Ruswahl Samaai of South Africa won the men's long jump competition in Stockholm. Picture: Christine Olsson/AP
Ruswahl Samaai of South Africa won the men's long jump competition in Stockholm. Picture: Christine Olsson/AP

Ruswahl Samaai slams new Diamond League long jump format despite victory

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Aug 25, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - SOUTH African long jump star Ruswahl Samaai has slammed the new Diamond League rules as “not fair” despite benefiting from it in Stockholm on Sunday.

A controversial competition format has been introduced, which sees the top three jumpers from the first five rounds go into a ‘mini-final’ in the sixth, where a shoot-out takes place among the top three up to that point, and the athlete with the best distance in the final round is declared the winner.

Samaai, a two-time African champion and world championship bronze medallist, claimed victory at the Bauhaus Galan Diamond League meeting in the Swedish capital on Sunday, even though he didn’t record the furthest distance in the competition.

Local athlete Thobias Montler produced two jumps of 8.13m in the opening three rounds, with Samaai’s best effort of 8.07m. But the South African bagged the honours with a distance of 8.09m in the ‘mini-final’, while Montler could only muster 8.06m and Finland’s Kristian Pulli had a no-jump.

Samaai has previously criticised the new format, and took little joy out of his win on Sunday as well. “I won the competition based on a format that’s not fair towards the guy with the furthers distance. Our event is simple. Whoever jumps the furthest during the competition wins the competition but not this time around. 8,13m gets you second place and 8,09m wins the competition,” Samaai tweeted.

“I saw the disappointment in Thobias Montler eyes after our last attempts. He shook his (head) and I could see it. THIS IS NOT FAIR! It doesn’t bring excitement. It only brings disappointment. Can we please stop fixing things that’s not broken @WorldAthletics”

Samaai told IOL Sport from his training base in Gemona, Italy on Monday that Diamond League organisers had not consulted the athletes about the new rules.

“I just think it was unfair towards him (Montler) for having the furthest distance in the competition, but unfortunately with the new format, he came second,” the 28-year-old said.

“The exciting thing about our event is that you can’t say who’s going to take it at the end of the day. It’s so unpredictable. The guy in eighth place could win the competition on his last jump with the normal rules, but with the ‘Final Three’, he/she doesn’t get that opportunity to compete in the last round.

“Don’t fix things that have never been broken. We as athletes will accept change and innovations, but it has to be done in the right light. Something that’s good for the spectators, athletes and organisation, but for now, let’s stick to the format that’s been working for decades.”

Samaai, though, was ultimately the winner in Stockholm, and took great confidence out of his performance after a lengthy break due to Covid-19. He will hope to go even further in his next meeting in Innsbruck, Austria on September 5.

“Winning is what I always strive for. That’s the reason why I put in all the hard work and make the needed sacrifices in order to win. I am happy with my performance. With limited access during our lockdown period in South Africa, I managed to put in a good performance after not having competed for almost 11 months,” he said.

“Last jump, best jump (of 8.09m). I am more than happy. It’s a season’s best, although I know I am going to jump further within the next couple of weeks. Like I said, with limited access to facilities and no competition within an 11-month period, I am happy, but there’s way more to come.”

His next meeting is in Innsbruck, Austria on September 5.

@ashfakmohamed

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