longjumpIn the 2012 Summer Olympics, Greg Rutherford of Great Britain won gold in the Long Jump event by reaching 27 feet 3 and one-fourth inches. The New York Times created a data visualization comparing Rutherford’s distance to all medal-winning jumps since 1896. The data spans a century of Olympic history. The visualization is accompanied by a narrated animation that explains why breaking long jump records is not an easy task.

The use of data visualization allows us to marvel and appreciate long jump athletes and their superhuman feats. Without the visualization, the difference between 27 and 29 feet is difficult to conjure. To account for this, the distances are juxtaposed to a basketball court, which provides a better sense of scale for the average reader. In this example, 29 feet is a jump from the baseline to behind the three-point line. This is a feat that Bob Beamon accomplished in 1968, and remains as the farthest long jump in Olympic history.

The data is also visualized in the form of an animated narration. Each medal is represented on a horizontal axis, and the narration alerts the user to the important or novel information in the data set. For example, in 1936, Jesse Owen won Olympic Gold by jumping 26.4 feet. This distance would have won every gold medial until 1960. But even without diving deep into the data, the user has an immediate sense of the history of the event, as well as its irregularities.


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