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There were some questions about the triple jump--namely, questions such as "just what the heck is this thing anyway?" So, here ensues more than you would ever want to know about the triple jump.


The Mechanics:
The triple jump is one of the 4 jump events in track and field (high, long, triple, vault). It is most similar to the long jump. It consists of running down a runway, taking off at a board, and performing a series of 3 jumps before landing in a sand pit for a measurement.

Many of you many have seen it referred to as the "hop-skip-and-jump" or "hop-step-and-jump". This refers to the specific types of jumps that are performed.

Upon hitting the board, the first jump must end with the jumper landing on the same foot that was used on the initial takeoff. This is the "hop" phase. The second jump must end with the jumper landing on the opposite foot. This is the "step" or "skip" phase. Last, the jumper leaps into the sand pit for the final jump. The distance of the jump is measured from the front edge of the takeoff board (i.e., closest to the sand pit) to the nearest mark in the sand made by the jumper (including hand marks or foot marks or butt marks).


The Skill:
Each of the jumping events tests a different core skill. The triple looks most like the long jump, but they reward fundamentally different skill sets. The long jump is a pure speed event. There is certainly form to follow in the approach, takeoff, and flight. But raw speed is the fundamental skill that counts most. (This is why jumpers with poor form can still occasionally bust out a phenominal jump, a la Marion Jones. She's got pretty bad long jump form and has several form flaws, but her raw speed helps close the gap.) As a result, you see a lot of crossover between the 100m dash and the long jump.

The triple, on the other hand, rewards raw power. Speed helps, but the shock on the legs of doing the first two jumps while keeping your body in the proper position requires a great deal of raw strength. Form is also critical. A form break early in the first jump cascades through the rest of the sequence and affects the second and third jumps. Small errors get magnified greatly in this event. There is rarely any crossover between the triple and other events at the elite level of competition due to the specialized nature of the event.


The technique:
There's an old bit of coaching advice that notes that a good triple jump is heard more than it is seen. The best jumpers have a certain rhythm to them, and each of the 3 phases should be roughly even, both in air time and subsequently, in distance.

The overwhelming temptation for jumpers, particularly inexperienced ones, is to leap from the takeoff board just like it is a long jump takeoff. This results in a great first phase, but generally kills the second phase. If the first phase is too high, the trajectory is too steep coming down, and that makes it even harder on the legs and knees to absorb that shock and transition into the second phase. In the most extreme cases, a jumper may have a first phase about 4x longer than the second phase, instead of nice even phases.

Thus, sometimes, less is more. A 45 foot jump constructed of 3 15 foot phases is a lot easier on the body than is a 45 foot jump achieved by a 20-5-20 sequence of jumps. If the jumps are that different in length, you'll hear it.

Likewise, the second phase needs to be held in check to keep the body in position for the final jump. The tendency in this phase is to let your torso lean forward too far. If that happens, your third jump will go right into the ground. You need to stay tall and keep body position, which is hard given the transition from jump 1 to jump 2.

The final jump is into the sand like a long jump. At this point, the jumper has lost some of the horizontal momentum. It's also very hard to get significant air, as you do in the long jump, because you don't have an opportunity to settle your hips like the long jumpers do. As a result, triple jumpers find it difficult to do the "running in mid-air" (called a "hitch kick") that a long jumper does going into the pit. A triple jumper usually has to resort to a simple hang style.

The arms are a typically forgotten in the whole process, particularly for the novice. There's so much mental effort in learning how to stay legal with your feet that the arms are an after thought. But they're really key--they provide power in each phase as you swing them through, they provide balance and aid in body positioning, and they control the lateral torso twist (or, hopefully, lack thereof).

On the approach, even though it looks like a long jump, it generally is slower and lacks the hip settling that results in the maximum spring the long jumpers need. A long jumper accelerates all the way to the board. A triple jumper hits takeoff speed about 6 steps from the board, and then holds that speed while preparing for the takeoff. The long jumper settles the hips on the penultimate step, which in turn means the hips will pop up and through the takeoff board. The triple jumper does not do this because the additional height would be a detriment to the entire jump, as noted earlier. The triple jumper wants the takeoff to be long and low, while the longer jumper wants it to be fast and high.


