When the Longest Jump Doesn’t Win the Long Jump: Against World Athletics' Final 3

FairPlay 22:75-88 (2022)
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Part of the draw of athletics is its straightforwardness. There are nuances to competitions to make them more sporting contests, but at the end of a long jump competition whomever records the longest jump should win. Unfortunately, a recent rule-change at the highest level of the sport – the “Final 3” format – undermined this simplicity for the horizontal jumps and the throws for some of the 2020 and much of the 2021 seasons. While fortunately this rule was largely reverted within days of the initial submission of this paper, it’s still valuable to critically evaluate why such a rule is problematic so as to better understand of the value of sporting competitions and give guidance on future rule changes, be they in athletics or other sports. To that end, we will be drawing from the literature on the purpose and value of competitions and coupling that with simulations based on data from actual top-tier long jump competitions to show that the Final 3 format makes for significantly worse competitions than the standard format.

Author's Profile

Alex Wolf-Root
University of Colorado, Boulder


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