A Leap of Faith - Why the Long Jump Deserves More Love
We're shining a spotlight on the amazing, technical wonders that are achieved in the field events. Learn what it takes to set the Long Jump Olympic Record.
This event is less of a jump, more of a flight plan. You start on a runway and attempt to gain as much speed as possible, under complete control, without decelerating.
At top speed, you have to lower your center of mass at just the right time, getting your hips into the most powerful position to jump.
If done right, this should occur on the third to last step. Your next stride, called the penultimate step, should be longer.
You must then methodically sense the takeoff board underfoot while not stepping over it as you launch yourself skyward. Athletes spend decades training to master these last three steps.
Like a jet, you take off, lifting your entire body into the air while tucking your legs into a pike position during the flight phase.
Then you skillfully land as far as possible in a sand pit to make the farthest possible mark in the sand with your body.
The best long jumpers take a single leap that is equivalent to jumping from the top of an NBA three-point line to the baseline!
You know, the one behind the basket, where the photographers sit.
All the while during this landing, jumpers withstand an impact with forces up to 10 times their body weight.
How the Long Jump is Measured
The distance is measured from the take off board to the first mark in the sand closest to the board.
Now do this again and again (unless you’ve gotten a mark you’re sure your opponents won’t match), until everyone has come crashing back to earth three times. The farthest mark wins.
Even Jordon’s got nothing on their flight skills.
Long Jump Olympic Records
Men’s Long Jump Olympic Record
29 feet, 2 inches – 8.90 meters
Bob Beamon, United States 1968
About nine months before a man landed on the moon, Bob Beamon made one very giant leap at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. Prior to this jump, the record stood at 27 feet 4 and ¾ inches – 8.35 meters.
Beamon’s record shattering jump increased it by a staggering 21 and ¾ inches.
In long-jumping terms, that was equivalent to reducing the winning marathon time by 30 minutes or the 100 meter sprint by a full second!
At 29 feet, 2 inches, his long jump olympic record still stands more than 50 years later.
Women's Long Jump Olympic Record
24 feet, 3 inches – 7.40 meters
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, United States 1988.
A field event list would not be complete with the crowned and confirmed “Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century.”
Only six other track and field athletes in history have felt the weight of six Olympic medals around their necks.
For her performance in the 1988 games in Seoul, Jackie Joyner-Kersee won not one but two medals – one being the long jump olympic record, the other in the heptathlon.
Oh, and she also broke the world record in both events…with an injured knee. She’s the OG first lady of track and field.
Long Jump World Records
Men’s Long Jump World Record
29 feet, 4.25 inches – 8.95 meters
Mike Powell, Japan, 1991
Sometimes the competition brings out the best of you.
This was undoubtedly the case for Mike Powell at the World Championships in Tokyo on August 30, 1991.
In one of the best competitions that ever occurred in track and field, Powell and Carl Lewis showed the world what happens when two legends face off.
Going jump for jump, Powell took his record-breaking leap on his fifth try. But Lewis still had two jumps remaining.
On his fifth attempt, Carl Lewis bested his own personal record, jumping 8.87m. But he would not go any farther.
On this fateful day, Powell not only took the long jump world record but also broke the dominance of Lewis, who had been undefeated for ten years. Powell’s jump remains one of the longest-standing world records in sport.
Women’s Long Jump World Record
24 feet, 8 inches – 7.52 meters
Galina Chistyakova, Russia, 1988
Galina Chistyakova, a Ukrainian-born long jumper, competed for the Soviet Union for most of her career. She reached her world record distance at a track meet in Leningrad in 1988.
Though she only jumped 3 centimeters (1.1 inches) farther than the previous record, no woman has jumped within 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) in twenty years.
Since then, the Soviet Union dissolved and Leningrad became St. Petersburg. But Chistyakova’s world record still stands.
If you would like to learn the most effective system for training and coaching elite long jump technique, check out Janay DeLoach Soukup's masterclass, Jumping Smarter, Jumping Farther.