BIRMINGHAM: silver medalist at the Commonwealth Games in the long jump Murali Sreeshankar regretted missing out on a gold medal, saying his fourth jump, which was ruled a foul under new laser-based technology, would have been legal in an earlier system and big enough to finish on the top step of the podium .
Sreeshankar and eventual gold winner Laquan Nairn of the Bahamas achieved the same best jumps at 8.08 m. Nairn was declared the gold winner as his second best 7.98m was better than Sreeshankar’s 7.84m.
According to the rules, if two jumpers are tied over the same distance, the one with the best second-best effort will be ranked ahead.
Sreeshankar, 23, said he initially thought he made a valid big jump on his fourth attempt, which would have earned him a gold medal. However, his jump was ruled a foul under the new system.
“I was very surprised, you can’t call it (fourth jump) a foul because I never got past the foul board but she (the pit official) explained to me the exact position of the jump , the movement of my foot going through the perpendicular plate,” Sreeshankar said in a virtual interaction.
“If it was the previous system we had in recent years, it wouldn’t have been called a foul,” said the national record holder (8.36m).
He said that the conditions during the CTM The long jump final was not ideal as it was a bit cold and windy.
“The performance on the particular day counts. In the big championships, winning a medal is the priority.
“I completely missed the first three jumps, trying to get safe jumps (leaving a good gap). My goal after that was to be on the podium with good jumps in the last three attempts.”
Sreeshankar experienced the new system for the first time in March at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade where he finished seventh.
“Previously the foul board was angled at 45 degrees, but from this year it was just a perpendicular plate between the foul board and the take-off board. So it’s not ideal to have a perfect takeoff in the current scenario.
“If you hit the take-off board a centimeter or a millimeter ahead and the foot continues into the take-off angle, it will automatically cross that perpendicular plate and be called a foul.”
Athletes stripped of medals under new system
The new system (which also governs the triple jump) came into effect on November 1, 2021 after the World Athletics Council gave his approval.
In the old manual system, a no-jump is called if an athlete is judged, while taking off, to have touched the ground beyond the take-off line. A plasticine board placed at a 45 degree angle has long been used to help with such decisions.
“According to the new technical rule, it will be a failed take-off if any part of the take-off shoe or foot breaks the vertical plane of the take-off line. It was felt that this would be more understandable and easier to judge,” World Athletics said in a statement in September 2020.
“The old rule sometimes allowed the tips to visibly touch the line without marking the playdough. In the future, such moments must be fouls and the playdough board, if used, must be set at 90°.”
Sreeshankar believes the laser-based system introduced last year to judge take-off faults has led many athletes to ‘miss medals’, but backed the new technology, saying it will remove human error in the sport.
“The number of faults has been quite common with current technology, many jumpers have good jumps that have been (judged) faults. Many athletes have missed a medal because of this new system,” Sreeshankar said.
“In recent World’s Championships, silver medalist (and reigning Olympic champion) Miltiadis Tentoglou (Greece) suffered the same type of fault. He thought he never stepped over the clay panel, but that was counted as a foul.
“His coach and my dad (also Sreeshankar’s coach) were talking about it. Most athletes are quite disappointed with the new type of system that is being introduced.”
“The new system will remove human error, have to live with it”
Sreeshankar, who finished seventh at the world championships, added that the new system will eliminate human error and athletes will have to adapt to the technology.
“With the new technology, human error can be avoided. Also in the measurement, there is no one to physically measure the jumps, it is a laser measurement system. A camera is fixed in the pit and the measurement is automatic.”
On living with the new system, Sreeshankar said, “Instead of aiming for the perfect launch, we can spare about 4-5cm behind the board just to be safe.
“Attempting a perfect takeoff with zero centimeters to lose will not be an ideal thing in the current technological system. Since we have to rely more on technology rather than the naked eye, we have to accept it.”
Sreeshankar said he will take part in the Diamond League leg of Monaco on August 10. He also signed up for the World Athletics Tour Silver Label event in Lausanne on August 30.
President of the AIF Adille Sumariwalla supports the new system
Adille Sumariwalla, president of the Indian Athletics Federation and a member of the World Athletics Council, said the introduction of the system will end the manipulation of measurements.
“This system is perfect because it is a laser-based system for take-off and measurement. This will eliminate all kinds of human error and even manipulation as we have seen in the past,” said- he declared.
“At the world championships in Rome, a medal was taken from an Italian after many years and given to another who really deserved it. There are no human measures involved in this system and no chance of manipulation.”
When asked when the system might come to India, he replied, “It’s a very expensive system. It’s currently being used in the Olympics, World Championships and Diamond League (in addition to CWG) .
“Over a period of time, he will also come to India.”