Although women’s triple jumping dates to at least the early 20th century, the event wasn’t added to any major women’s championships until 1991. As a result, records of women’s triple jumping prior to the 1980s is sporadic. The first generally accepted but unofficial women’s triple jump world record was set in 1922, at the United States trials for the upcoming Women’s World Games. The competition was a response to the International Olympic Committee’s refusal to permit women to compete in the 1924 Olympics. Although the Games themselves didn’t include the triple jump, the event was part of the U.S. Trials meet, held in Mamoronek, N.Y. Elizabeth Stine won the competition, leaping 10.32 meters (33 feet, 10¼ inches) to set the initial women’s triple jump standard. Stine went on to earn a silver medal at the World Games in the long jump.
Only four more unofficial women’s triple jump world marks were recorded before 1981. Adrienne Kanel of Switzerland jumped 10.50/34-5¼ in 1923. Japan’s Kinue Hitomi – a versatile athlete who went on to earn an 800-meter silver medal in the 1928 Olympics – improved the mark to 11.62/38-1½ during the Osaka Games in 1926. Rie Yamauchi of Japan recorded a jump of 11.66/38-3 in 1939. In 1959, Mary Bignal – later known as Mary Rand – broke past 12 meters in a jump measuring 12.22/40-1. Rand went on to set the official world long jump record while earning a gold medal at the 1964 Olympics.
Americans Dominate the Triple Jump
Women’s triple jumping increased in popularity in the 1980s, particularly in the United States, as American women set new – but still unofficial – world marks seven times from 1981-85. Terri Turner leaped 12.43/40-9¼ in 1981 and 12.47/40-10¾ in 1982. In 1983, Melody Smith recorded a jump of 12.51/41-½, then Easter Gabriel improved the mark to 12.98/42-7. Turner topped the 13-meter barrier with jumps measuring 13.15/43-1¾ and 13.21/43-4 in 1984. Wendy Brown – a 19-year-old competing for the University of Southern California – extended the standard to 13.58/44-6¾ in 1985. Her effort was recognized by USA Track and Field as the American women’s junior record, a mark that stood until 2004.
Esmeralda Garcia of Brazil ended the U.S. streak by leaping 13.68/44-10½ in 1986, at an Indianapolis meet. The record was then broken five times in 1987, with Brown leading the way on May 2 when she posted a jump of 13.71/44-11¾. Flora Hyacinth of the Virgin Islands leaped 13.73/45-½ on May 17, while competing for the University of Alabama. American Sheila Hudson reached 13.78/45-2½ on June 6 and improved the mark to 13.85/45-5¼ on June 26, before China’s Li Huirong capped the year by passing 14 meters on her way to a jump measuring 14.04/46-¾ in October.
Li improved her record to 14.16/46-5½ in China the following year. Ukrainian-born Galina Chistyakova – who’d set the official world long jump record 1988 – established what became the final unofficial world record of 14.52/47-7½ while competing for the Soviet Union in 1989.
Women’s Triple Jump Enters the Mainstream
Women’s triple jump became a part of every major world championship competition during the 1990s and was added to the Olympics in 1996. The IAAF finally recognized a women’s triple jumping world record in 1990, when Li jumped 14.54/47-8½ in a meet in Sapporo, Japan. In 1991, after winning the first women’s World Indoor Championship triple jump gold medal, Ukraine’s Inessa Kravets – performing for the Soviet Union – improved the world record to 14.95/49-½ in a Moscow meet, despite a 0.2 mps headwind.
Russia’s Iolanda Chen edged the standard up to 14.97/49-1¼ in another Moscow meet in 1993, but only held the mark for two months. At the first outdoor World Championship women’s triple jump competition – held in Stuttgart – Russia’s Anna Biryukova competed in both the long jump and the triple jump. She didn’t reach the final in the long jump but did qualify for the triple jump final, even though she’d competed in the event for less than one year. Biryukova led the competition through four rounds with a personal best 14.77/48-5½. In the fifth round she passed the 15-meter barrier and leaped 15.09/49-6 to win the gold and place her name in the record books.
Entering the 1995 World Championship final, Biryukova’s effort was still the only 15-meter triple jump in women’s history. But perhaps Jonathan Edwards’ record-setting effort in the men’s final three days earlier served as an inspiration, because the top three women combined for a total of four jumps of at least 15 meters apiece during the women’s final. The parade began with Biryukova herself, who challenged her record but fell just short at 15.08/49-5¾ in round three. Next came Kravets – now competing for Ukraine. She’d fouled in her first two attempts, so she needed a legal jump that put her in the top eight just to continue in the event. She did that and more, shattering the old mark with an attempt measuring 15.50/50-10¼. Iva Prandzheva of Bulgaria also topped Biryukova’s former standard, reaching 15.18/49-9½ in round five before closing at 15.00/49-2½ on her final try. That left Prandzheva with a silver medal, despite owning what was then the second-best jump in women’s history, while Biryukova settled for the bronze.
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