Carl Lewis Calls Proposed Format Change In Long Jump An April Fools’ Joke

Lewis competes in the long jump at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. (David Cannon/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By George Ramsay, CNN

(CNN) — A proposed format change could shake-up the long jump at major track and field competitions, but will the idea take flight? That’s the big question for those involved in the sport right now, notably nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis.

The new format, which has been put forward by World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon, could see athletes jump from a take-off zone, rather than a take-off board, essentially doing away with foul jumps.

It would mean that jumps are measured from where an athlete takes off to where they land in the pit.

“If you take the long jump at the world championships in Budapest last summer, a third of all jumps were no-jumps,” Ridgeon said on an episode of the Anything But Footy podcast, which was released on Monday.

“Athletes stepping over the front of the take-off board – that doesn’t work, that’s a waste of time … [the proposed format] means every single jump counts, it adds to the jeopardy of the competition, the drama of the competition.”

Ridgeon added that World Athletics will test the concept this year with “very good athletes,” explaining that “if it doesn’t pass testing, we’ll never introduce it.”

When contacted by CNN, a World Athletics spokesperson confirmed that the organization is “running tests with take-off zones in multiple locations and across several training groups,” which will continue throughout the outdoor season.

“As a sport with a 150 year history, World Athletics will never introduce any new rules should they not be in the best interest of our sport,” the spokesperson added.

“However, these take-off zone tests are being undertaken in the hopes of innovating our sport for the benefit of the athletes, our fans, and ensuring that our sport is fit for purpose for the next 150 years.”

But the very suggestion of the format change has been enough to irk some.

“You’re supposed to wait until April 1st for April Fools [sic] jokes,” Lewis, who won four consecutive Olympic gold medals for the US in the long jump between 1984 and 1996, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“The long jump is the most difficult event in track and field,” Lewis said in a separate post. “[The change] would just eliminate the most difficult skill from the event. Just make the basket larger for free throws because so many people miss them.”

The 62-year-old Lewis also said that a “lack of discipline and consistency on the runway that exists will only get worse.”

British long jumper Jazmin Sawyers, the reigning European indoor champion, said that she is not in favor of the proposal when she spoke at length about it on Instagram Stories on Tuesday.

Sawyers did outline some of the pros of the different format – such as removing fouls and potentially producing bigger jumps – alongside the cons – a difficulty of replicating the format at grassroots level and removing the skill of timing your run up to jump from the board.

“I think that having the board is part of the drama,” Sawyers said. “When you’ve had somebody do two fouls, will they manage to make it and get another jump in? Who knows?”

Also writing on Instagram Stories, Serbian reigning world champion Ivana Španović said that swapping to a take-off zone would remove the “authenticity” from the event.

But not everyone is against the idea. Former British distance runner Tim Hutchings, now a broadcaster, said that the proposal is a “user-friendly advancement” that should “attract/retain more fans.”

Hutchings, writing on X, added: “It’s ‘Long Jump’, not ‘Long Jump from a certain spot.’”

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