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High Jump

High jump

Table of Contents


Welcome

So, you've chosen to learn about the sport of high jump in track and field. Fantastic choice! It is one of the only two Olympic vertical clearance events in track and field, and was also one of the very first competitions that allowed women to participate as well. Let's take a closer look.


What We'll Be Learning

We'll first discuss the dimensions and the boundaries of the field, the surface upon which all the jumping and throwing events are held. Afterwards, we'll break down the process of the high jump into six steps, and explore the rules and strategies for each one.


High Jump Glossary Terms

Here are all the terms we will be covering related to the sport of high jumping in track and field.

  • High Jump
  • Standard Competition Area
  • Arena
  • Track
  • Field
  • Infield
  • The Runway
  • Check Mark
  • The Crossbar
  • Standards
  • Uprights
  • The Landing Area
  • The 10 Step Approach
  • The J-Curve Run-Up
  • Cutting the Curve
  • Double Arm Takeoff
  • Single Arm Takeoff
  • Flop Style
  • Fosbury Flop
  • The Approach Run
  • The Takeoff
  • Flight
  • Fair Jump
  • Foul Jump

What is the high jump?

The high jump event dates back to the 1800s when it was created in Scotland. Over the years, strategies for the high jump have changed many times. If one runner discovers a new method of jumping, other athletes copy each other so that they don't miss out on any new advantage.

In the event, runners attempt to jump over a horizontal bar. Athletes must clear the bar without knocking it down. If the athlete grazes the bar but it is not knocked down, it is counted as a successful jump. After each runner takes their attempt, the bar is raised and the next round of attempts begins. The amount that the bar is raised varies based on the competition, but a typical amount is 2 inches.

Typically, runners are eliminated if they fail to clear the bar three consecutive times. However, rules like this can vary based off of the league or competition. The winner is the athlete who is able to jump over the bar at the tallest height.

The high jump appeals to a very specific type of athlete. These competitors must be very nimble to clear the bar. It also is very beneficial to be tall and have strong legs. They share many of the same traits as hurdle runners.

The first Summer Olympics, which occurred in 1896, featured the high jump. The high jump has been in the Summer Olympics each time since then. The high jump is also notable for women, as it was the only Summer Olympic Sport open to women from 1928 to 1948.


The High Jump Facility

The high jump facility is made up of three components:

1. The Runway

2. The Crossbar

3. The Landing Pit


The Runway

The runway is the designated region of all-weather polyurethane surfacing where the approach run is performed. The high jump runway is often also referred to as the runway fan, as it is designed in a shape of a semicircle with a minimum radius of 20 m. Note that the runway is positioned so that the straight edge of the semicircle is in contact and parallel to the 4 m edge of the landing pit. Furthermore, the uppermost peak of the semicircle is centered and aligned with the landing pit, and is the furthest point away from it.


The Crossbar

The crossbar is the horizontal bar that marks the minimum height that the high jumper must clear. It is supported on either side by two vertical posts called standards, or uprights.


The Landing Pit

The landing pit is the thickly padded mattress located directly behind the crossbar. It has a minimum width of 4 m, length of 6 m, and height of 0.7 m, and is designed to ensure the safety of the athlete upon impact after the flight.


The Number of Competitors

Only one competitor at a time is allowed to attempt the high jump. This means that only the eligible competitor may be in the high jump facility at any given time. All other athletes who have finished their attempts, or are awaiting their turn, must ensure that they are not in contact with any part of the runway, the crossbar, or the landing pit.


The Runway Lines

The runway, or the runway fan, is designed in a shape of a semicircle with a minimum radius of 20 m. It is also marked on the ground by white lines, similar to the white lines defining the boundaries of the track lanes. The high jump competitor must not step on or beyond any of the white lines delineating the runway fan during the approach run, as doing so will invalidate the attempt as a foul jump.


The Starting Height

The athlete may enter the competition at any crossbar height announced by the event official, at his own individual discretion.


The Pass

The athlete may choose to pass, or to advance further into the competition, without clearing the previous height. There is no limit as to how many times the athlete is allowed to pass.


The Number of Attempts

Every competitor is given three attempts to clear the crossbar at the height of his choice. A total of three failed attempts, at any height or combination of heights, will result in the immediate disqualification of the competitor.


The Time Limit

For each attempt, the competitor is given a total of 1 minute to complete the jump. However, when there are only 3 athletes remaining in the competition, each competitor is given 1.5 minutes to complete the jump. Finally, when there is only 1 athlete remaining, the competitor is given a total of 3 minutes to complete the jump.

If the competitor fails to finish the attempt before the appropriate time limit, the jump will be declared an invalid foul jump.


The Start Point

Unlike the foot racing events of track and field, there is no official start line or required start position for the high jump. Instead, competitors are free to initiate their approach run at any point within the boundaries of the runway fan, in whatever starting position they prefer. However, keep in mind that an attempt in which the competitor steps on or over the boundary lines of the runway will be deemed an invalid foul jump.


