BIRMINGHAM: Commonwealth Games silver medallist long jumper Murali Sreeshankar rued missing out on a gold, saying his fourth jump, which was ruled a foul under laser-based new technology, would have been legal in an earlier system and big enough to finish on top of the podium.
Sreeshankar and eventual gold winner Laquan Nairn of Bahamas had identical best jumps of 8.08m. Nairn was adjudged gold winner as his second best of 7.98m was better than 7.84m of Sreeshankar.
Under rules, if two jumpers are tied on the same distance, the one who has a better second best effort will be ranked ahead.
The 23-year-old Sreeshankar said he initially thought he had a big valid jump in his fourth attempt which would have given him a gold. However, his jump was adjudged a foul under the new system.
“I was very surprised, you can’t call it (fourth jump) a foul because I never overstepped the foul board but she (pit-side official) explained to me the exact jumping position, movement of my foot which was crossing the perpendicular plate,” Sreeshankar said in a virtual interaction.
“If it was the previous system which we had in past years, it would not have been called a foul,” said the national record holder (8.36m).
He said the conditions during the CWG long jump final was not ideal as it was a bit cold and windy.
“Performance on the particular day matters. In major championships, winning a medal is the priority.
“I completely messed up the first three jumps, trying to have safe jumps (by leaving a good gap). My focus after that was to be on the podium with good jumps in the final three attempts.”
Sreeshankar first experienced the new system in March during the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade where he had finished seventh.
“Earlier, the foul board was inclined at 45 degree, but from this year it was just a perpendicular plate in between the foul board and take off board. So, it is not ideal to have a perfect take off in the current scenario.
“If you hit the take off board with a centimetre or millimetre to spare and if the foot goes on in the take-off angle, it will automatically cross that perpendicular plate and will be called a foul.”
Athletes missing out on medals under new system
The new system (which also governs triple jump) came into force on November 1, 2021 after the World Athletics Council gave its 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 set at an angle of 45 degree has been long used to assist with such decisions.
“Under the new Technical Rule, it will be a failure on 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 simpler to judge,” World Athletics had said in a release in September 2020.
“The old rule occasionally allowed toecaps to visibly broach the line without marking plasticine. In the future, such moments are to be fouls and the plasticine board, if used, is to be set at 90°.”
Sreeshankar feels that the laser-based system introduced last year to judge jump take-off fouls has led to many athletes “missing out on medals” but backed the new technology, saying it will remove human error in the sport.
“The number of fouls have been quite frequent under current technology, many jumpers are having good jumps which have been (adjudged) fouls. A lot of athletes missed out on medal because of this new system,” Sreeshankar said.
“In the recent World Championships, silver medallist (and reigning Olympic champion) Miltiadis Tentoglou (of Greece) had experienced a similar kind of foul. He thought he never stepped over the plasticine board but it was counted as foul.
“His coach and my father (also Sreeshankar’s coach) was talking about it. Most of the athletes are quite disappointed with the new kind of system which is introduced.”
‘New system will remove human error, will have to live with it’
Sreeshankar, who finished seventh in the World Championships, added that the new system will take away human error and athletes will have to adjust to the technology.
“With the new technology, human error can be avoided. In the measurement also, there is no one to physically measure the jumps, it is a laser measurement system. A camera is fixed within the pit and measurement comes automatically.”
On how to live with the new system, Sreeshankar said, “Instead of going for the perfect take off, we can spare around 4-5 cm behind the board just to be safe.
“Trying for a perfect take-off with zero centimeter to spare 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 compete in the Monaco leg of the Diamond League on August 10. He has also entered for the World Athletics Tour silver label event in Lausanne on August 30.
AFI President Adille Sumariwalla backs new system
Athletics Federation of India President and World Athletics Council member Adille Sumariwalla said the introduction of the system will stop manipulation in measurement.
“This system is perfect because it is a laser based system for take-off and measurement. This will do away with all sorts of human error and even manipulation as we have seen in the past,” he said.
“In the Rome World Championships, a medal was taken away from an Italian after many years and given to another who actually deserved it. There is no human measurement involved in this system and no chance of manipulation.”
Asked when the system may come to India, he said, “It is a very expensive system. It is used currently in the Olympics, World Championships and Diamond League (besides CWG).
“Over a period of time, it will also come to India.”