In this column, Stuart Weir writes about the amazing Markus Rehm, a long jumper who should compete in Para and regular Olympics…
The blade jumper
The blade jumper
Markus Rehm is one of the superstars of para athletics. The German amputee long-jumper has a PR of 8.48m – which would have given him second place in the 2019 IAAF World Championship in Doha. Competing in the T64 (amputee) class in Dubai, he needed only the first of his six jumps (8.17) to accomplish a successful defence of his title.
“Defending my title was definitely my goal tonight, he said afterwards. “I’m really happy about it, even if the conditions today were not so easy. I am a little sad that we had to jump into the wind today because jumping into the other pit there would have been way more chance of greater distance
Rehm, who lost his lower right leg in a wakeboarding accident as a 14-year-old, competed in the German national trials (able-bodied) in 2014 and won with a jump of 8.24. The expectation was that as winner of the trials he would automatically be selected for the European Championships in Zurich. However, the German Athletics Federation decided not to take him, because of doubts over whether a prosthetic limb gave a jumper an advantage over “able-bodied” athletes.
After winning the World title in Doha in 2015, Rehm spoke about his frustrations with the then current state of negotiations: “The IAAF says that I have to prove that I don’t have any advantage. That is not a good decision by the IAAF because you cannot put that pressure on the athlete. It is not my job”.
On the question of whether he has an advantage, Rehm is honest but unsure: “At the moment we don’t have any data that can prove it. We talk about some advantage maybe at the take-off but other people say there are big disadvantages in the run-up – you don’t have the same balance … and of course you cannot go so fast. So some measurements are needed to find out – I think it will be quite difficult – but it would be amazing if we can find out”.
Rehm has also quite reasonably argued that if jumping from a blade gives a clear advantage, why is he the only blade long-jumper jumping such distances? The debate recalls the case of South African double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who was eventually allowed to run in able-bodied competitions after a lengthy process of scientific tests and appeals.
Asked this week about the bigger issue, Rehm replied: “It is still difficult but we’re still working on it. It would be just great to compete at Diamond Leagues or other events. We’re all athletes and we all the follow our passions so why could we not all compete together and represent our sport together? I hope it can happen in the future”.
To the question of how far he thought he could jump, he replied: “There are always magic numbers and for me the next magic number is 8.50 and I really hope that I will achieve it. Then there is the German record (able-bodied) at 8.54 which is 30 years old so I think it’s time to renew that one!”
It is a complex issue but I, for one, would like to see him in Diamond League competitions. I think it would be incredibly exciting to see him going head to head with Tajay Gayle, Luvo Manyonga and the rest. After all, isn’t Sebastian Coe looking for innovation and excitement in the new, slick, 90 minute extravaganzas? If Rehm can jump 8.48 in front of two men and a dog with no real competition, think what he might achieve against the other world elite jumpers.