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Long Jump masterclass with Chelsea Jaensch

19 Dec 2017 by Andrew Bryan

There is a lot more happening in the Long Jump than meets the eye, it isn’t just about running fast and jumping.

Every extra centimetre in the pit is extremely hard earned.

The sheer amount of force that goes through the body of an athlete in a jump is mind-blowing, a whopping 20-times the bodyweight goes through the foot to jump.

Women’s long jump in Australia is currently going through a boom period.

Australian record holder Brooke Stratton and Naa Anang have both jumped A-qualifiers this year, Olympian Chelsea Jaensch was impressive in her comeback recently, while Lauren Wells and Jess Penney are all jumping well.

GC2018.com caught up with Olympian and Commonwealth Games hopeful Chelsea Jaensch to break down everything that happens in the event. 

Read our feature story on Chelsea Jaensch

Explain the two markers of long jump?

In long jump you are allowed to have two markers, you can put them anywhere you like. You usually have one where you start from and some people don’t use the second. I use the other as a check marker to gauge getting on the board.

I put my marker six paces from the board, it gives me roughly 13 metres before the board to make an adjustment. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is enough time to make a slight change to get on the board as best you can.

Explain your run-up?

My run-up is 38.80 metres or 20 steps. It is a number I’ve had for a long time, but you tweak it as the season goes on.

Naa Anang’s is about the same as mine, but Brooke Stratton’s is a bit longer because she sort of has a jog-in run-up approach to the board.

Running is a massive component of the long jump and the consistency of hitting the board or the same mark each time is crucial. It is similar to fast bowlers in cricket, or gymnasts.

We do heaps of sprint work on the track of that distance to make sure we are consistent. We use a tape measure at the start of the competition to make sure our run-up is exactly right.

Wind conditions and heat of the track can also affect that, so that all needs to be gauged.

When you are running down the runway, one of your steps should be in-line with the marker you’ve put on the track. My check marker is 14 steps into my run-up. That helps you know where you are going to be in relation to the board; whether you are on the board, short of it, or are going to be over.

That marker helps us know in six steps time that we can keep accelerating and we are going to hit the board with full velocity.

What goes through your head at the top of the run?

When you start your run-up, you obviously accelerate very hard and aggressive. You are looking at the board, but in your peripherals you are looking for your check marker.

You are very mindful of the check marker and how hard you are running.

The idea in the run is to be at maximum velocity when you hit the board and to do that consistently.

Maintaining my end of my run-up speed is the thing I’m most concentrating on when I’m at the top of my run. If it is on point, you just accelerate, and maintain really good form. Any loss of speed is loss in distance.

We do so much training to make sure our run is consistent, it is a fundamental component of long jump.

Naa Anang shows off her personal best jump of 6.68 metres.
Naa Anang shows off her personal best jump of 6.68 metres.

Hitting your second marker?

As soon as I hit my marker, I’m looking at that board, I know where it is, I’m ready to take-off and attack the last part of the run-up.

You definitely need to keep an eye on the board when you are running down the track. As a young athlete, you are always told, don’t look down at that board. But for me as a senior long jumper, you have to know where that board is. Being able to sight it and steer to it is absolutely pivotal in getting on it.

We only have 15cm of leeway to do that.

That is the visual side, but you also have a rhythmical feel. You know the rhythm of your run and you can feel that.

If you are on your marker, you know you are good to go and you can be really aggressive.

Sometimes if you are over your marker you can still maintain speed, but you need to pick up your feet a bit more, you don’t want to shorten your stride if you can help it. That is things we practice in training. That varied speed approach. That’s how you make those changes before you jump.

How important are the finals steps before takeoff?

We have key technical take-off positions in the last two steps of our run-up that we know we need to get into to jump optimally. When we hit that check marker, we are making sure we are in a good position and if we aren’t, making those adjustments so we can still hit the board with good speed.

The penultimate step is part of a pivotal movement to getting you momentum and converting that sprint speed into a good jump. Working on that in training is really important. Making sure you are not losing speed and not breaking on that step. You are using it to propel yourself further when you do jump.

Hitting the board and taking off?

I’m quite excited to hit that board, you need to explode by driving you knee up and out. It’s a feeling of instant and absolute freedom. The natural momentum of your body lifts your knees and you do fly through the air, it is in a split second, it is very difficult to control what you do mid-air once you hit that board.

You have been anticipating that moment for the entire run-up. It is exciting to launch yourself in the air.

What happens in the air?

There are a few things you can do midair to eke out a few extra centimetres, it is just maintaining the momentum through good posture, without leaning back or leaning towards one side.

If you were falling off a rolling log, you’ll be swinging your arms and legs to maintain balance. Long jump is similar to that.

You need to keep your knees up, and legs up for landing. We all do it a bit differently, but the result is quite similar.

Some people make it look a lot more magnificent than others, it is dependent on velocity. I look at Australian champion Brooke Stratton jump and I think she can hang in the air for ages, but we are all just trying to maintain that centre of gravity and keep momentum in the air.

What is the aim when hitting the sand?

When you hit the sand, I really wish I could keep my legs up a little longer.

The momentum from your arms is super important for helping your knees tuck up and then push out for the landing. You definitely want your feet and bottom to align when you hit the sand, because if they aren’t, you are losing distance.

Just before you hit the sand, you are pushing your arms up and your legs out, tucking up as much as you can to get as much distance as you can without falling backwards or falling to the side.

In training we practice the standing long jump with two feet into the sand with the bottom coming through, to make sure everything is aligned. It’s pretty hard to do that at the end of a full speed jump.

Do you know when you’ve had a good jump?

I’m the worse person you can ask about knowing how I’ve jumped, because at the Rio Olympics I got out of the sand kicking around thinking it was an absolutely disgusting jump and I actually jumped a qualifier.

As soon as I hit that board and I’m in a good position in the air, that is when I know it is going to be an okay jump.

But sometimes it is not until you have pushed through and landed, and walked out of the pit, that you look back and you think that it felt pretty good and looks pretty good.

Most of us know if we’ve fouled or not as soon as we’ve touched the board, that is just an instinct thing.

It can be a nervous wait for the white flag, sometimes you know you are close, but you are 97 per cent sure it’s a fair jump and when you see that red flag come up, it can be quite gutting. But that is the nature of the sport, you just have to focus on the next jump.

What does a competition look like?

In a competitive situation, your first jump is really aggressive, because you want to be the first person to make that top eight.

You try to put what you’ve got on the line in your first jump. The key to that is not fouling your first jump, because you only have two opportunities left to make the final.

We take that first jump really seriously, because you have to get it in.

At International level, you get three jumps to qualify for the final. In a final at nationals, you have three jumps and if you make a top eight, you get another three jumps.

Read our feature story on Chelsea Jaensch

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