Because Vladimir Yashchenko Proved It Decades Ago
Most high jump experts don’t believe the high jump world record will be broken. After all, the monumental feat has stood firm since 1993, 25 years ago. Javier Sotomayor set the seemingly unattainable men’s world record of 8’½” (245cm) in Spain and it’s remained elusive since. The greatest jump and clearance of all time is almost forgotten but there once was a track & field athlete who could move his body incredibly high over the standards and crossbar.Embed from Getty Images
Who’s Come Close To Beating The Record?
Mutaz Essa Barshim came close with a jump of 243cm in 2014 and that’s the best jump by anyone besides Sotomayor in world history. Barshim has also come close to achieving 246cm in 2014 and 2018.
A few other jumpers like Bondarenko and Sjoberg have achieved 2.42cm with everyone else back at 2.40cm.Embed from Getty Images
Why Is The High Jump Record So Elusive?
The high jump record is elusive because humans have achieved near-peak performance levels for the human body, despite improvements in diet, training, and technology? I also believe technological advances are minimal, meaning we knew as much about the high jump decades ago as we do now. I may go out on a limb but for me, it seems there were many more high jumpers decades ago and the sport was more popular so high jumping received more attention.
Why Do I Think The Record Will Fall?
The record will fall because we once had a high jumper with, in my opinion, a Center-Of-Mass (COM) a few inches higher than Sotomayor’s! We will have a jumper like this again! The jumper who achieves this may be a track athlete and could be in another sport, but the record-breaker will surely come.
As we watch basketball athletes increase in size and ability, the same will hold true for high jumping. It wasn’t that long ago when a 6’10” basketball player was slow and cumbersome. Today the players are fast and agile and can leap.
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Imagine what would happen if a 6’10” high jumper surfaced with the physical ability to achieve a very high COM?
Who Was Vladimir Yashchenko?
One athlete who was shorter than Sotomayor also gives us hope the record will be broken. The athlete’s name was Vladimir Yashchenko and I will show you why his accomplishments give the world hope that the record will be broken and perhaps, even shattered!
What could Vladimir Yashchenko have accomplished if not for his career-ending knee injury at the age of 20? For you youngsters, Yashchenko was the last great straddler to compete at a high level and set his final world record jump of 7’8¹⁄²” in 1978.
Born in Zaporizhia, USSR in 1959 when Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union, Yashchenko and his childhood were kept relatively quiet until an eventful junior event in 1977 at the University of Richmond.
It started off as a quiet, low-key track meet, the US v USSR juniors. The University of Richmond is set in a small forest and tall, picturesque trees provide much of the background. It was a warm July weekend, the 2,000-seat stands were only a little more than half full, and everyone was having a good time watching the US team beat their young Soviet counterparts in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere (https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-vladimir-yashchenko-1130993.html).
Suddenly there was Yashchenko, the teenager introduced himself to the few spectators, the USA junior team, and the world by breaking and setting a new outdoor world record high jump as an unknown 18-year-old! More amazingly, Yashchenko set the record using an almost extinct and old-fashioned high jump style called the straddle. The straddle technique, where the jumper kicks his leg over the bar and clears the bar face-first, had all but disappeared when Dick Fosbury introduced the flop in the 1968 Olympic Games.
Now here was Yashchenko using the straddle technique to eliminate every flopper in his path.
How Do Floppers Outperform Straddlers?
Floppers can clear heights by arching their back over the crossbar allowing for their COM to travel under the bar. The straddle requires a jumper to get their COM above the crossbar in order to succeed with the jump and Yashchenko moved his COM at least above 2.35cm or more.
That’s my point, floppers can clear heights when the Center-of-Mass goes under the crossbar. Where was Sotomayor’s COM when he jumped 8’¹⁄²”? I’m not a physicist but I’m guessing the COM was somewhere around 7’9″ and maybe less with the arch.
Here’s a diagram from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_of_mass that illustrates a flopper’s COM and by arching, the COM goes under the crossbar and the jumper clears the height.
Straddlers have to get their Center-of-Mass ABOVE the crossbar to clear the height according to this diagram from https://fourhorsemens13.weebly.com/.
If that’s true then where is Yashchenko’s Center-of-Mass in this jump over 7’8¹⁄²”? Is his COM above 7’10”? Is his COM above 8′? What could a talented flopper today do with a COM like that?
Obviously, the chance of Yashchenko converting to the flop and succeeding was far to none because of the specialization and difficulty of the two techniques. We did however at one time have a gifted competitor with us whose COM was far higher than today’s competitors and maybe high enough to shatter Sotomayor’s record. That’s why it’s exciting to know that it’s possible to know a jumper will come along and shatter the record!
Sadly, Yashchenko generated so much force on his takeoff leg that he blew his patella off the knee and ended his career forever. He passed in 1999 at the age of 40.
Oh, and one more thing….. Keep your eye out for an individual with Yashchenko’s COM, maybe they’re in another sport, maybe not, but the high jump record is theirs when they want it! When you find them, let me know so I can write about them!