avril 23, 2024

Athletics news 2024: David Culbert on proposed change to long jump

4 min read

Two-time Australian Olympic Games long jumper David Culbert says that as a purist of the sport he despises the controversial rule change raised by World Athletics this week, which will see the traditional board replaced with a « take-off zone » at low-level meets.

But Culbert is also an athletics commentator and involved in athletics broadcast production — and because of what he’s observed from those perspectives, he says the radical change is an « absolute no brainer ».

Culbert also insisted that records set under the new rule, such as world, Olympic, Commonwealth and national records, must be separated from records set previously, which would protect American legend Mike Powell’s world record of 8.95 metres, set in 1991. Powell’s astonishing mark is among the oldest current world records in athletics.

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World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon set off a raging argument when he flagged the rule change on the Anything But Footy podcast this week.

Traditionally, a foul is called if the athlete’s foot crosses the board. Hitting the board but not breaching it is a skill that’s been key to the ancient sport.

But under the rule set to be trialled at low-level meets, the athlete’s jump will be measured from where their front foot lands provided they land inside the « take-off zone », which will be far bigger than the area of the board.

American athletics legend Carl Lewis in action at the Seoul 1988 Olympics. (Tony Duffy)

« It adds to the jeopardy and the drama of the competition, » said World Athletics CEO Ridgeon.

« You cannot make change in a sport that was basically invented 150 years ago without some controversy, » he added.

Culbert competed at the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Olympics.

« As a long jump purist I hate the idea, » Culbert told Wide World of Sports.

« Hitting the board under pressure when it matters — that’s the skill of the event.

« As a broadcaster and as a promoter of the sport and someone involved in television production, I think it’s an absolute no brainer to reduce the down time in a number of field events, but long and triple jump in particular. So on that basis, I think it’s worth trialling and investigating. »

David Culbert (left) pictured in 2018. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Culbert was a member of the broadcast team that delivered this month’s Adelaide Invitational.

How track and field broadcasts generally work is field events aren’t shown live, but at the Adelaide Invitational they were.

Eight of the 10 times the broadcast panned to the triple jump in Adelaide, fans were let down by the sight of a foul, Culbert said.

« So that’s probably 8-10 minutes of broadcast time that delivered not one thing of value to the broadcaster, » he said.

« I know that World Athletics, from their review of Budapest [the 2023 world titles in Hungary], are quoting stats about the number of fouls, but also the time it takes to measure the jumps. It’s a time-soaker. Therefore, that’s why a broadcaster won’t go to a field event; it takes too long and there’s no entertainment value out of it, there’s no result out of it, there’s no impact for the fan out of it … It’s a passion-killer.

Australia’s Brooke Buschkuehl, an Olympic and Commonwealth Games long jumper. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

« I understand that it takes away from the skill, but I think it’s absolutely worth investigating. »

Legendary American long jumper and sprinter Carl Lewis, who won long jump gold medals at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics, has been scathing of the move.

« You’re supposed to wait until April 1st for April Fools jokes, » Lewis wrote on X.

« I guess it supports what I’ve been saying, that the long jump is the most difficult event in track and field. That would just eliminate the most difficult skill from the event.

« Just make the basket larger for free throws because so many people miss them. What do you think? »

When Culbert was asked if he would be open to the « take-off zone » being introduced to the Olympics, he said it was too early to say.

« It’s a tougher call to introduce it at Olympics, world championships, national championships, but the … Diamond League is there for entertainment, » he said.

« It’s for crowds, it’s for television. So if it’s not entertaining, then you need to change it. »

But he’s strong in his view that records must be separated.

« You just park the current record; Mike Powell is the long jump world record holder and this record is different. You start from scratch. That’s the only way you can do it, » Culbert said.

« The men’s long jump world record has been broken twice since 1968 — [Bob] Beamon first and then Powell. Under this situation it’ll probably be broken, because it’ll be easier. »

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