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The Doctor Of The Triple Jump

August 26, 2023 5 min read 4 Comments

The Doctor Of The Triple Jump

Ivan Black is a skilled triple jumper, but enjoys other events, like the Steeplechase showed here. It displays a level of fitness other 74-year old's should envy. Photo by Rob Jerome.

 

*The story has a link to Ivan's gold medal triple jump in 2021 that drew praise from an Olympian.

*Black has an unusual training partner. An escalator.

*His network in Masters track is deep and obliging.

 

By Ray Glier

Dr. Ivan Black, 74, lives a hop-skip-and-jump from Times Square in New York City. For those of you younger than say, 60, that translates to not very far, which means Ivan can triple jump his way down to Broadway. He would do it gladly, if the cabs and tourists stayed out of the way.

The man has energy for the triple jump, which was actually called the hop-skip-jump, or hop-step-jump when it was introduced at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Ivan has rhythm for the triple and adores the cadence of skill. It’s a son to him.

Black is 5-foot-8 and has won gold medals in the event in Masters track against opponents six-to-eight inches taller. But what Ivan holds closer than his gold are his stories. Ivan has immense pride in his track & field, especially with the triple jump, and he regals you with stories.

It is the stories that help bind together these older athletes. You could have heard them all summer at various competitions. It is not nostalgia because the stories are recent history, not long ago triumphs. These stories invigorate the older athlete, or just casual participant.

Like the time in December 2022 when Black walked up to the Olympian and former world-record holder in the triple jump, Willie Banks, and asked him to look at a video of Ivan in a triple jump competition.

They were in line to board a plane. The video was Black’s gold medal triumph at the 2021 USA Track & Field Masters Outdoors Championships. Here is a link to the video.

“Willie looked at it twice,” Black said.

“Ivan,” Willie said, “you have a better middle step than I do.”

“I about fell on the floor,” Ivan said. “The great Willie Banks said that.”

Then there was the story of Black jumping at another national meet. A young triple jumper walked up to Ivan and said, “Man, your triple is music to my ears.”

“What do you mean?,” Ivan said.

The kid clapped his hands three times to mimic a well-timed beat.

There was the story of Ivan’s friend who came from the other side of the infield at an indoor meet and said, “Ivan, did you just jump?”

“Yes,” Ivan said.

“I heard it,” the friend said. “I didn’t see it, but I heard it and I knew it was you.

"Boom, boom, boom."

**

Ivan Black is not uncommon among the earnest Masters track athletes who show up to a meet. Most arrive with the same exuberance.

Well, wait a minute.

Maybe not most are as energized as Ivan. Maybe a few…then again, maybe it's just a couple.

How many others use the escalator at a Marriott Hotel near Times Square for a workout?

“I go up two at a time,” Ivan said. “Of course, I also run in Central Park.”

And who else is so adept at cobbling together, on site, a non-club relay team, which then sets a world record?

It was 2019 and the 4x800 at the USATF Masters Indoor National Championships in Winston-Salem, N.C., in the M65-69 cohort. Robert Qualls was the youngster at 66, but three runners were in their 70s. Ron Pate was 72 and Harry Nolan was 71 and Black was 70. Ivan gathered his squad in hours and “played down”, which is actually playing up against younger runners.

"We thought we broke the American record, but the next morning an official walks up to me and says, 'No, you broke the world record'," Black said.

You might have guessed, Ivan is known for his exceptional networking around Masters track…and story-telling.

He also loves being the connoisseur of the triple jump. He goes off his left foot, then left again, then right, and he flies.

For those jumpers out there, the secret sauce is this:

From Ivan:

“You have to shorten that first jump a little bit because what you might lose a little bit in that first jump you will much more than make up for in that middle step. It might have been the Japanese who figured out why do a little skip in the middle? Why not take a longer step in the middle? But you have to shorten that first step and stay a little bit lower to the ground. And that way you can really pop that middle step.”

In 2019 in an international meet in Toronto a 6-foot-4 rival was out-dueled by Ivan for the gold medal. The man was mystified he could lose to a relative runt who was improving between one and two feet every jump.

“How did you do that, how did you beat me?” the man said to Ivan.

“Technique, my man, technique,” the doctor said.

In Greensboro at the 2023 USATF Masters Outdoor National Championships Ivan finished 5th in the triple jump (M70-74). He is at the top of his age group, but still dejected he did not medal.

“I’m jumping three feet less than last year, which is disappointing,” Black said.
He has a herniated disc in his back, but he feels a renewal is coming with winter and another birthday. He is moving up to M75-79.

“The young stud again, the new age group,” Ivan said. “In Masters track every five years you're reborn. That's one thing I love about Masters track.”

Black does not do the robust workouts some other elite Masters athletes do, but there is that escalator at the Marriott and space in Central Park and other pathways around the city.

He is a retired orthopedist and sports medicine doctor and knows how to take care of himself. Ivan once wrapped his own twingy hamstring before pulling off a gold medal jump. He also runs other events, like the hurdles, and that improves his fitness.

These days, Ivan advises Wall Street investors on promising biotechnology companies. The money guys don’t usually know what they are looking at with a new medicine so they come to Ivan.

That goes for most of the rest of us when we watch the triple jump. We don’t know what we’re looking at as far as supreme technique. If you are watching Ivan Black know you are watching—and listening—to a Master in the triple.

Whether it's the triple jump, or here in the high jump, Ivan knows technique.

Photo by Rob Jerome.

 


4 Responses

David Black
David Black

September 01, 2023

You’re the master, Ivan. I can’t beat you even when you’re off your game. Still, it was great to catch up with you in Greensboro, and I look forward to next year as I try to copy your technique. Keep challenging yourself!

Bruce Mintz
Bruce Mintz

September 01, 2023

This was an excellent well written article about Ivan Black. For the past, at least, 7 years he and I have cobbled together non-club relay teams at indoor and outdoor US Masters Track and Field Championships. I am from Edmonton Alberta in Canada and Ivan has always been a gentleman and a man of his word; when I come to the USA I am the relay teams. Then we find two more reliable.
It is an honour and a pleasure to be a loyal friend of Ivan. He is a true credit to the sport.

Florence L Meiler
Florence L Meiler

August 27, 2023

Ray, I really enjoy reading about Senior Athletes. It motivates me to keep training. Thanks, Flo

Richard Rizzo
Richard Rizzo

August 27, 2023

My good friend Ivan. I have know him since 1977 always nice enough to share his expertise with anyone who was willing to learn about the triple jump, the long jump or the hurdles ! We have gone to many Championships and roomed together you could not find a nicer man to spend time with at the meet ! Though out he years he has competed with dedication to the sport many times he would not back out of a meet when he was not feeling up to par. But with the heart of a Champion he did what he had to do to stay focused and win ! Congratulations Ivan on all your victories over the many decades that you competed. !

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