When someone asks me what triple jump is, I always say the same thing. It’s a hop, step, and then a jump. The usual response is, “Oh! So like a hopscotch!”. It’s frustrating, as someone who knows how difficult the event really is, to hear it simplified in such a way. But it’s no one’s fault. It is not a very popular event. It doesn’t receive much attention (even at the Olympic level), and I think as a result people don’t know much about it.
I wanted to do a blog post about triple jump because I feel as though it’s one of the least understood or appreciated events in track and field. I know I’m biased, but it really is an incredible event. It’s interesting because although it’s a power/speed event, there’s a certain grace to it. I’ve had a taste of this grace a few times in my athletic career. Those jumps when you hit the board just perfectly and it’s like you’re suspended in the air for a moment in time. Then abruptly, you come back to reality and explode off the ground – in a very gentle type of way – and suspend yourself up into the air again. It really is as close as you can get to flying. It’s like time stops. Repeat this gentle explosion/flight-time combo one more time and you have a triple jump. Very rarely would I describe my jumps in the artistic/graceful kind of way I just did. If I’m being completely honest here, I’d say 50% of the time that I jump I knock the wind out of myself and walk out of the pit holding my stomach.
“There is an amazing rhythm to it, and when you get it right it doesn’t hurt. You almost don’t feel the ground.. you feather it.” World record holder in men’s triple jump Jonathan Edwards once said this while describing the event. Edwards jumped 18.29m (yes, 18 meters and 29 centimeters) at the 1995 World Championships and has held the world record since then.
It really is an incredibly difficult event to master just because of the sheer unnaturalness of the movements. The greats of our sport make it look easy but I promise you that it is not. Triple jump is considered one of the most technically demanding track and field events simply because it has three consecutive take-offs as opposed to just one, and if you don’t hit the first one just right, you’ve dug yourself a pretty deep hole to climb out of. It is the absolute perfect combination and timing of many different things, mainly speed and rhythm, but when it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s art in motion.
Triple jump is sometimes jokingly referred to as cripple jump for a pretty self-explanatory reason. Imagine running as fast as you can and then landing on one leg – the impact on your knee is 10x your body weight. I’m notorious among my friends for having knees that crack with every movement that I make, and this is the result of having triple jumped thousands of times and put that kind of impact on my knees. I am very lucky to not have sustained many very serious injuries as the result of triple jumping, but I definitely have some chronic issues such as a tight lower back and shin splints, that will probably be with me for a long time. Triple jump was once considered so dangerous and potentially damaging to the body that women weren’t allowed to do it out of fear that it would affect their ability to reproduce. Because of this belief, women’s triple jump wasn’t an Olympic event until 1996, while men have been triple jumping since the ancient Greek Olympics! This is pretty unreal to think about. Lucky for me, the scientists and researchers eventually came to their senses. Who knows what I would be doing otherwise.
I’m not saying triple jump is superior to any other track and field event – I’m just saying it deserves as much respect as its counterparts! And let’s all be serious, the 100m is a serious attention seeker and it needs to SIT DOWN! I hope that this post has increased your triple jump knowledge and appreciation. Thanks for reading.