Olympic Long Jump Rules

Equipment Requirements, Rules, and Techniques for the Olympic Long Jump

Man competing in long jump
Ian Patterson/Flickr

The long jump was an event included in the ancient Greek Olympics, although it had significantly different rules back then. The long jump for men has been a modern Olympic event since 1896, along with the standing long jump. The latter event was dropped, however after the 1912 Olympics. A women's Olympic long jump event was added in 1948.  The event is sometimes called "the broad jump."

Equipment and Long Jump Rules

The sole of a long jumper’s shoe can have a maximum thickness of 13 millimeters. Spikes are allowed.

The runway must be at least 40 meters long. Competitors may place as many as two location markers on the runway. The jumper's farthest point forward in contact with the takeoff board—i. e., the toe of the jumper's shoe—must be behind the leading edge of the takeoff board. The board itself must be 20 centimeters wide and level with the ground. Somersaults are not permitted. Jumpers must land within the sand pit in the landing area, which may vary in width from 2.75 to 3.0 meters.

How Do They Measure the Long Jump?

Long jumps are measured from the forward edge of the takeoff board to the impression in the landing pit closest to the takeoff board made by any part of the jumper's body. 

Each jump must be completed within one minute from the time the jumper steps onto the runway. Jumps executed with a tailwind or more than two meters per second don't count. 

The Competition

Twelve competitors qualify for the Olympic long jump final.  Results from the qualification rounds do not carry over into the final.

Each finalist takes three jumps, then the top eight jumpers receive three more attempts. The longest single jump during the final wins. If two jumpers are tied, the jumper with the longer second best jump is awarded the medal.

The Complexity of the Long Jump

Viewed casually, nothing could be simpler: the runner stands at the beginning of the runway, accelerates to the takeoff board, then jumps as far as he or she can. 

In reality, the long jump is one of the more technical Olympic events. There are at least three different techniques for approaching the takeoff board, each with its own arm and body position. The maximum acceleration is achieved with the longest legal run-up (by using the full 40 meters of the runway). But the more steps the jumper takes, the more difficult it becomes to calibrate the takeoff with the forward edge of the runner's takeoff foot as close as possible to the leading edge of the takeoff board without fouling.

All but the last two strides are normally the same length. The second-to-last stride, however, is longer and is designed to lower the runner's center of gravity. The last stride is shorter than the others and is designed to do the opposite—to lift the center of gravity of the jumper's body as high as possible in order to begin executing the jump itself.

Hand and arm position, as well as the jumper' body angle during the time the jumper is in the air, are also important. Several different techniques are used in order to maximize the jumper's total distance without causing the jumper to fall backward during the landing.