The meet:
At most meets, jumpers are given 3 qualifying jumps. The top jumpers (usually top 8) advance to the finals, where they get 3 more jumps. The best of the 6 jumps is counted as your performance for the final results. In the event of a tie, the second best jump is used. At the Olympics, there is a preliminary round, where the top 12 advance to the finals. All 12 get 3 jumps, then the top 8 get 3 more. Prelim round distances don't count in this case, but again, the best of the 6 jumps during finals will count as your mark.



The competition:
The major difference I noticed in watching the medal winners yesterday was the arms. The gold medalist followed what is pretty much standard form these days--the double arm thrust, on all 3 phases. That takes a lot of coordination to get used to. The idea is that by swinging both arms forward together, you can maximize power, reduce torso twist, and use your arms to "block" your torso from rotating too far forward. This was the hardest part for me to learn, but it made a huge difference when I figured out how to do it.

The Romanian that took the silver still did an old-style single arm thrust. I'll be honest--I didn't know that any of the elite jumpers even did this any more, because the double arm has pretty much become the standard. It would sort of be like watching a high jumper do a scissor kick over the bar instead of the Fosbury Flop. The one thing that did make sense to me, I guess, was that this was a Romanian jumper--the single arm style was more popular among Eastern Bloc nations throughout the 1970s. Again, I thought the style had disappeared, but apparently it is still in use in some of those countries. Even to my eye, he looks really reckless out there, but he obviously pulled it off well enough for a silver.


Summary:
I did the event for 6 of the 8 years I ran track. I loved the event, and eventually specialized in it, slowly dropping my other events. At the high school and NCAA Division III level, there weren't too many people who specialized in the event, so I tended to have an advantage over jumpers with more natural talent due to being a student of the event. I wasn't the fastest, nor the strongest, but I knew what I was doing out there and my form was as good or better than nearly everyone else competing at that level.

It really is an event where hard work and study can make up for lack of raw natural ability. Perfect for a big slow guy like me who was fast at top speed, but too slow out of the blocks to be a top sprinter, and not flexible enough to be a top hurdler.

Now you all know way, way more about the triple jump than you ever wanted to, I'm sure, but I'll still take questions if anyone has any.

--WP
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Excellent tutorial!

Thanks for posting WonderPup. Triple Jump brings me back to the days of Middle School (home of all weird physical activities) where we used to do the Triple Jump, except we didn't do a running start and we did it on the hard gym floor.

=) Megan
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I still have one question,

WHY?

;)
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In case you're fording a river that only has two rocks to jump on.

David
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I still have one question,
WHY?


Because the runway was there.

--WP
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I too competed in the triple jump (as well as the high jump) in high school. Since you competed in college, I'm curious as to what your best mark was. I assume in the 50'+ range. Has anyone gone over 60' yet? Later...
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I too competed in the triple jump (as well as the high jump) in high school. Since you competed in college, I'm curious as to what your best mark was. I assume in the 50'+ range. Has anyone gone over 60' yet? Later...


Nah. I competed at the NCAA Division III level. For those that aren't familiar with NCAA hierarchies, Division III is the level where no sports scholarships of any type may be awarded. This means it is usually your smaller private schools, not your major universities. Though you do get some top competition down there, it is pretty thin. (My conference featured a guy who qualified for the US Olympic trials in the long jump, and another who was on the Zimbabwe national team in the triple jump.)

So, I was more down in the 45' range. That was good enough to be All-Conference at my DIII conference, but was still 2-3 feet short of qualifying for DIII nationals.

Jonathan Edwards of Britain finally broke the 60' triple jump a few years ago, knocking down one of the last big milestones in the jumping events. We now have broken the 8' high jump, the 20' pole vault, and the 60' triple jump. All that's left is the 30' long jump.

