View Full Version : front-flip long jump technique

08-27-04, 10:58 AM
I heard Bruce Jenner on the radio this AM. He was talking about how he did a front flip when he long jumped before the technique was banned.

Has anyone ever seen this done or know why it was banned? It does not seem any more radical than the Fosbury flop did when it was introduced to high jumping....

08-27-04, 10:59 AM
USATF, illegal...! no mark!

08-27-04, 12:08 PM
Was Jennings kidding? I can't imagine someone jumping far that way. It sounds dangerous and the physics don't seem right.

08-27-04, 12:24 PM
He sounded serious and said he did 24 feet that way.

08-27-04, 01:23 PM

08-27-04, 03:47 PM
Apparently it is sort of like what the gymnasts do in their floor routines, where they run and then take off from both feet at once. I found on the web that a guy named Dave Nielsen, who is the track coach at Idaho State, is the originator of the somersault long jump. Nielsen and Tom Ecker published a biomechanical study on the technique of the somersault and Nielsen used the technique in competition.

I also found this, which I thought was interesting:


BYLINE: By Brian VanderBeek, Bee staff writer

NAME: Richard Inks
THEN: Inks was already an accomplished athlete at Bret Harte High when longtime coach Hal Clemens approached him with the idea of attempting a forward-flip long jump, something the coach had read about in a magazine. They practiced the motion indoors on tumbling mats and during trampoline work, never really planning to use it in a meet.
But late in the 1974 track season, Inks, a junior sprinter and long jumper, sprained his right (jumping) ankle during a relay workout. Shortly thereafter, Inks, knowing through practice of the flip that its unbroken forward motion and two-foot plant put less strain on his ankle than did the conventional long jump, tried the flip in a dual meet and added nine inches to his personal best.
He went on to win the league meet at 22-9 1/2 and eventually advanced to the state meet in Bakersfield. The following year, after rushing for 1,200 yards for the Bullfrogs' football team he flipped to a 23-3 1/2 effort, but finished fourth in the section meet and missed qualifing for state.
NOW: Inks, 40, is the owner of Richard Inks Construction in Angels Camp. Married: wife Janet; children: Daniel (16), Kevin (14), Brandon (12) and Kyle (9).
BETWEEN: Competed in long jump and sprint relays at Modesto JC and Consumnes River College, but college rules forbade the use of any style using a two-foot plant. Graduated from Stanislaus State in 1979 with a degree in physical science.
REMEMBER WHEN: During track meets, including sub-section and section events, public address announcers would inform the crowd that Inks was about to jump, causing the crowd to fall silent.
QUOTE: "It was unique. I knew the attention was there and that people enjoyed watching it, but for me, it was just a way to improve the physics behind the long jump. It lent itself to jumping farther because you're not changing your momentum at the leap. With a conventional long jump, you have to control your momentum in the last few steps and lower your hips at takeoff. But with the flip, you're running full force right to the board and just continuing that same momentum."

08-27-04, 06:06 PM
I still can't picture that!

08-27-04, 10:11 PM
Tracknut, I have seen it live! You helped me recall a fond high school track memory. It is killing me that I can't remember the guy's name (Calvin something). I was at one of my first road track meets. We completed all the field events before any running events so I happened to be milling around the long jump pit. There was a pretty good crowd for such a meet but I didn't think anything of it. I positioned myself at the beginning of the sand pit and watched a jumper or two come down. The next fellow, from Monroe High School in Albany, Georgia, slammed his feet on the wood and started falling forward. For a split second, I believe I am about to witness an embarrassing moment for the guy. He falls forward, with his body almost parallel to the ground and then continues into a flip and lands. He won easily. I never saw him go under 21. He jumped for Florida A&M later on (I seem to recall).

Watching him land on his ankles usually made me wince. With his speed (sprinter) this technique practically guaranteed him a respectable jump for high school. He was short, too, unlike most long jumpers. He placed at state once or twice.

Except for Roger Kingdom in the discus, high jump and high hurdles (he was a born decathlete), the only studs from our area were sprinters and we had some great ones.

I will now devote the rest of the weekend finding out his name and his performances. I read an article about him years ago before the popularity of the Internet. By the way, I graduated from high school in '80. I think he was a year ahead of me.

08-28-04, 03:44 PM
Wasn 't that the Herschel Walker era?

BTW, I saw him come in a close 3rd in the 60 at the Dallas Morning News indoor meet at Reunion Arena. Carl Lewis set the world record in that race. I think that it was in the early spring of 1983. Walker looked like the hulk compared to everyone else in that race, which I think included Stanley Floyd and Harvey Glance.

08-29-04, 01:20 AM
I believe you are referring to the Dallas Times Herald meet at Reunion Arena in January 1981 (I was there, too). Herschel, fresh off a tremendous freshman football season with a national championship and 3rd in Heisman voting, did run in the race. As you know, the 60 is for real sprinters. With Herschel's size, he was a freak of nature.

