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  1. James Beckford was a superb jumper in both disciplinesHaving been an avid follower of both the Long Jump and Triple Jump (these were my personal disciplines of choice as an athlete too!), I set about working out who has been the ultimate exponent of both events... here are the results. All marks are obtained from IAAF all-time lists and athlete biographies.

    Note that the stats shown below take each athlete's best ever jump, whether achieved indoors or out. If someone has been omitted or there is an error here, please let me know and I'll amend as appropriate!

    1 James Beckford Jamaica 8.62     17.92     26.54m    
    2 Mike Conley USA 8.46 17.87 26.33m
    3 Melvin Lister USA 8.49 17.78 26.27m
    4 Joao Carlos de Oliveira     Brazil 8.36 17.89 26.25m
    5 Leonid Voloshin Russia 8.46 17.77 26.23m
    6 Christian Taylor USA 8.19 17.96 26.15m
    7 Jadel Gregorio Brazil 8.22 17.90 26.12m
    8 Walter Davis USA 8.36 17.73 26.09m
    =9 Danil Burkenya Russia 8.31 17.68 25.99m
    =9 Teddy Tamgho France 8.01 17.98 25.99m
    =9 Will Claye USA 8.29 17.70 25.99m
    12 Erick Walder USA 8.74 17.24 25.98m
    13 Aleksandr Glavatskiy Belarus 8.33 17.53 25.86m
    14 Nelson Evora Portugal 8.10 17.74 25.84m
    15 Aleksandr Beskrovniy Russia 8.28 17.53 25.81m
    16 Milan Mikulas Czech Rep 8.25 17.53 25.78m
    =17 Vasiliy Sokov Uzbekistan 8.18 17.59 25.77m
    =17 Sheryf El-Sheryf Ukraine 8.05 17.72 25.77m
    19 Fabrizio Donato Italy 8.03 17.73 25.76m
    =20 Aarik Wilson USA 8.17 17.58 25.75m
    =20 Godfrey Mokoena South Africa     8.50 17.25 25.75m
    22 Leevan Sands Bahamas 8.13 17.59 25.72m
    23 Joelbi Quesada Cuba 7.88 17.85 25.71m
    24 Jonathan Edwards GB 7.41 18.29 25.70m

    * Teddy Tamgho jumped 8.01m indoors (7.63m outdoors)
    ** Walter Davis jumped 17.73m indoors (17.71m outdoors)
    *** Will Claye jumped 17.70m indoors (17.50m outdoors)
    **** Leonid Voloshin jumped 17.77m indoors (17.75m outdoors)
    ***** Fabrizio Donato jumped 17.73m indoors (17.60m outdoors) and 8.03m indoors (8.00m outdoors)
    ****** Aarik Wilson jumped 8.17m indoors (8.11m outdoors)
    ******* Erick Walder jumped 17.24m indoors (17.12m outdoors)

  2. Mike Powell still holds the World RecordVery few events have been almost completely dominated by one nation in the way that the USA has held a grip on the Men's Long Jump. Let's begin with a few stats...

    • Of the 25 Olympics Games attended by the United States, they have taken away the Gold in 21 (84%).
    • A total of 45 Olympic medals have been won from 75 available (60%).
    • The US Men's team has taken a clean sweep of the medals on 4 occasions (1896, 1904, 1988 and 1992).
    • 6 of the top 7 jumpers of all-time are American.
    • 18 World Records have been set in the Men's Long Jump - 13 of these have been by Americans (72%).
    • Since 1923, US Men have held the World Record for the Long Jump for 79 out of the 89 years that have passed.

    When it comes to the Long Jump, few can think of the event without recalling the performances of US athletes at two incredible global championships. Firstly, Bob Beamon's staggering achievement in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico when he broke the World Record mark by 55cm (nearly 2-feet) by leaping 8.90m (29' 2 3/8") for a stunning victory.