--WP
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Jonathan Edwards of Britain finally broke the 60' triple jump a few years ago, knocking down one of the last big milestones in the jumping events. We now have broken the 8' high jump, the 20' pole vault, and the 60' triple jump. All that's left is the 30' long jump.


Or switch to metric measurements, so that you have different round number levels. ;-)

(10 meters is longer than 30', but not by so much that it will never happen)

David
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Or switch to metric measurements, so that you have different round number levels. ;-)

When Javier Sotomayor broke 8' in the high jump for the first time in history, everyone around him went nuts. He didn't understand why they were acting so much more excited for this than they did for the previous world record he'd set. They explained to him that it was because he broke the 8' barrier. To him, he just bested his previous world record of 2.43m by jumping 2.44m. He didn't see the big deal.

(10 meters is longer than 30', but not by so much that it will never happen)

It'll be a while, though. 10m = 32' 9.75".

The current world record of 29' 4" broke a record that had stood for over 20 years, and by only 2 inches at that. To hit 10m, the current record of 8.95m will have to increase by 1.05m.

Looking back, the last time the world record was at 7.90m (i.e., 8.95 - 1.05) was 1928. I think it may be a while before we see 10m.

Considering how many track records were set in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, I think we all need to support an effort to have an Olympic Games in Nepal.

--WP
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Considering how many track records were set in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, I think we all need to support an effort to have an Olympic Games in Nepal.

People use this to dismiss Beamon's 29-2 1/4 (or was it 2 1/2?) all the time. IIRC, though, no one else was even close. Beamon got 8.90 m and his closest competitor got only 8.19m.

--B+C
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People use this to dismiss Beamon's 29-2 1/4 (or was it 2 1/2?) all the time. IIRC, though, no one else was even close. Beamon got 8.90 m and his closest competitor got only 8.19m.

Oh, I don't dismiss Beamon's effort at all. He is a god among track jumpers, and clearly was above and beyond the level of his peers.

The question isn't whether he was better than his peers--it is how much better was his winning jump because of the altitude than it would have been without it?

Hard to say. I'm sure there's been a zillion studies that have tried to estimate it. I think the answer is clearly "it helped" but not by a ton.

The reality is that even if it did help, it isn't like there weren't 20+ years of meets since then, at all sorts of different locations--including Mexico City.

In fact, not only did he break the world record by over half a meter--a good foot-and-a-half and more--but the world record he broke was set the previous year in Mexico City.

Beamon was incredible and that jump, if you've ever seen it on tape, is a think of beauty. I always hoped Carl Lewis would break it, but he could never quite pull it off. Mike Powell's record jump is still an afterthought to many jumpers--Beamon is still the king.

--WP
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WonderPup: "There were some questions about the triple jump--namely, questions such as "just what the heck is this thing anyway?" So, here ensues more than you would ever want to know about the triple jump.

The Skill:
Each of the jumping events tests a different core skill. The triple looks most like the long jump, but they reward fundamentally different skill sets. The long jump is a pure speed event. There is certainly form to follow in the approach, takeoff, and flight. But raw speed is the fundamental skill that counts most. (This is why jumpers with poor form can still occasionally bust out a phenominal jump, a la Marion Jones. She's got pretty bad long jump form and has several form flaws, but her raw speed helps close the gap.) As a result, you see a lot of crossover between the 100m dash and the long jump.

The triple, on the other hand, rewards raw power. Speed helps, but the shock on the legs of doing the first two jumps while keeping your body in the proper position requires a great deal of raw strength. Form is also critical. A form break early in the first jump cascades through the rest of the sequence and affects the second and third jumps. Small errors get magnified greatly in this event. There is rarely any crossover between the triple and other events at the elite level of competition due to the specialized nature of the event."


Excellent post, but a few quibbles. IIRC, the old Easten bloc countries had jumpers who did both long and triple but did not compete in the sprints, even at the Olympic level. Also, IIRC, jumpers who compete well at in both the lon and the triple are not uncommon at the NCAA Division I level.

