Elite athletes have lashed out at organisers in response to a controversial new long jump format which was used at the Diamond League meeting in Stockholm at the weekend.
While Sweden’s Thobias Montler produced the best jump of the meeting, landing at 8.13m in the second and third rounds, Samaai secured victory with a leap of 8.09m after the top three athletes progressed to a three-man jump-off in the sixth and final round.
There was similar controversy in the women’s event, with the podium places being shaken around in the jump-off.
Traditionally, the athlete with the furthest attempt from all six rounds would be declared the winner.
“I’m happy with my four jumps over eight metres, but I’m not so happy
with the competition system,” a frustrated Montler said afterwards.
I saw the disappointment in Thobias Montler eyes after our last attempts. He shook his and I could see it. THIS IS NOT FAIR! It doesn’t bring excitement. It only brings disappointment.
— Ruswahl Samaai , OLY (@RuswahlSamaai) August 23, 2020
It was not the first time Samaai held his nerve to win a tense jump-off.
At the 2018 Continental Cup in Ostrava, the African champion had dominated the preliminary stages before launching the best attempts in two knockout rounds to earn the gold medal.
Diamond League organisers had hoped the similar ‘final three’ format would produce more excitement by rewarding those who could withstand the pressure of a jump-off.
“We think it will bring more drama to the field events as nothing will be decided until the very last performance,” said Diamond League chief executive Petr Stastny.
Samaai was nonetheless scathing in reaction to the trial format, which did not reward athletes for consistency over a series of attempts, and he joined the widespread call for a return to the traditional system.
“I won the competition based on a format that’s not fair towards the guy with the furthest distance,” Samaai said on social media.
“Our event is simple. Whoever jumps the furthest during the competition wins the competition, but not this time around. 8.13m gets you second place and 8.09m wins the competition.”