Olympic Triple Jump Rules

Francoise Mbango Etone competes in the triple jump

Alexander Hassenstein / Getty Images

The triple jump's original name, the "hop, step, and jump," accurately describes this Olympic event. Jumpers must hit their marks accurately in all three phases of the jump to gain success. They use a combination of speed and strength, with consistent striding and sound technique. But it's less glamorous than its better-known cousin, the long jump.

American James Connolly became the first champion of the initial modern Olympic Games when he won the triple jump in 1896. The event was dominated by East Europeans through the '60s and '70s but has recently regained its status as one of the most highly-competitive Olympic events.

Jumping Area and Rules

The runway is at least 40 meters long. Competitors may place as many as two markers on the runway. Jumpers take off in the “hop” phase and land on the takeoff leg. They take one step onto the other foot (step phase), then jump. Otherwise, triple jump rules are identical to those of the long jump. Jumps are measured from the nearest impression made in the landing pit by any part of the jumper’s body.

The Competition

Each nation is permitted a maximum of three competitors. Olympic competition includes a qualifying round, where all entrants who achieve a pre-set standard will advance to the final. Qualifying results do not carry over into the final round.

Each finalist takes three jumps, then the top eight jumpers receive three more attempts. The longest single jump during the final wins.

1968 Olympic Games

The men’s world record of 55 feet, 10 1/2 inches (17.03 meters) took a beating in 1968 as the top five competitors all shattered the old mark. Eventual bronze medal winner Guiseppe Gentile of Italy set the tone during qualifying with a leap measuring 56 feet 1 1/4 inches. Gentile then jumped 56 feet 6 inches in the first round of the final. Viktor Saneyev of the USSR jumped past Gentile at 56 feet 6 1/2 inches in the third round. Brazil’s Nelson Prudenco leaped 56-8 in the fifth round to take the lead, but he had to settle for silver when Saneyev’s final jump measured 57 feet 3/4 inch. American Arthur Walker (56 feet 2 inches) and Nikolai Dudkin (56 feet 1 inch) of the Soviet Union also beat the former world record but still placed fourth and fifth, respectively.           

Controversy at 1980 Olympic Games

Judging controversies haven’t been uncommon in Olympic sports such as boxing, gymnastics and figure skating, but haven’t often touched track and field events. In 1980, however, many Western observers cried foul regarding the judging of the triple jump during the Moscow Games. The Soviet Union took both the gold and silver medals in the event, which was won by Jaak Uudmae with a jump measuring 56 feet, 11 1/4 inches (17.35 meters).

Leading non-USSR contenders Joao de Oliveira of Brazil and Australia’s Ian Campbell, however, were charged with a total of nine fouls in their 12 attempts. In one instance, Campbell was accused of dragging his trailing leg during the second, or “step” portion of the event. While he protested, the pit was raked, destroying any evidence. The world record-holder at 58 feet 8 1/2 inches, de Oliveira finished third in Moscow (56 feet 6 inches) while Campbell placed fifth (54 feet 10 1/14 inches).