    Secondly, the unforgettable Mike Powell against Carl Lewis clash at the 1991 World Championships at Tokyo... Powell broke the World Record to win gold with 8.95m (29' 4 3/8") and, although Lewis also surpassed Beamon's previous mark, it was Powell who took gold on this occasion. Lewis won four consecutive Olympic golds in the Long Jump from 1984 to 1996. Other Long Jump heroes include ex-world record holders and Olympic champions Jesse Owens and Ralph Boston, while Dwight Phillips is still going strong at the age of 34 and is the 4-time World champion outdoors (2003, 2005, 2009, 2011).

    Not to be outdone by their male counterparts, the US Women's Long Jumpers have also enjoyed success on the global stage with the phenomenal Heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee equalling the World Record in 1987 with 7.45m (24' 5 5/16"). Strangely, however she is still the only US woman to hold the world's best mark since records began in 1922 and also the only US Olympic champion ever in the Long Jump (1988 in Seoul). 'JJK' sits at number two in the all-time list (7.49m, 24' 6 7/8") with Marion Jones also making the Top 10 in 10th place (7.31m, 23' 11 13/16').

    Brittney Reese (25) has taken the Long Jump world by storm in recent years. She is the current 2012 world leader with 7.12m outdoors and jumped a huge 7.23m in March 2012 to win the World Indoor title and rank her 3rd on the all-time indoor lists. Reese has also won two outdoor World Championships (2009 and 2011) as well as the World Indoor crown (again) in 2009.

    With great young jumpers coming through such as Will Claye (21 later this month) and Tori Bowie (21), the future of US Long Jumping seems to be in safe hands and there will certainly be a number of future World and Olympic Champions produced by the most successful ever athletics nation.

  3. Stadio Olimpico is an awesome venueIt's very difficult to explain just how popular Mr Bolt is in Italy. The atmosphere in the Olympic Stadium on Thursday evening was nothing short of electric every time he appeared on the large screens... the level of passion shown for the great man of sprinting bordered on the obsessive.

    When he accelerated away from the field to duly win the 100m in a scintillating 9.76 the noise created by the crowd of almost 60,000 was immense. After the din had died down and a certain amount of calm had been restored, Bolt appeared in the infield to do some strides and cool-down... it was almost as if he was home in Jamaica enjoying a light training session. Bizarre and yet an ingenious ploy by the organisers to squeeze every last ounce of exposure out of him!

    Remove Bolt from the equation and it was a very different and slightly sad story. This meeting used to be poorly attended and really struggled to attract a decent crowd for such a large and established meeting. When he competed in 2011 the figure rose to well over 45,000 and this number swelled again in 2012. The trouble is that those in attendance do not seem to care for any of the other events and athletes, despite a wealth of World and Olympic medallists on show. Maybe it's because Italian athletics has not produced many genuine world-class athletes in the past decade, maybe they are only interested in superstar icons such as Bolt, maybe athletics does not grab the imagination like football in Italy... whatever the reasons(s), it was obvious they had arrived in their thousands for one man.

    Then there was this bizarre whistling as sprinters were on their blocks under starter's orders. No idea at all why the Italians seem to think this is 'normal' behaviour when other nations accept you need to be quiet at this critical time but there you go! The contrast between Rome and the athletics enthusiasts at other Diamond League events such as Brussels, Zurich and London could not be more obvious.

    And on to the athletics itself. From a Team GB perspective it was a hugely successful evening with Greg Rutherford and Robbie Grabarz securing impressive victories against very strong fields. Andrew Osagie ran a great tactical race to mix with the best in the 800m and both Goldie Sayers and Yamile Aldama put down high-quality performances in the field. Plenty of world-leading marks were set and the women's distance events shone in particular.

    All in all, a very enjoyable experience but falling slightly short of some of the very best European Diamond League event, which is a real shame as there is so much potential to make it so much more...

  4. Brussels puts on a fantastic meetingWith just 9 days left until the Diamond League gets underway in Doha, this is the period of each season that's filled with excitement and optimism. The outdoor season is here, the world's top athletes are starting to throw down some early form markers and there is such a great deal to look forward to over the next four months.

    The Diamond League has been a massive success, building upon the previous achievements of the six-event Golden League series. It was always great to see top European meetings take place throughout the season but the inclusion of events in China, Qatar and two in the USA has meant the competition is truly global these days.

