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From a hop to a step

While sprinters have been known to enter the long jump and strongmen have competed in both discus and shot put, the triple jump's unique and unnatural timing and motion have made it something of a specialized discipline.

The triple jump took on its current form in time for the 1896 Games

Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon competes in the women's triple jump final during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games. ((Michael Steele/Getty Images))

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The ancient Greeks practiced an event that was literally a triple jump: three long jumps taken one after the other. The Celts also came up with a technique of three jumps in sequence, which was codified and put into a regulated form toward the close of the 19th century, initially by the Irish, who have a long tradition of jumping sports, and later by the Americans.

The triple jump originally took the form of a hop-hop-jump, the first two hops being taken with the same foot, but it had taken on its current form of the hop-step-jump in time for the 1896 Olympics.

The first medal given out at those Olympics was in the triple jump, giving American James Connolly the distinction of being the first recorded Olympic gold medallist since Prince Varasdates of Armenia won the boxing event in 369 AD.

While sprinters have been known to enter the long jump and strongmen have competed in both discus and shot put, the triple jump's unique and unnatural timing and motion have made it something of a specialized discipline.

Repeat winners

As a result the event has had an unusually high number of repeat winners for an athletics event. Between 1952 and 1976 only three men stood at the top of the podium: Ademar da Silva of Brazil, Jozef Schmidt of Poland and Victor Saneyev of the Soviet Union.

Brazilian athlete Adhemar Ferreira da Silva sets a new world record of 16.22 metres in the triple jump at the Helsinki Olympics 1952. ((Hulton Archive/Getty Images))
Canada's lone medal winner was J. Garfield MacDonald, a Cape Bretoner from Port Hastings who won the silver at the 1908 London games.

In one of those strange quirks of track and field history, the triple jump didn't become a women's event until 2000 - it was another one of those events thought to be too taxing on the delicate constitutions of women. Tereza Marinova of Bulgaria surprised heavy favourite Tatyana Lebedova in the first-ever event at Sydney.

The 2004 Olympic gold medal was won by Francoise Mbango of Cameroon, the first medal by someone from her country. Her victory was marred when a Greek television reporter announced she had tested positive for an illegal substance. There was no truth to the report and it was eventually revealed that the reporter had overheard two athletes gossiping.

It was the second time Mbango had suffered unfair practices. While based in Paris she was refused admittance to her usual training grounds when she refused to switch her allegiance to France.

Notable Medallists

Internationals

Viktor Saneyev, Soviet Union - 3 gold (1968-1976), silver (1980)

Ademar Ferreira da Silva, Brazil - 2 gold (1952, 1956)

Meyer Prinstein, U.S. - 2 gold (1900, 1904)

Jozef Schmidt, Poland - 2 gold (1960, 1964)

Mike Conley, U.S. - 1 gold (1992), 1 silver (1984)

Jonathan Edwards, Great Britain - 1 gold (2000), 1 silver (1996)

Vilho Tuulos, Finland - 1 gold (1920), 2 bronze (1924, 1928)

 

Canadian Medallist

J. Garfield MacDonald - 1 silver (1908 London)

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