Mar 15, 2024

The World’s Premier Long Jumper Who’s Won Everything

Miltiádis Tentóglou is one of the most mentally grounded athletes who soars longer than what seems humanly possible.
by Justin KornEditor

Miltiádis Tentóglou might just be the greatest long jumper there ever was. He’s only 25 years old and he’s won every major competition there is for the sport. At last year’s 2023 World Championships in Budapest, he won gold – besting last year’s silver showing in Eugene, Oregon. He landed a final jump in Tokyo which won him an Olympic gold in 2021. You name it, he’s won it.  

But as he swirls around his cappuccino, he goes on the record and tells me there’s one more personal best he’s aiming for. Before we get to that, let’s get right down to the question on all of our minds: How did a teenager from Grevena, Greece, recognize that his body was built for jumping? 

It all started with parkour 

Team sports weren’t of interest to a teenage Miltiádis. And while he might’ve left organized team sports, such as basketball and football, on read during his school days, he was quick to slip into Parkour’s DMs, which was trending on YouTube.  

At the time, parkour athletes were demonstrating and teaching their tricks on YouTube and Miltiádis and his buddies tried to reenact gravity defying moves on mother nature’s natural urban playground: the streets.     

Miltiádis admits that Parkour isn’t for the brittle boned or faint hearted, but when it comes to what drew him to the slickest of street culture sports, he says, “you could do it in your own way. It’s a very free event. So, you could start whenever you want, do whatever you like, at your own pace—It’s free.”  

It was only after he had to surgically patch up his right knee and he turned his attention to track and field, that Parkour was more or less put on mute. 

Track and field took notice of Miltiádis’s high-flying talents; and it liked what it saw 

Did you ever have one of those right place at the right time dream sequences, where a talent scout stumbles on you perfecting your craft?  The best part of the dream is always waking up right before the scout successfully passes on their contact info.  

That’s exactly what happened with Miltiádis. Except it wasn’t a dream. One day, a coach approached him while he was parkouring with a friend and asked him to test out his natural street acrobatic aptitudes with track and field. The open-ended trial offer included attending three to four track and field trainings sessions a week.  

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Miltiádis only saw the upsides to giving track and field a whirl. He tells me how the try-out played out: “We started the next Monday, and it was actually really nice. Because it was fun. We were a lot of kids trying to do a little bit of everything. Of course, I wanted to do jumps only, but yea, it was nice.” 

Initially, he thought he was destined for the high-jump event. The whole obstacle-ness of the high jump, having to keep your body above the limbo bar, seemed too good to be true. But Miltiádis ended up trying out all the track and field events until his body made the decision for him. 

"I saw that in the long jump it was very natural of me to go far for some reason. I mean, I was going very far without doing any training. That was the point that made me realize, I might be really good at this."

Miltiádis TentóglouLong jumper

And Miltiadis’s body didn’t just drop him subtle hints 

Miltiádis runway take-off lands him over eight meters from where he leaps. His travel time takes a few seconds and is a marvel to watch. It’s a mash-up combination of grace and desperately fighting to thwart gravities attempts to prematurely ground him. Meanwhile, he tells me the feeling while in the air is unlike any other.  

“It feels amazing. Especially when you hit that good jump that’s better than what you usually do. It’s like you’re actually flying and I can actually think while I’m in the air. And I can tell if it’s a good jump.” Says Miltiádis.  

Except he’s not quite on autopilot while in mid-flight. Instead, he stays present during the jump. “When I’m in the air, I’m trying to only think about my technique,” he says, “I don’t think about anything else. I'm thinking about my landing. I say to myself, I’ve got a good height, so now just land.”  

From concentrated focus comes his consistency 

The way Miltiádis keeps his mind sharp and focused on the jump helps him improve and stay in control.  

With over seven years’ worth of jumping competitions, he’s conditioned his mind to will his body to consistently perform exactly as it should. Forty meters before a jump, he already has a gut instinct on how his jump is going to play out – including whether he trips the foul line.  

“I think it’s experience,” he attributes his ability to bring his A-game to each competition.  But it’s not experience alone that lends him the black belt status of an elite jumper. 

He adds, “but you also have to think and to know exactly what you’re doing; for example, I have very good accuracy with my run up. It’s very measured, and I don’t make many mistakes. If I want to do a foul, it’s because I want to do a foul.” 

And he’s freed himself from negative self-talk 

What also separates Miltiádis from the rest of the jumping herd is another one of his mindful superpowers. He has somehow unlocked a superpower to disconnect from the stresses of jumping and unhelpful chatter in his mind at will.  

“I have a clear mind in between jumps,” he tells me, before dishing out his tried-and-true routine to quash his pre-jump jitters. 

“I also have some nerves. So what I do is, I try to meditate a little bit, and think about what I’m going to do the next day. I think about how I’m going to do my warm-ups and my jumps – and everything else. And I also watch videos of other master jumpers – and I’m able to calm down.”  

In a nutshell, finding his sense of self and calmness comes down to the following:

"I try to go to the mentality of executing."

Miltiádis TentóglouLong Jumper

Feeling like I’ve now tapped into his be like water Bruce Lee-ness, now is the perfect opportunity for me to ask him about giving the nod to anime’s captain of the Straw Hat Pirates, Monkey D. Luffy, at the Tokyo Olympics and in the Budapest World Championships.  

Conjuring up the free spirited Luffy 

Miltiádis has been a Dragon Ball Z fan ever since he was ten years old. Then through the art of persuasion, his friends converted him into a One Piece believer – an anime series that follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy on his quest to find the ultimate treasure. 

And in the leader of the Straw Hat Pirates, Miltiádis found his anime spirit animal. Miltiádis identifies with One Piece’s King Luffy, a character who Miltiadis says is “one of the freest persons in the anime world. He does whatever he wants to do. If he doesn’t want to do something, he doesn’t do it. That’s why I feel like I’m like him.” 

He even gave a power-up nod to Monkey. D Luffy at the Tokyo Olympics and in Budapest at the World Championships during the presentation ceremony.  

It went down like this: During the long jumper’s walk-out intro ahead of the competitions, he assumed a samurai squat with one hand placed on his thigh; the other hand, planted knuckles-down on the ground. He momentarily looks down at the ground, so you can only see the top of his head. And the result: he won gold at both competitions.   

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Big results are Miltiádis’s last triumphant frontier 

How does a long jumper who’s won every competition in the field manage to still stay hungry and disciplined for more? 

 “I have won every medal that is possible to win,” Miltiádis says, “My next goal is to do big results, better results. Bigger jumps. Stay in history as one of the best, if not the best.” 

The world record sits at 8.95 meters and was set in 1991. Back then, the long jumping discipline wasn’t as closely regulated – and the records are somewhat controversial – as it is today with blood testing and technologies that can pinpoint precisely where a jumper’s feet land.  

And Miltiádis flat out tells me that 8.95 meters isn’t a realistic goal for him.