    A lot of people don't realise that many of the Diamond League meetings are so much more than simply a festival of athletics or a 'mini-Olympics in one night'... indeed a great number feature live music and spectacular firework displays plus other entertainment to create one incredible and memorable evening. Brussels is a personal favourite as the locals have such a great appetite and appreciation of world-class athletics - the atmosphere experienced as the 50,000-capacity crowd gets behind the action is something truly magical.

    With the added bonus of London 2012, the European Championships and the World Junior Champs, the Diamond League will largely be overshadowed by events elsewhere this season - especially if you reside in England. From a personal perspective however, I can't wait for my first Diamond League trip of the year on 31st May when I'll be jetting off to Italy for the popular Rome meeting... 29 days and counting!

  5. Team GB kit unveiledLet's face it... the Team GB Olympic kit, which was recently unveiled for London 2012, is not great. While previous kits have proudly shown off the Union Jack and had the right balance between patriotism and striking design, the new 'efforts' catch the eye for all the wrong reasons.

    Firstly, the colours used are such a strong deviation from what we have enjoyed in the past - the blues aren't even an accurate representation of our traditional shades that have been worn with pride for many years. The introduction of both a royal blue and an even lighter tone detracts from other elements of the kit that could have been successful if combined with the right overall design.

    The simple fact is that the kits do not excite and inspire - they look confused and the problem worsens when considering other sports, where the design varies significantly and looks even more disjointed.

    The London 2012 Olympics are our single chance to showcase what Britain is capable of... sadly the Team GB kits have mainly been talked about for all the wrong reasons and that is a terrible shame. Take medals, for example. I was dreading seeing the 2012 Olympics medals when they were first shown to the public however the simple, bold and effective design was a pleasant surprise. Why change something that works perfectly well? Medals should be round, chunky (but not too big) with a real feel of quality unlike many of those awarded at recent major championships where the organisers have felt the need to reinvent the wheel.

    Luckily for Team GB fans, it's the medals that will be remembered from this summer's Olympics and Paralympics therefore these sorry kits should be largely forgotten once the action has come to a close. Hopefully our next big chance at the 2017 World Athletics Championships will see a return to a more 'appropriate' design that all of Britain can get behind and support.

  6. Yamile Aldama is World Indoor ChampionIt was fantastic to see many of the world's best turning out in Istanbul for the World Indoor Athletics Championships and putting down some scintillating performances ahead of the London 2012 Olympics later in the year.

    The multi-events both provided World Records as first Natallia Dobrynska and then Ashton Eaton smashed the previous marks. These were the undoubted highlights of the three days' action and rightly took the great majority of the plaudits.

    Dobrynska was the first athlete to break the 5000-point barrier, while Eaton shattered his own WR with a series of exceptional events that included an 8.16m Long Jump effort - a distance only 7cm off the gold medal winning leap in the individual discipline!

    There were predictable victories elsewhere (Sally Pearson, Renaud Lavillenie, Yelena Isinbayeva etc) and a few shocks too as Kirani James couldn't get anywhere near the medals in the 400m having been drawn in lane 1 of the final, Meseret Defar suffered a rare defeat over 3000m and Liu Xiang could only manage silver in the 60m Hurdles.

    Best finish of the championships was the Women's 4x400m relay, which saw Perri Shakes-Drayton somehow hold off the fast-finishing Sanya Richards-Ross for a stunning (and well-deserved) victory.

    The event will sadly be remembered for a number of starting problems that blighted the sprints as a number of athletes struggled to hear the 'right' gun as several sounds and echoes were heard due to an apparent acoustics issue within the arena. Nevertheless, the championships were a success overall - in particular for the British team, who came home with a record medal haul at the World Indoor Champs of nine.

    My personal favourite performance has to be Yamile Aldama's superb victory in the Triple Jump at the age of 39, breaking her own Over 35's World Record in the process. Aldama is an inspiration for so many younger athletes across the world as she continues to defy age with truly world-class jumps every time she competes.