The Greatest Triple Jumpers of All-Time: Viktor Saneyev and Tatyana Lebedeva

The triple jump (or hop, step and jump) has been an Olympic event for men since the earliest days of the modern Games. It was only included for women for the first time in 1996 and has been a recognised international event for only slightly longer. As it is such a recent addition to the programme I will only go into detail for my top two greatest women triple jumpers while going with the usual ten for the men.

My choices are:


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1. Viktor Saneyev (USSR) – in an event which has had a history of Olympic champions retaining their titles there is only one man who won three times. That was Viktor Saneyev who won the gold medal at the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Games. In 1980 he wasn’t far off adding a fourth gold when taking the silver medal. Not only did he win those golds, he also dominated the event in the non-Olympic years being arguably the best jumper in the world every year from 1968 to 1976.  He won the European titles in 1969 and 1974 and six European Indoor golds.  He set three world records.  Two came in the Olympic final in Mexico City with helpful altitude and wind readings and the third in 1972.

2.Jonathan Edwards (Great Britain)After a decent but unspectacular international career Edwards emerged in 1995 to produce one of the great seasons in triple jump history. He broke the world record three times, two of those being in the world championships on the springy Gothenburg runway. He went on to be the outstanding jumper around the turn of the century winning the Olympic title in 2000 and a second world title in 2001. He never recaptured the heights of that 95 season but was a consistent winner of titles and medals for the rest of his career and was the world’s leading jumper in seven years.

3. Józef Szmidt (Poland) – the Olympic champion of 1960 and 1964 and the world’s dominant jumper  in the late 50s and early 60s.  He won the European championships in 1958 and 1962 and set a world record in 1960 that stood until the freakish competition at altitude in Mexico in 1968.

4.  Adhemar da Silva(Brazil) – the outstanding jumper of the early 1950s.  From 1950 to 1956 he won sixty consecutive competitions including the Olympic titles of 1952 and 1956.  He equalled the world record in 1950 and broke it four more times, including twice in the 1952 Olympic final.  He also won two Pan-American titles.

5.  Mike Conley(USA) – probably the greatest combined long and triple jumper in history.  He won numerous medals at long jump but it was at triple jump that he truly excelled.  He won two world indoor golds and a world cup but it was at the 1992 Olympics that he had his finest hour.  He took the gold with a jump 20cm beyond the world record but the wind reading was just over the limit.

6.Christian Taylor (USA) – the dominant jumper of current times.  He was world champion in 2011 and 2015 and the Olympic champion in 2012.  His winning jump at the 2015 world championships of 18.21 is second on the world all-time list.

7. Mikio Oda (Japan) – in 1928 he became the first Asian track and field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal when taking the triple jump title.  He made further history in 1931 when breaking the world record and becoming the first Asian in any event to do so.  He was a fine long jumper and set 21 Asian records in jumping events with ten at triple jump.

8. Joao Carlos de Oliveira (Brazil) – produced a brilliant performance in 1975 at altitude in Mexico to add 45cm to the world record at the Pan-American Games.  He retained this title in 1979 and won the world cup in 1977, 1979 and 1981.  He won bronze at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics and equalled the world low altitude best jump.

9.  Christian Olsson (Sweden) – Olympic champion in 2004 and world champion in 2003.  He won the world indoor titles in 2003 and 2004, where he equalled the world indoor record, and took two European championship golds.

10. Daniel Ahearn (Ireland/USA) – one of the first outstanding jumpers of the twentieth century.  He dominated the event in the 1910s but was denied the chance of competing at the Olympics when at his peak by the War. He was 6th in 1920 at the Games.  His outstanding jump of 1909 when he became the first man over 50 feet stood as the world record for fifteen years.  He was the world’s leading jumper six times between 1909 and 1917.

Saneyev is for me a clear number one as the dominant figure for nearly a decade and triple Olympic champion.  Edwards is slightly ahead of Schmidt with then another gap to the next two then another down to Taylor.  The bottom part of the list is quite close and could easily be rearranged with little argument.  Ahearn is a difficult one to assess because of the lack of championships when he was at his best but he was so far ahead of his contemporaries that I had to include him.


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  1. Tatyana Lebedeva (Russia) – an easy choice as number one.  She is the most successful women’s triple jumper and combined long/triple jumper of all-time.  She was twice world outdoor champion at triple jump (in 2001 and 2003) and twice world indoor champion.  She won the European title in 2002 but never quite made it to the top of the podium in Olympic triple jump with two silvers and a bronze her best results.  She did win Olympic long jump gold and a world title.  She never held the outdoor world record but her winning jump of 15.36m in the 2004 world indoor championships still stands as the world indoor record.
    • Caterine Ibargüen (Colombia) – a close run thing for second with a few jumpers having two global titles to their name.  Inessa Kravets has held the world record since 1995 on the aforementioned super-springy Gothenburg runway.  However, she was inconsistent in championships and Ibarguen has won the last two world titles and been very dominant in the event for the last three years so I just put her second.


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