshim jumps miles away from the bar. Others jump from super close. There’s nothing that would make it better. Obviously, things can change it, and I guess the main thing for the long jump is to make it more exciting so people can get those longer jumps into the sand. But in the high jump, I don’t really think anything’s really going to change that.

“I think the only thing for me is watching high jump competitions.  Let’s say I’m watching a men’s competition; the only negative is the length of time. With track events, they are quick and over and done with.  So maybe having bigger intervals, instead of 1.82, 1.85, just going 1.80, 1.85, 1.90 to get to those higher heights quicker. Some things can be done to change it. But, I wouldn’t say it’s on the forefront of my mind, thinking  ‘oh, this is boring. We need a way to make it more exciting. I’m biased, but I will find field events exciting anyway”.

Are you listening, World Athletics?