How the wrong shoe prevented triple jump champion Rojas from long jumping at Worlds
Yulimar Rojas, the 26-year-old Venezuelan, world record holder in the triple jump, wanted to medal in the long jump at this month’s World Championships in Eugene. But her dream was dashed before she even reached American shores.
The reason: The sole thickness of her shoes when she jumped 6.93 meters to qualify in June was 5 millimeters thicker than what is allowed in the long jump. Rojas had skipped the distance at the Reunion de Atletismo Ciudad de Guadalajara to book his ticket to the Worlds.
What is the difference between a long jump shoe and a triple jump shoe?
In accordance with the current “Sports Shoe Regulations” which came into force on January 1, 2022, the maximum thickness of a shoe’s sole for field events must not exceed 20 millimeters (two centimeters). However, an exception is the triple jump in which the sole can be 25mm thick. Rojas is a two-time reigning world champion and Olympic champion in the triple jump and may have ignored the rules. However, it’s unclear exactly what caused a top athlete like Rojas to wear the wrong shoes. There has been no official comment from Rojas or his agent. But there is a shoe control officer at events who can photograph or measure shoes and submit evidence to World Athletics for verification.
What are the shoe thickness rules for other events?
There is a shoe thickness table under the regulations. For track events under 800 meters, including hurdles, the thickness of the sole must be 20 mm. In track events over 800 meters, it may be 25 mm. For cross races, if it is a cleated shoe, the thickness can be 25mm and for shoes without cleats it is capped at 40mm. In road races, such as the marathon, and walking events, it is 40 mm, and in mountain races, there is no limit to the thickness of the shoe.
Are there any new regulations coming?
Yes, from November 1, 2024, new regulations come into force. In all athletics events, the thickness of the sole must not exceed 20 mm, whether it is a pair of shoes with studs or without studs. In road events, including walking, it will remain at 40mm, while in cross country, the thickness of the sole will have to be reduced from 25mm to 20mm for shoes with studs. Again, in mountain racing, all thicknesses are allowed.
Have there been any checks on advancements in shoe technology?
Restricting the thickness of shoe soles is one of the steps to ensure that athletes do not take an unfair advantage of better cushioning and better ground energy generation.
A major change was introduced in January 2020 when athletes were told they could not run in prototype shoes. This meant that a shoe had to be available for purchase on the open market for at least four months before it could be worn by an athlete in an official race. This rule made the sport of running more equal. Previously, most of the top athletes who supported the footwear giants had an unfair advantage because they had access to the latest models before they were released to the general public or competitors who did not have a contract. .
What about the plates in the shoes?
A shoe must not have more than one plate or blade in the sole, according to the regulations. This rule was intended to control multiple plates, including those made of carbon fiber, used in shoes to help athletes get more spring energy from the ground. Thick shoes with multiple plates have been controversial. Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, the current two-time Olympics marathon winner, ran the first-ever sub-two-hour marathon (a non-competitive one-time event) wearing Nike Alpha Fly (prototype) shoes in Vienna in 2019. He sparked a debate over the extent of the support the shoes, said to have more than one plate and thicker than 40mm, gave Kipchoge. Athletes wearing thick-soled Nike shoes have recently won the majority of marathon races, raising questions about technological doping.
What about sprint shoes?
The legendary Usain Bolt called advances in shoe technology unfair. Bolt was referring to the superspikes – with a plate and foam bedding – introduced in 2019 by Nike, after which other manufacturers released their own versions.
“When I was told about it, I couldn’t believe this was where we had been. You know what I mean, that we’re really adjusting the spikes to a level where it now gives athletes an edge to run even faster,” Bolt told Reuters in an interview last year.
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At the Tokyo Olympics, attention turned to shoes when Norwegian 400m hurdles champion Karsten Warholm won the event in 45.94 seconds, a new world record, and talked about the help that athletes receive shoes, especially his main American rival Rai Benjamin. “I don’t see why you should put anything under a sprint shoe,” said the Norwegian. “In the middle distance, I can understand that because of the cushioning. But if you put a trampoline on, I think it’s b******t, and I think that takes away credibility from our sport,” said Warholm, who wore thinner-soled shoes than Benjamin.
In the women’s 400 meters hurdles in Tokyo, American Sydney McLaughlin broke her own world record to win gold while second-placed Dalilah Muhammad also ran within the old record times. Both wore a version of “superspikes”.