When Connor Murphy sets off to complete the hop, step and jump that constitutes a triple jump, he willingly commits himself to what’s arguably the greatest force a human limb can be exposed to outside of a motor vehicle accident.

Murphy, aged 22, and who stands 198cm tall – six feet six in Imperial measurements – knows the force he’ll exert on the ground during the hop and step phase of each effort will be up to 22 times his body weight. This means his 80 kilo frame will, for a millisecond, weigh 1.7 tons – that’s heavier than a Mack truck!

It’s tough, but science notes that like other triple jumpers Murphy’s body has probably adapted to absorb the mind-bending stresses his sport places on his body. Bone density tests conducted on triple jumpers show they have thicker, denser thigh and shin bones than the average person.

“I’ve never had reason to have a bone density test,” said Murphy, who won the gold medal at last year’s Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands with a Personal Best (and meet record) of 16.45m.

“But I do know they’ve done tests on triple jumpers and found they have a high bone density, and that’s really cool because it shows an adaptation of the body. It shows whatever stress you place your body under it will adapt in a way to manage it.”

Murphy, who was pursued by the Sydney Swans AFL club to train with their Academy team when he was a teenager, said the force he combats each time he competes, or trains, means he can’t put on even the tiniest amount of weight.

“The easiest way to explain [the impact of the force on my body] is in terms of gaining weight,” Murphy, a New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) scholarship athlete said. “I’m 80 kilos, but it’s such a great force if I weigh a kilo heavier, I’ll know it.

“That one extra kilo times 22 of force [on top of the 1.7 tonnes] means it hits you. [With that extra weight] I’d get back issues, knee issues and ankle issues . . .  and if you’re in a wrong position [when you jump] it really hurts.”

It has been suggested triple jumpers are the ones who literally embody Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic motto –  Citius – Altius – Fortius or Faster, higher, stronger.

Besides requiring great physical and mental strength, they must also be very fast. Indeed, when a world class male triple jumper hits the take-off board, they’ve covered 10.5 metres per second. And testimony to their higher – when they hop and jump – is the anecdote, and calculations, concerning Kenny Harrison, America’s gold medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

It was calculated Harrison completed the longest ever hop phase by a triple jumper with a mighty 7.02m. Mathematicians concluded that would’ve been the equivalent of a long jumper leaping 8.29m. Adding lustre to Harrison’s feat is that distance would’ve secured him the silver medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

It’s the many intricacies of his sport – which Irish mythology suggests was contested in the Tailteann Games in 1829 BC – that appeal to Murphy, who is studying Biomedical engineering and neuroscience at Sydney University. He describes his better jumps as providing a feeling of being ‘close to flying’.

“You want them to be light, quick and painless,” he said. “What I like most about triple jump is the complexity of it. It means it’s extremely satisfying if you get it right.

“One of the funnier cues you can use when you’re getting better at triple jump is if it didn’t hurt it’s a good jump. If it hurt, well, you’re probably doing something wrong.

“I don’t think I’ve ever got a jump out that’s perfect, and even though I haven’t achieved perfection, the ones I’ve done really good feel very satisfying. To have that understanding of what it’d be like to get that perfect jump is what pushes you on. It’s motivating.”

And Murphy, who hopes to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games, is striving to be world’s best under the watchful of his coach – and father – Andrew, a three-time Olympian and 2001 world indoor championships bronze medallist.

“The key to it is compartmentalising ‘coach’ and ‘Dad’,” Murphy said of making the father-son, coach-athlete arrangement work smoothly. “Training is ‘coach’, home it’s ‘Dad’. We don’t get it right all the time, but it does help a lot in stopping an overlap and there being issues.”

Indeed, Murphy attributes his family’s motto – dream it, believe it, achieve it – for playing a role in his success as an athlete who tried his hand at cricket, AFL, gymnastics and swimming and for also driving his notable scholastic achievements.

“That’s been the family motto for as long as I can remember,” he said. “While my early days were all about having fun, when I was in school . . . I was five . . . Dad would tell me to ‘dream it, believe it, achieve it.’

“I think that’s what he was told as an athlete.”

While he’s extremely proud his father’s stellar sporting career, Murphy makes no bones about wanting to better his PB – the 17.32m hop, skip, and jump Andrew completed during a 1999 meet in Spain.

“Beating Dad’s mark isn’t what’s driving me as a triple jumper . . . but . . . it is a nice little incentive,” he said with a cheeky grin. “And I know Dad wants that, too. I’m getting really good coaching from him; I’m very lucky in that regard.”

Murphy, whose Pacific Games triumph in the Solomon Island’s blustery conditions followed his fourth placing at the World University Games in China, will dedicate the next few months to accumulating the remaining world ranking points (if not the automatic 17.22m qualifying jump) he needs to compete in what would be his first Olympics campaign.

He’ll compete at events in Australia, New Zealand, the Oceania Championships in Fiji, and then, from his base in Italy, Murphy will strut his stuff at meets throughout Europe.  He admitted it surprises him to realise the Olympic Games start in under 200 days.

“When you’re in the moment and training every day, you’re not thinking about it very much,” Murphy said. “People might say they have Paris as their motivation, but I’ve been training for so long it has become as habitual as brushing your teeth of a morning.

“I get up and train. At 15 or 16 I thought [Paris] could be the first Olympics I make. It’s always been in the back of my mind, there’s no doubt about that, but I think if you focus on the day to day, you can get there.”

When he’s not challenging limb crushing forces or striving to add extra centimetres in the sandpit, Murphy, who once aspired to become a brain surgeon, is studying for his Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience degree.

“I’ve always been interested in neuroscience,” he said. “When I was younger I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but I outgrew that. I like the research side.

“I think the brain is fascinating, and I think through sport and knowing psychology and mindset is so important to being successful, it naturally led to my interest in it. It’s a new field and still developing.

“I’m very interested in neuro engineering, which is technologies related to treating issues in the brain, or perhaps even improving areas in the brain. I’d like to go into research and development in that field.”

Daniel Lane, NSWIS

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