14 August 2016
American Robert Beamon’s 8.90 metres long jump has remained the longest Olympic record after 47 years.
Beamon, aka “Bob’’, 69, was born on Aug. 29, 1946 in South Jamaica, Queens, New York.
Nigeria’s Yusuf Ali, the current Nigerian national record holder of 8.29 metres, who set the record at an African Athletics Championship in Lagos in 1989, described Bemoan’s record as “incredible’’ as it still has circumstances that are mythical about it to date.
“I was one of the dedicated apostles of Beamon,’’ Ali said at the ongoing Rio Olympics.
Legendary Beamon was attending a Jamaica High School when he was discovered by a renowned track and field coach, Larry Ellis.
Beamon later became part of an All-American track and field team. He began his college career at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to be close to his ill grandmother.
After her death, he transferred to the University of Texas, El Paso, where he received a track and field scholarship.
In 1965, Beamon set a National High school triple jump record and was second in the nation in the long jump.
In 1967, he won the American Athletics Union (AAU) indoor title and earned a silver medal at the Pan American Games, both in the long jump.
Beamon was suspended from the University of Texas, El Paso, for refusing to compete against Brigham Young University, alleging the game had racist undertones.
This left him without a coach just as fellow Olympian, Ralph Boston, began to coach him unofficially.
In the 1968 Summer Olympics, Beamon entered the Games in Mexico City as the favourite having won in 22 of the 23 meets that he had competed in in that year, including a career best of 8.33m (an equivalent to 27 ft. 4 in.)
That year he won the AAU and NCAA indoor long and triple jump titles as well as the AAU outdoor long jump title.
He came close to missing the Olympic final after overstepping on his first two attempts at the qualifiers.
With only a chance left, Beamon re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final.
There he faced the two previous gold medal winners, American Ralph Boston in 1960 and Lynn Davies of Great Britain in 1964, and a two-time bronze medallist, Igor Ter-Ovanesyan of the Soviet Union.
On Oct. 18, Beamon set a world record in the long jump with a first jump of 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.), bettering the then existing record by 55 cm (21¾ in.).
When the announcer called out the distance for the jump, Beamon – unfamiliar with metric measurements – still did not realise what he had done.
When his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken a world record by nearly two feet, his legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack.
This was brought on, by the emotional shock that also collapsed to his knees, with his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.
In one of the more endearing images of the Games, his competitors then helped him to his feet.
The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies told Beamon, “you have destroyed this event,’’ and in sports jargon, a new adjective – “Beamonesque’’ – came into use, to describe spectacular feat.
Prior to Beamon’s jump, the world record had been broken 13 times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm (2½ in.) and the largest increase being 15 cm (6 in.).
His world record stood for 23 years until it was finally broken in 1991 when, Mike Powell jumped 8.95 m (29 ft. 4⅜ in.) at the World Championships in Tokyo.
But Beamon’s jump is still the Olympic record and 47 years later, remains the second longest wind legal jump in history.
A journalist called Beamon “the man who saw lightning.’’ A sports journalist, Dick Schaap wrote a book about the leap, “The Perfect Jump’’. Powell still holds the world record for the event.
Beamon landed his jump near the far end of the sand pit but the optical device which had been installed to measure jump distances was not designed to measure a jump of such length.
This forced the officials to measure the jump manually that added to its aura.
Shortly after Beamon’s jump, a major rainstorm blew through, making it more difficult for his competitors to try to match his feat.
None was able to do so. Klaus Beer finished second with a leap of 8.19 m (26 ft. 10.4 in.).
In making his record jump, Beamon enjoyed a number of advantageous environmental factors.
At an altitude of 2240m, Mexico City’s air had less resistance than air at sea level, although the rarefied atmosphere in Mexico City could have made a difference of only approximately 4 cm.
Beamon also benefited from a tail wind of two meters per second on his jump, the maximum allowable for record purposes.
It has been estimated that the tail wind and altitude might have improved Beamon’s long jump distance by 31 cm (12.2 in.).
In addition to the record, world records were broken in most of the sprint and jump events at the 1968 Olympic Games.
During the same hour, American Lee Evans set the world record in the 400 metres that lasted for almost 20 years.
After winning the gold medal in Mexico City, Bemon never again jumped beyond 8.22 m (26 ft. 11¾ in.).
The world-record jump was named by Sports Illustrated magazine, as one of the five greatest sports moments of the 20th century.