The Check Marks

Competitors may place a maximum of two check marks alongside the runway, outside the boundary lines, to assist them in executing a successful high jump. A check mark is a small marker that serves as a guide or a milestone during the approach run.


The Objective

The approach run is the first stage of the high jump, in which the competitor accelerates towards the crossbar in an upside-down J-shaped path to reach maximum speed just before the takeoff. The main objective of the approach run is to build up the necessary power and momentum to propel the competitor over the greatest possible vertical height.

As proper timing, a controlled speed, and a specific pathway are all required in order for the entire jump to be executed successfully, the approach run is widely considered to be the most crucial and difficult aspects of high jumping. Let's take a closer look.


The Approach Run Position

Although the starting position will differ for every individual, most elite right-handed competitors often begin their approach runs at about 10 strides behind the right standard, and 5 more strides to the right.

Athletes typically allocate one check mark to identify their starting point, and another check mark to distinguish the transition from straight to curved running, located at about 5 strides in front of their starting point


The Approach Run Strategy

In order to successfully execute the approach run, most elite high jumpers employ the 10-step approach, which follows an upside-down J-shaped path to the crossbar. A hard, calculated stride is essential to this strategy. The 10-step approach can be divided into two stages:

1. The First Five Steps

2. The Final Five Steps


The First Five Steps

In a standard 10-step approach, the first 5 steps are run completely in a straight line. This stage is often described as running the straight stem of an upside-down J-shaped pathway.

The competitor begins the attempt by pushing off from his starting point with his takeoff foot. Although either a standing start or a crouch start position may be used, it is recommended that the athlete quickly accelerates into an upright running position by his third stride. Finally, before he reaches his second check mark (which identifies the halfway point of the 10-step approach run), the competitor must make sure to angle his non-takeoff foot towards the direction of the nearest standard. This begins the preparation for the next stage, the running of the curve.


The Final Five Steps

In a standard 10-step approach, the final 5 steps are run in an inward curve towards the crossbar. This stage is often described as running the curved portion of an upside-down J-shaped pathway.

If the approach run has been executed properly, the takeoff foot will have landed in front of the non-takeoff foot on the sixth step. From this point, the athlete must accelerate towards the crossbar in a smooth arc. It is crucial that the entire body is kept tall and upright, with a lean of 30 - 40 degrees away from the crossbar. In addition, the athlete must run by leading with the ankles, as this will help achieve the correct angle for the hips upon takeoff. The head should also be held straight up, with the eyes focused above the crossbar, towards the far standard.

Finally, on the last two steps before the takeoff, the athlete must ensure that his feet are landing flat on each stride and making full contact with the ground.

The athlete must be continuously accelerating throughout the entirety of the approach run. The greater the speed, the greater the amount of forward momentum that will be converted to vertical height.


Cutting the Curve

This is a common mistake that is made during the final five steps of the 10-step approach, in which the athlete runs directly towards the center of the crossbar in a straight line, rather than following a smooth curve. With this abrupt change in direction, the athlete will be unable to establish the necessary rotation to propel him over the crossbar.


The Objective

The main objective of the takeoff is to convert the horizontal speed and momentum that have been built up during the approach run into the greatest possible vertical height. This is highly dependent upon the position and angling of the competitor's body.


The Takeoff Position

Contrary to popular belief, the takeoff must be initiated, not in front of the center of the crossbar, but around the edge of the crossbar, near the closest standard. By doing so, the athlete's momentum will carry him over the center of the crossbar, its lowest point.


The Takeoff Strategies

There are two main takeoff strategies:

1. The Double Arm Takeoff

2. The Single Arm Takeoff


The Double Arm Takeoff

On the final, tenth stride of the approach run, the athlete must plant his takeoff foot (the foot that is further away from the crossbar) firmly on the ground, with the toes pointing towards the far standard. Simultaneously, the non-takeoff leg must be driven powerfully into the ground, with the thighs held parallel to the ground, while both arms are forcefully swung upwards, close to either side of the head. Finally, while maintaining the lean of 30 - 40 degrees away from the crossbar, the athlete must launch upwards explosively, pulling the chin in tight against his neck..


The Single Arm Takeoff

On the final, tenth stride of the approach run, the athlete must plant his takeoff foot (the foot that is further away from the crossbar) firmly on the ground, with the toes pointing towards the far standard. Simultaneously, the non-takeoff leg must be driven powerfully into the ground, with the thighs held parallel to the ground, while the takeoff arm (the arm that is on the same side of the body as the takeoff leg) is forcefully swung upwards. Although the single-arm takeoff allows for greater speed than the double arm takeoff, it is important that the other arm is not shifted towards the crossbar, as this will disrupt the overall momentum and potentially ruin the jump.

