Here's why the triple jump is the sport most likely to create 'super athletes'
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There’s often debate about which sport is the toughest. Triathlons and marathons demand endurance, rugby requires strength and physicality and just about every sport requires immense skill and/or training to excel in. But which sport conditions its competitors to become the ultimate athlete?
In terms of those aspiring to the Olympic motto of of ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’, none do so more than competitors of the triple jump. According to new research the triple jump, as a discipline, helps competitors build a stronger skeleton as well as building up immense strength and speed.
It’s similar to long jump. The winner is the competitor whose rearmost mark is the furthest from the point of jumping. It differs in that there are four phases - the run, the hop, the step and then the jump.
At the point between the landing and the hop, when the athlete lands, the force exerted on the ground by their limb is 22 times their body weight. This means that for an athlete that weighs 80kg, their leg experiences 1.7 tonnes. As a result, their bones have to be particularly thick and strong. They have to maintain exceptional levels of balance not only during the run but also the few seconds of landing, to ensure they don’t fall backwards and ruin the attempt.
As well as this, they have to be fast - very fast. The average speed with which male and female triple jumpers hit the takeoff board is 9.5 and 10.5 meters per second respectively. Usain Bolt’s top speed, from the 2009 World Championships, was 12.27 meters per second.
It was worked out that Kenny Harrison’s hop phase of 7.02m was equivalent to 8.29m in long jump - enough for silver at London 2012. However he carried on, on one leg, and went further.
It isn’t just physical prowess, either. A large amount of tactics and planning goes into the technique. There’s a fine line between speed and height habitully trodden by the triple-jumpers. Jump high enough to allow for distance, but not too high that speed is lost. Also being fast enough to travel a long distance, but not too fast that it stops a high jump, is crucial.
Then, there's arms to consider. By swinging their arms, momentum is maintained through the jump. Thus, most male athletes use the double-arm technique. That is, both arms swinging in the same direction as opposed to the opposite swing used in running or walking.
The exertion split between the hop, step and jump usually goes 30%, 35%, 35%. Or, they choose a technique in which the hop or jump is longer. Current Olympic Champion favours the jump-dominant technique, and he came close to beating the 18.29m WR set by Jonathan Edwards in 1995.
The strength and power that triple jumpers have is absolutely astounding and I urge you to go and watch some videos to fully appreciate the amazing feats brought into the spotlight by this research. I know it took me by surprise.