Stanley Floyd won the 60 that night in world record time (6.11 I think). Bruce Davis was also in the finals as a 17-year old freshman. As usual he had the early lead and ran about 6.20 I think. Regardless, it was the world record for 17-year olds (Track has more categories for records than baseball it seems.) I almost mentioned Floyd in my post above. He was at all our local meets until he graduated. I first saw him at the same meet as the flip jumper. He ran for Dougherty County High School (the county school for Albany). We had more dual meets with Vienna (Kingdom) than any other.

I won't bore you with stories of Herschel at the state meet our senior year but needless to say he was the athlete everyone was checking out. Johnson County was in the smallest class and poor. But wherever Herschel went, his teammates followed and everyone gawked. They set the Class A record in the mile relay but it was broken soon after. Herschel won the shot put, 100, 220, and both relays. Watching him run a quarter was quite impressive.

05-05-05, 12:19 AM
I heard Bruce Jenner on the radio this AM. He was talking about how he did a front flip when he long jumped before the technique was banned.

Has anyone ever seen this done or know why it was banned? It does not seem any more radical than the Fosbury flop did when it was introduced to high jumping....

From memory Bruce Jenner experimented with the somersault long jump in late 1973 and/or early 1974 and discovered he was able to increase his best performance, although I am not sure by how much.

In May 1974 at Pac-8 Track & Field championships of 1974 held in the Los Angeles Colesium I tied with Randy Williams with the best jump of the day (about 25' 9" or thereabouts) using the somersault long jump. This was the first time a national class long jumper had ever done the somersault long jump and was the first time anyone had gone beyond 24 feet. The somerault was banned at the next IAAF Congress - because it was just different. When it was suggested it was dangerous the promoters of that idea were laughed out of down as it was certainly less dangerous than the pole vault, for example. However, the doomsayers got there way and it was duly banned. If I had been a better athlete and managed to break the world record before the ban then I am sure everyone wold be somersaulting today. Unfortunately with a top speed of about 10.9 for 100metres going downhill with a tail wind I wasn't quite talented enough. The reason they didn't ban Fossbury's Flop was that before they had a chance to ban it he won Olympic Gold and set an Olympic record. My recollection is they wanted to ban it but unfortunately for them the IAAF congress was after the Olympics in 1968.

Bio-mechanically the somersault technique is a much more efficient way to jump. I never did learn how to do it properly as I was a hopeless gymnast and never reacted in time when landing. This meant I literally lost 2 feet every time I landed as even though my feet would hit the sand first I didn't learn how to react in time to stop my butt hitting the sand a split second later - 2 feet behind my feet. While I eventuially achieved more than 26 feet with the somersault in unsanctioned competitions I could have gone well past 28 feet if I had the had the spatial ability to know where the hell I was when I was upside down and so react accordingly to stop my butt ploughing into the sand. However, someone like Carl Lewis could have probably gone 30 to 31 feet.

As to who "invented" the somersault I can't help you there. Back in 1974 the media were stunned to say the least when "out of the blue" I did the somersault and they all credited me with inventing the style. However, it wasn't me and it wasn't Bruce Jenner. One of the TV commentators was OJ Simpson. Maybe it was Dave Neilson as claimed in his web site, although I have never heard of him before, and as he graduated from Iowa State in 1978 it would seem he was not around in 1974, 1973.

I read about the advantages of the somersault in some obscure gymastics bio-mechanical journal discussing the merits of the style as a gumnast had improved his long jump froom about 19 feet to over 21 feet. Because it was only 21 feet it never received any great coverage outside of this obscure magazine. However, I thought about the bio-mechanics and agreed they wer right. So I tried it. And the rest so they say is history.

In December 2004 I joined the ITA professional circuit and jumped there for 3 years until the circuit folded. Today I live in New Zealand having returned there after 3 years on the T&F staff at USMA WestPoint.

Hope that is helpful.

Tuariki Delamere (previously known by my English name of John Delamere)
Washington State University Cougars - class of 1974

05-05-05, 12:56 AM
Thanks for the insight.

05-05-05, 03:01 PM
I'm still fascinated by this. I'd love to see a video clip of a 25+ foot jump using this technique.

Isn't the Internet amazing? A Washington State grad living in New Zealand found our thread from last summer and provided insightful comments from personal experience.

Limited IQ Redneck in PU
05-05-05, 03:20 PM
Thanks Delamere. Interesting read.

05-05-05, 03:43 PM
When I was in gymnastics we used to do punch fronts, and believe me you could fly. It takes a while to get your landing because you can't see the ground. I could see how it could be incorporated in the long jump. We would also do gainers (a back flip moving forward) one of the coolest looking things to see and to do.

05-05-05, 07:03 PM
I'm still fascinated by this. I'd love to see a video clip of a 25+ foot jump using this technique.

Isn't the Internet amazing? A Washington State grad living in New Zealand found our thread from last summer and provided insightful comments from personal experience.

05-05-05, 08:50 PM
I saw on old tape on FSN with a guy doing that. Picture a runningback going over the line at the end zone, and then curling up at the last second. The video was in black and white.