The high jump is exactly what it says on the tin. This is an athletic event that has been featured in the Olympics since 1896, so it’s definitely well established. In the high jump, athletes have to jump and clear a bar of a certain height. The athletes themselves tend to be rather tall, with male athletes averaging over 6ft 1, and female athletes averaging 5ft 10. They also need to be lean and slimly built, with strong quads and calves. These are essential to be able to jump high enough to clear the bar, but also be slim enough not to knock it. Speed, flexibility and coordination as also key for high jumpers: speed for the run up, flexibility to pull strange shapes in the air to clear the bar, and coordination so that there are no flailing limbs to knock the bar down.
As you may have guessed, a key rule in the long jump is that the athlete may not knock the bar down. If they do, their jump is not counted. This, however, is not the only rule. For example, athletes must take off of one foot only! During competitions, athletes pick the starting height of the pole individually, typically starting at quite a low height, and the height goes up by three to five cm each round. In the last few rounds, the height may only go up by one cm at a time as the higher you go, the trickier it gets. Each athlete gets 3 attempts at a particular height. If, in those three attempts, they can’t clear the bar, then they are out of the competition. Therefore, the competitor who clears the highest jump wins! In the case of a tie, the second highest jump will also be taken into consideration, and also the consistency of the jumper, so how many times they cleared each height for example.
Technique in the long jump event is one of the most evidently evolved in modern athletics. Until the 1960s, there were two types of jump: the scissors jump, and the western roll. In the scissors jump, the leading leg goes after the bar first, followed by the other leg straight away. This technique died out around the 1960s. Before this jump was popular, there was the western roll. In this jump, the athlete rotates the body so that their stomach faces the bar, effectively rolling above the bar. The highest jump that this technique produced was 2 meters.
Since the 1960s however, almost every jumper opts for the “Fosbury flop”, so named after the 1968 Olympic champion Dick Fosbury. This jump involves a curved run-up leading to a jump with the back arching over the bar, landing on ones back. In doing this landing, it’s important to tuck your chin in so that you don’t hurt your head. This technique only came in once mats were provided to land on, otherwise it wouldn’t be safe. So make sure you go to a club with the right equipment before you try out a Fosbury flop!
This is a sport whose records just get higher and higher with every innovation – who knows, you could be the next world high jumping record holder! Why not give it a try? Good luck!