"The technique:
There's an old bit of coaching advice that notes that a good triple jump is heard more than it is seen. The best jumpers have a certain rhythm to them, and each of the 3 phases should be roughly even, both in air time and subsequently, in distance."


When I studied this more closely, the result was more like 35%/30%/35%, with the step almost always being the shortest part of the routine. Hop has the full benefit of approach (speed) and the jump has the benefit of landing in the sand with no need to jump again. The step is made is with less forward momentum that the hop and the landing must be in balance in order to make the jump.

"The arms are a typically forgotten in the whole process, particularly for the novice. There's so much mental effort in learning how to stay legal with your feet that the arms are an after thought. But they're really key--they provide power in each phase as you swing them through, they provide balance and aid in body positioning, and they control the lateral torso twist (or, hopefully, lack thereof)."

How true.

"Summary: I did the event for 6 of the 8 years I ran track. I loved the event, and eventually specialized in it, slowly dropping my other events. At the high school and NCAA Division III level, there weren't too many people who specialized in the event, so I tended to have an advantage over jumpers with more natural talent due to being a student of the event. I wasn't the fastest, nor the strongest, but I knew what I was doing out there and my form was as good or better than nearly everyone else competing at that level."

I tripled for only three years in College, and the first two were spent with a good "jumping" coach. The improvement made my last year after exposure to a coach who specialized in the jumps was amazing, and always left me wondering what I could have done with better coaching from the beginning.

"It really is an event where hard work and study can make up for lack of raw natural ability. Perfect for a big slow guy like me who was fast at top speed, but too slow out of the blocks to be a top sprinter, and not flexible enough to be a top hurdler."

My metric for measuring technique was to divide someone's triple jump by their long jump (and at the Div. III level almost all jumpers did both). As WP states, raw speed can compensate for alot in the LJ, but TJ depends alot more on good techique.

My ratio was roughly 2.25. I was competitive in the TJ with many jumpers who easily outgunned me in the LJ because their ratio was more like 2.0 (surprisng the sht out of a bucnh of them).

Regards, JAFO

PS - And when I really nailed a good TJ, it felt like I was flying/floating light as a butterfly.

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Long Jump record is very interesting:

Men's Long Jump. World Record Progression

DISTANCE ATHLETE COUNTRY DATE VENUE
8.95m. Mike Powell (USA) 30 Aug 91 Tokyo

8.90m. Bob Beamon (USA) 18 Oct 68 Mexico City
8.35m. Igor Ter-Ovanesjan (URS) 19 Oct 67 Mexico City
8.35m. Ralph Boston (USA) 29 May 65 Modesto
8.34m. Ralph Boston (USA) 12 Sep 64 Los Angeles
8.31m. Ralph Boston (USA) 15 Aug 64 Kingston
8.31m. Igor Ter-Ovanesjan (URS) 10 Jun 62 Yerevan
8.28m. Ralph Boston (USA) 16 Jul 61 Moscow
8.24m. Ralph Boston (USA) 27 May 61 Modesto
8.21m. Ralph Boston (USA) 12 Aug 60 Walnut

8.13m. Jesse Owens (USA) 25 May 35 Ann Arbor

http://www.sporting-heroes.net/athletics-heroes/stats_athletics/worldrecords/lgjmp_m.htm

Jesse Ownes 1935 record (26' 8") stood 25 years, then the record progressed by a few centimeters per year (with Ralph Boston being the first jumper past 27' and recordholder at 27' 4 3/4"), until Bob Beamon's 1968 record (29' 2 1/2") stood for almost 23 years, to be eclipsed by 5 cm by Mike Powell, in a record (29' 4") that has stood for almost 13 years.

http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/conversions.html

28' is still an incredibly good long jump, with 2004 Olympic winner jumping - 8.59 meters - 28' 2" and second being 8.47m. (27' 9 1/2") and third being 8.32m. (27' 3 1/2").

Can you imagine many track races where the 1964 world record time would beat the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist?

Regards, JAFO


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