The 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, witnessed 54 world records. But the one that led to a frenzy of global headlines was from Germany’s Markus Rehm.
His astonishing leap of 8.40m in the men’s long jump T44, a distance good enough to win Olympic gold at London 2012, has made it to No. 2 in the International Paralympic Committee’s Top 50 Moments of 2015.
Heading into 2015, Rehm, the Paralympic and European champion, was a red hot favourite to retain his world title. Although no stranger to success, he made a global name for himself in 2014 when he won the long jump competition at the German able-bodied national championships with a leap of 8.24m.
On 16 May, at a meeting in Barcelona, Spain, Rehm gave a good indication that he was in tremendous form with a leap of 8.29m, to extend his own record by 5cm.
In October’s World Championships, what he did surprised many, including himself.
On the first day of competition, the long jump pit had shown its potential for record breaking jumps.
Rehm’s teammate Vanessa Low broke her own world record twice on the way to T42 gold, whilst France’s Marie Amelie le Fur jumped farther than her previous world record in each of her six jumps in the T44 class.
On the afternoon of Rehm’s competition, the conditions were almost perfect. The temperature was just right for jumping; athletes were benefitting from a headwind. But the only concern was that frequently the wind was above 2.0m/s, too strong for any world records to count.
After a red flag in the first round, Rehm jumped a wind-assisted 7.97m in the second round to all but secure gold from his rivals. Confident the world title was in the bag, he went into the third round relaxed and chasing the world record.
With an almost perfect 1.8m/s wind behind him, Rehm hit the board with precision. Less than 1cm separated his blade from the end of the board.
He then glided through the air for what seemed like ages, but what was actually less than two seconds. Defying gravity, Rehm’s jump also redefined what many thought was possible by a para-athlete.
Clenching his fist afterwards, the 27-year-old knew he had jumped big and looked on with excitement as he awaited his distance on the scoreboard.
When it showed 8.40m, Rehm could hardly believe it; it was a jump that would have won him Olympic gold at London 2012 by 9cm.
The jump would also have won him silver at the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships, 1cm behind Great Britain’s world and Olympic champion Greg Rutherford.
“To jump 8.40m is just what I dreamed of and I achieved it so I am really happy. I woke up feeling that it was going to be my day. Thankfully it all worked out for me,” Rehm said afterward.
For those who struggle with imaging how far 8.40m is, it is 17cm further than the width of a tennis court for singles matches. It is also the equivalent of five Lionel Messi’s lying down head-to-toe.
To find out more about the IPC’s Top 50 Moments of 2015, visit the dedicated page on the IPC’s website.