An Illustrated History of the Triple Jump


The early days of the triple jump

Chuhei Nambu Competes in 1932 Olympics.

 Bettmann/Getty Images

There is evidence that the triple jump, in some form, dates to the ancient Greek Olympics. The long jump was indisputably part of the Greek games, but some jumpers recorded leaps of more than 50 feet, leading sports historians to conclude that these were actually a series of jumps.

The triple jump has been a part of the Olympics – for men, at least – since the first modern Games in 1896, when the event consisted of two hops with the same foot, followed by a jump. It was soon changed to the modern “hop, step and jump” pattern. Americans and Europeans dominated the early contests, but Japanese jumpers won three consecutive Olympic gold medals from 1928-36. Chuhei Nambu was the 1932 champion with a leap measuring 15.72 meters (51 feet, 6¾ inches).

At a standstill

Ray Ewry at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.

 Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Two early Olympic competitions included a standing triple jump event, in addition to the standard version, which was then called the “hop, step, and jump.” American Ray Ewry won both Olympic standing triple jump gold medals, in 1900 and 1904. 

Americans return

Al Joyner Leaps.

Mike Powell/Getty Images

American Al Joyner ended the Soviet Union’s run of four consecutive Olympic gold medals – including three earned by Viktor Saneyev – with a gold medal performance in the 1984 Games. It was the first U.S. victory in the Olympic triple jump since Myer Prinstein won in 1904.

A new frontier

Mike Conley.

Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/Getty Images

American Mike Conley’s 18.17-meter (59 feet, 7¼ inches), gold medal-winning jump in the 1992 Olympics was wind-aided and therefore was not recognized as an Olympic record. But the first 18-meter jump in Olympic history was a significant accomplishment, record or not.

Men’s world record

Jonathan Edwards from Great Britain during the men’s triple jump of the 2000 Olympics.

Dimitri Iundt/Getty Images

Jonathon Edwards of Great Britain broke the triple jump world record three times in 1995, with the last two occurring at the World Championships. He opened the Championship final by leaping 18.16/59-7. In the second round, he extended his world mark to 18.29/60-¼.

Women arrive

Inessa Kravets leaps to victory at the first Olympic women’s triple jump competition, in 1996.
 Lutz Bongarts/Getty Images

The women’s triple jump was finally added to the Olympics in 1996, with Ukraine’s Inessa Kravets winning the initial gold medal. One year earlier, Kravets established the women’s world record of 15.50/50-10¼ at the World Championships, just three days after Jonathan Edwards set the men’s world mark.

Double gold

Francoise Mbango Etone, on her way to victory during the 2008 Olympic triple jump final.
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Francoise Mbango Etone, of Cameroon, won consecutive Olympic triple jump gold medals in 2004-08.

Triple Jump Today.

Christian Taylor of the United States competes in the Men’s Triple Jump.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

American Christian Taylor challenged Jonathan Edwards’ world record in 2015, winning the World Championship triple jump gold medal by leaping 18.21/59-8¾.​

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