Jumping, jumping

You know when you’re watching a long jump competition and you think to yourself ‘geez, I wonder who has jumped furthest CUMULATIVELY in this competition’? If you don’t know that feeling I recommend you move on now. This is about to go downhill fast for you.

Looooong jumping
In a standard long jump competition, as in any athletic throw or jump, the only thing that matters is the highest/furthest/bestest performance of all of your attempts. You can nail it in one and sit out the rest of the competition playing Super Mario Kart if you like, or you can keep committing yourself to improving round by round and respect the work put in by your coach and the fact your mum’s missing bingo to come and watch you perform. It’s something your sprint hurdler or marathon runner just can’t opt for. Their performances reward consistency over the course of the race, not just a magic moment. What if long jumping were the same?

What follows is a table put together through pain-staking research (well, slightly-uncomfortable research, I hit the big competitions and some other stuff that stood out, not everything. I’m committed, but not insane). The table outlines performances by the world’s leading long jumpers ranked as if all six of their series jumps counted to their final mark.

When you look at it in detail you’ll notice three things:

  1. It’s fairly rare for a jumper to average 8m+ during a single event (essentially because one foul is going to scupper that chance)
  2. Carl Lewis was even more ridiculous than you already thought he was
  3. At the 2017 World Championships two men jumped an 8+ average for the first time (in my data set), with Jarrion Lawson becoming the first man to clear 50m cumulative at any championships. He only left with silver.
  4. There is very little real value to this information


The Table

Sestriere 1994Carl Lewis8.688.438.668.608.518.7251.68.600
Walnut, CA 1987Carl Lewis8.648.668.638.778.668.0651.428.570
Indianapolis 1987Carl Lewis6.898.758.538.758.688.6850.288.380
2017 WCJarrion Lawson8.378.438.408.118.318.4450.068.343
1997 WCErick Walder8.
2006 World IndoorsIrving Saladino8.
Rio 2016Greg Rutherford8.
2004 World IndoorsBogdan Taurs8.
Athens 2004John Moffitt8.108.287.858.198.478.2449.138.188
Rio 2016Jeff Henderson8.207.948.107.968.228.3848.88.133
1987 World IndoorsLarry Myricks8.
2007 WCGodfrey Khotso Mokoena7.987.868.
Athens 2004Chris Tomlinson8.
2011 WCSebastian Bayer8.
2005 WCIrving Saladino8.007.918.
Beijing 2008Ibrahim Camejo7.948.098.087.887.938.2048.128.020
1995 World IndoorsErick Walder7.958.057.958.028.008.1448.118.018
2001 WCKareem Streete-Thompson7.748.
2017 WCJianan Wang8.148.237.958.007.857.8948.068.005
Sydney 2000Peter Burge7.808.067.937.968.158.1148.018.002
2003 WCIgnisious Gaisah8.038.137.908.117.957.88488.000
Tokyo 1991Carl Lewis8.68-8.838.918.878.8444.137.355
1987 WCCarl Lewis8.678.658.678.43-8.6043.027.170
Seoul 1988Carl Lewis8.418.568.528.728.52-42.737.122

Carl Lewis takes the top three and bottom three places in this table.

The top three are for epic performances that saw him clear 50m cumulative for his series of jumps. The only person (I can find at least, and I’m the only person whose likely looked) to have ever done this.

The bottom three places I’ve included simply to show how incredible Lewis was as a long jumper. These performances don’t hit the magic 8m average that everyone else was required to hit for inclusion in this table, but then Carl Lewis doesn’t fit neatly into any set of rules.

Those three bottom series aside from one, lonely foul, were impeccable. And these competitions were big ones: one Olympics, two World Championships, including the one where all this happened…

In Tokyo, in 1991, Carl Lewis would only win silver that day. But his jumping, with four marks over 8.80m is unrivalled. His shortest leap of 8.68 in Tokyo would have won EVERY SINGLE OTHER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BAR ONE (1995, when Ivan Pedroso jumped 2cm further). It would have won at every Olympic Games bar two: Beamon’s astonishing leap in 1968, and Lewis’ own winning jump in Seoul in 1988.

Those five jumps in 1991, when added together, fall a mere 65cm short of the entire six jump series of Ignisious Gaisah at the 2003 World Championships that averaged 8.00m dead. That’s essenitally the depth of the plasticine on the board (it’s not, even remotely, but you’ll forgive the hyperbole here I’m sure).

One final point on the lord of leaping: the top two lines in the table, where Lewis jumps on average 8.60m in Sestriere and 8.57 in California happen seven years apart. That’s not just consistency, that’s ridiculous.

Of course, you might argue that it isn’t entirely relevant to pore over the relatively few instances of consistently lengthy long jumping in competition when it isn’t what athletes are marked on (my wife certainly does, especially when there’s washing up to do).

But it must surely be true that a long jumper’s aim every time they take to the runway is to i) run down it, really fast and to ii) throw themselves, legally, really far into the sandpit.

If you do that with vigour six times, then you’re more likely to win than if you only manage it once.

If you can therefore perfect your run up and technique to ensure you hit the board every time and can push your distances without falling apart?

Well, then you’re Carl Lewis.

An addendum…

I reach out from time to time to a few people mentioned in these articles. Which is when this happened…

Note: this was originally published on Medium in July 2017 as in the tweet, but it’s not now. Now it’s here.