Markus Rehm

Markus Rehm, a long jumper from Göppingen was left off the German national team being sent to the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, despite the fact that his jump is the longest by a German this year.

The reason? His right leg is a prosthetic limb, and the German Track and Field Federation “has used biometric studies to rule that his carbon-fiber prosthesis gives him an unfair advantage,” according to the Associated Press.

And so goes the cat-and-mouse chase between advances in technology and the authorities in charge of creating an even playing field.

In the 1960s, rigid steel poles gave way to carbon-fiber poles. While the pole vault leap increased during Olympic competition from 4.56 in 1956 to 4.70 in 1960, it lept to 5.10 in 1964 and again to 5.4o in 1968. First movers in the technology had the advantage.

When the full-body swimming suits were all the rage, and over 100 world records were broken in an 18-month period in 2008 and 2009, FINA, the international swimming federation, decided to ban certain suits made of polyurethane, according to this New York Times article.

And now, track and field organizations are trying to figure out when the artificial limbs on athletes are creating an advantage or not. There are likely to be fine lines, and difficult choices as the technology improves. Will a runner with an artificial arm be allowed to compete with full-body athletes?

And for that matter, can’t we say eyeglasses or contact lenses for riflemen or archers are a competitive advantage versus those who do not need them?

Has anyone asked?

Go to this link to see fascinating video of Rehm and his jumps.

Brian Sternberg
Click on photo for another great story about Brian.

No one had soared higher than Washington native, Brian Sternberg, pole vaulting to a world record height of 16ft 8 inches (5.08 m) on June 7, 1963. A sure lock to compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Sternberg’s plan for glory went awry. As part of his training, Sternberg was working out on a routine technique on the trampouline, one he had done many times before. This time he landed awkwardly on his neck, resulting in paralysis and leaving him a quadriplegic.

Texan, Fred Hansen eventually went on win the gold medal in pole vaulting in Tokyo, jumping only three quarters of an inch higher than Sternberg’s best jump. Not only were he and his fellow pole vaulting teammates beneficiaries from a special fund of $2,500 contributed by the Washington Athletic Club in Sternberg’s honor, which paid for their expenses to Tokyo, Hansen said he learned how to be a better pole vaulter from Sternberg. “Brian helped me out with several things I was