While there were many podium moments for British athletes to celebrate at the European Champs in Munich, Jacob Fincham-Dukes had his taken away
As he made his way around the track on his lap of honour in the Munich Olympic Stadium in August, Jacob Fincham-Dukes allowed his mind to wander. “I was already thinking about what it could mean in terms of getting on some funding, getting into better meets next year and even ideas of sponsorship,” he says of the fringe benefits which accompany podium success.
The “it” in question was the European silver medal he appeared to have won. An opening round 8.06m in the men’s long jump final had given the Briton an early lead and, though Olympic champion Militadis Tentoglou ultimately won gold, the Greek was the only athlete to jump further.
Fincham-Dukes was still thrilled at the thought of winning the first major senior medal of his career and he was allowed to take the applause of the substantial crowd, even to conduct some media interviews, before he heard the news.
“I was heading into the media tunnel and there was a random person who asked me: ‘Do you have any comment about the jumps not counting?’ I was like, ‘What do you mean? and he replied: ‘Well on the result, they’ve changed it. They’re removed your 8.06m’.
“At this point, it was all hands on deck panic because we had no idea what was happening.”
A protest had been lodged by the French team that Fincham-Dukes’ foot had been marginally over the line for that 8.06m leap, a distance which had been matched in later rounds by Sweden’s Thobias Montler and Frenchman Jules Pommery. The Briton had remained in second place due to his second-best effort of 7.97m until the protest showed he had, in fact, committed a foul by the tiniest of margins.
Under the old system of using plasticine on the board, it would have been a legal jump but the new – and seemingly constantly controversial – system of using technology to determine if any part of the athlete’s foot has broken the vertical plane determined his attempt could not stand. He would be demoted to fifth.
The British team launched a counter protest and it wasn’t until gone midnight – hours after the competition – when it all became official. Many have questioned why so much time was allowed to elapse between Fincham-Dukes’ jump and the protest being made.
If he had known during the competition, there would have been time to adjust and try again. On this occasion, there were no second chances.
“It changes everything and not just for me,” he says. “I knew I wasn’t going to touch Tentoglou so it was a case of ‘I’m defending this from the other competitors’. Your mindset’s different and, for the others they’ll think ‘Jacob’s jumped 8.06m so I now need to do this’.
“It sets the precedent throughout the entire competition. People have different mindsets, they approach jumps differently. Even subconsciously, you need to put in more effort on something going down the runway. Being allowed all of that time was an absolute joke.
“There’s a massive, massive problem with the time period for sure and that really shouldn’t have been allowed to happen, in my opinion. I was over the moon about [winning the medal] and to have it stripped away like that, it cuts deep.”
As for the change of methods for judging no jumps, Fincham-Dukes believes it is a case of athletics creating a problem where previously there was none.
“I see no problem with the plasticine at all,” he says. “It’s been used forever. I guess they’re bringing in this camera technology with the laser to remove any ambiguity but then you end up with the exact situation that this was supposed to prevent. Sometimes technology isn’t the better way to do it.
“You can look at the pictures 100 times over and it’s just such small margins in terms of what they’re dealing with. If the technology didn’t pick it up, I think that’s fair game at that point. And, honestly, mine wasn’t even the only instance at the championships where there were things like that.
“I think plasticine has worked and if you asked the athletes about it they would say the same. However, ask them about this technology after one year of using it and we’ve got a huge issue.
“There’s been a tonne of external support from other athletes, which is where it means the most to me because those are the people with the knowledge. Those are the people with the expertise and they’re just like ‘this is a joke’.”
With each passing day the pain eases a little and despite the lack of silver in his pocket Fincham-Dukes is actually better set for next year due to a rise in the world rankings.
He has also just moved from Oklahoma to Dallas, Texas, to begin a new job as a Business Development Associate with a tech company.
When it comes to training, however, he won’t have to look far to find motivation.
“Having the medal taken away from me is definitely going to fuel that fire,” he says.
“On those cold, cold days when you’re doing the running that you don’t want to do, or there’s that extra rep in your lifts that you’re trying to push out… I think that will just be there in the back of my mind to get me through things.”
» This article first appeared in the September issue of AW magazine