Finally, while maintaining the lean of 30 - 40 degrees away from the crossbar, the athlete must launch upwards explosively, pulling the chin in tight against his neck.


Disqualification

For whichever takeoff strategy that the athlete may choose to follow, it is imperative that he takes off on one foot only. An attempt in which the competitor launches upward on both feet will be declared an invalid foul jump.


The Objective

The main objective of the flight is to properly position the different parts of the body in order to successfully clear the bar. For this to happen, the athlete must rotate horizontally, to position the body parallel to the crossbar, as well as towards the side, to face upwards while passing over the crossbar. This is a highly dynamic and technical step that requires a high level of coordination. Let's take a closer look.


The Flight Strategy

The main flight strategy that is used by competitors at the elite level is called the Fosbury Flop, or the Flop Style. The Fosbury Flop can be further divided into three steps:

1. The Beginning

2. The Approach

3. The Clearance


The Fosbury Flop: The Beginning

Immediately after the athlete has launched off the ground, the arm(s) and the knees must continue to be held up.


The Fosbury Flop: The Approach

As the airborne athlete approaches the crossbar, the body must begin to arch, rotating the non-takeoff leg, as well as the hips and shoulders, until the athlete is facing upwards. The thighs must be parallel to the ground, and the legs and feet held close together, with only the knees slightly apart.


The Fosbury Flop: The Clearance

The head, facing upwards towards the sky, will be the first part of the athlete's body to approach the top of the crossbar. Once the athlete's head has cleared the crossbar, it must be tipped further backwards towards the landing pit to help the shoulders and the torso to also successfully rise over and clear the crossbar. The body must continuously be arched so that whatever part that is directly over the crossbar is always the vertically highest point of the athlete's body. Finally, once the hips have successfully cleared the crossbar as well, the head must be pulled back up again, with the chin tucked tight against the neck, while the legs are at last straightened out and quickly kicked high up above the crossbar.


The Objective

The main objective of the landing is to gain contact with the landing pit in as safe and smooth manner as possible, as an improper or unbalanced landing may result in various injuries.


The Landing Pit

The landing pit is the thickly padded mattress located directly behind the crossbar. It has a minimum width of 4 m, length of 6 m, and height of 0.7 m, and is designed to ensure the safety of the athlete upon impact after the flight.


The Landing Strategy

Once every part of the body has cleared the crossbar, the athlete must stretch out the arms and legs in order to create more air resistance. This will slow the athlete's downward momentum and therefore soften the impact of the fall. To further reduce the potential of injuries, the athlete's back must be the first part of the body to make contact with the landing pit.

A smooth, light landing is as important as fully clearing the crossbar, as a successful fair jump is defined as one in which the crossbar remains in place throughout the entire attempt, from the start of the approach run to the athlete's exit from the competition arena. For instance, it is entirely possible that an attempt in which the competitor has cleared the crossbar can still be declared an invalid foul jump, if the competitor, upon landing or while exiting the landing pit, dislodges the crossbar from its place.

The crossbar does not need to fall down to the ground for an attempt will be declared an invalid foul jump. An instance in which the crossbar remains between the two standards, but has shifted from its original position, will also be declared an invalid foul jump.


The Completion of the Attempt

Every competitor is given three attempts to leap as far as possible from a valid takeoff point into the landing pit. A competitor is deemed as having completed an attempt when he has fully exited the landing pit.


Timing

For each attempt, the competitor is given a total of 1 minute to complete the jump. However, when there are only 3 athletes remaining in the competition, each competitor is given 1.5 minutes to complete the jump. Finally, when there is only 1 athlete remaining, the competitor is given a total of 3 minutes to complete the jump.


Fair Jump

A fair jump refers to an attempt in which the high jump competitor has abided by all the boundary rules, and the crossbar has remained in place throughout the entire attempt. In other words, the crossbar must not be dislodged from its original position during any point between the start of the approach run and the moment when the athlete fully exits the landing pit.


Foul Jump

A foul jump refers to an attempt in which the high jump competitor has broken one or more of the event rules. The height cleared by the athlete in a foul jump will not be recorded or considered in determining the winner.

A foul jump is declared when one or more of the following occurs:

1. The competitor has failed to complete the attempt before the appropriate amount of time has elapsed.

2. The competitor has stepped on or beyond the white boundary lines of the runway fan.

3. The actions of the competitors have caused the crossbar to become dislodged from its original position.


Disqualification

Every competitor is given three attempts to clear the crossbar at the height of his choice. A total of three failed attempts or foul jumps, at any height or combination of heights, will result in the elimination of the competitor.


The Winner

The winner of a high jump event is the competitor who has cleared the greatest vertical height, as measured from the ground to the center of the crossbar. Note that although all fair jumps of a competitor will be recorded by the officials, only the one with the greatest height will be used to determine the athlete's standing in the event.



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