Cathal Dennehy

The world’s best long jumpers have spoken, and it’s safe to say they’re not big fans of the proposals by World Athletics to shake up the event.

by Cathal Dennehy

At the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow this morning, several of them walked off the track. It soon vented its frustration when asked about the proposal, recently outlined by World Athletics CEO Jon Ridgeon, to trial a take-off zone rather than aboard – the goal being to eliminate fouls and make the event more engaging for fans.

“It’s dog shit,” said Miltiadis Tentoglou, the reigning European, World and Olympic champion, who added his second world indoor title on Saturday, jumping 8.22m to edge Italy’s Mattia Furlani on countback.

“It’s funny,” he added. “It’s so bad, it’s funny. I cannot say anything else.” Tentoglou, though, went on to say much more.

“Everything those guys at World Athletics have changed; they are so bad. Come on, they don’t even try. What is this?”

At the press conference on Friday, World Athletics president Seb Coe said athletes had been consulted about the proposal via its Athletes Commission.

“The athletes are our key stakeholders,” said Coe. “A big chunk of our council meeting was devoted to those types of discussions, and Valerie Adams and Matthew Hughes led them. They’ve got outreach programmes and we speak to the athletes all the time and of course, we shall be guided by what they are thinking.

Miltiadis Tentoglou, in big long jump, photo by World Indoor Tour, Meeting de Madrid

However, Tentoglou said World Athletics “never” asked the long jumpers themselves. “They change stuff all the time, and nobody knows anything,” he said. “We are not listened to. I am the Olympic and world champions, and my opinion does not matter. They don’t really care.”

Would Tentoglou participate in the discussions if he’s invited? “Yes,” he said. “But I will be very brutal to them.”

The opinion among his peers about the new proposal was similar, even if their criticisms weren’t quite so blunt. Furlani, who at 19 looks very much like the future of the event, is against the proposal but conceded it has some merit.

“I think it’s not a good idea, but at the same time, it’s a good idea,” he said. “The decision is better for the injuries, speed athletes, and spectators because every jump is long and good. But at the same time, you revolutionise the discipline because you leave the foul (out), and the foul is (part of) the game. You also leave the history of the long jump. From Mike Powell, Carl Lewis, you change the evolution. I don’t want this decision because it’s (spoiling) the history of the long jump.”

Sweden’s Tobias Montler, who finished eighth in Saturday’s final and who won silver at the last World Indoors in 2022, said the proposal is “a joke”.

Thobias Montler, photo by meeting de Lieven

“They want to make the sport more exciting but for me it’s a step in the wrong direction. There’s no point in having the markers in the pit anymore because you don’t know where the athletes are jumping from.”

Montler believes that if World Athletics wants to make a change, they should revert to the board that had been used in previous years. “It’s a good one,” he said. “And take back the line for the foul jump a little higher, 1cm up, so you don’t slip on the board. Just keep that one and it will be fine and do some other things to make the sport more interesting.”

Jamaica’s Carey McLeod, who won bronze on Saturday with a leap of 8.21m, was also staunchly against the proposal. “It’s crazy,” he said. “If they do change it, then it won’t become a technical event because the long jump is a technical event with the board – to show how accurate you can be.”

Carey McLeod takes the LJ in his first pro event, 2024 NBIGP, photo by Kevin Morris,

What would McLeod change if he had the power?

“I think the rules are perfect; I don’t think nothing needs to be changed,” he said. “Today was lit. Everyone came out here and put their best foot forward.”

That was certainly true, with Saturday’s final showing the event at its competitive, captivating best, with just one centimetre separating the top three.

Germany’s Simon Batz, who finished fourth with an 8.06m jump, was also against the change. “There are many steps we need to train, and all that would fall apart (under the new proposal) because you don’t need the rhythm to the board (anymore) – it’s not comparable,” he said. “It would be hard for people to (understand). If the zone is 70cm, they could jump in the beginning, jump nine metres, and it (looks like) 8.30m. People will think it’s not such a good jump.”

Will Williams, the US jumper who finished seventh in Saturday’s final, believes the change would eliminate the skill element of the event.

“At this level, we take pride in our skill,” he said. “All the greats – Carl Lewis, Mike Powell, my coach and mentor Dwight Phillips – had that skill. If it takes away that, it doesn’t benefit (the event). If they want to do something to help the long jump, they could show the (foul) marks people could have possibly jumped.”

His US teammate Jarrion Lawson, the world silver medallist in 2017, agreed that no change is needed. “Leave it like it is,” he said. “Doing the zone will take the difficulty out of the long jump. Part of long jumping is getting an approach ironed out, getting your foot on the board, and if you scratch, well, you have to go again.”

Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece in action during the ATHLETICS – MEN’S LONG JUMP FINAL at Olympiastadion during the European Championships 2022 on August 16, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Daniel Kopatsch / Munich2022

Lawson first competed on the global stage at the Rio Olympics in 2016, where he finished fourth, and he sees little reason to tamper with things. “For the years I’ve been on the world stage, it was fine. Fans were really engaged, paying attention, and the atmosphere was just fine. I don’t think they need to change anything.”

GLASGOW, UK – MAR 2 : Image of Miltiadis TENTOGLOU, Mattia FURLANI, Carey MCLEOD, at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on MAR 2, 2024 in GLASGOW, UK (Photo by Dan Vernon for World Athletics).

Tentoglou said that his only peers who’d be in favour of the idea are those who “do a lot of fouls,” and he agreed with the others that the proposal would “remove all the skill” from the event. He’s had just enough of the tinkering during his years at the top.

“They changed enough already,” he said. “They made some really bad rules these years, which is unfair for us. I cannot compete anymore with all the (former) champions. They had different rules, more free rules. They have to check my spikes, the length of the spikes, the shoe. They put this laser on the board. I cannot compete against the old masters.”

What would he say to those in power at World Athletics?

“If I have to go and explain it, it’s obvious,” he said. “What is there to explain? They don’t respect us. We would like some more respect. How many people got injured from these new boards? Many people. Who cares about them? No one.

“If these rules apply, I will stop doing the long jump.”