A Leap For The Ages: Bob Beamon’s 29-Foot Long Jump Turns 50
A half century later, there’s still only one way to describe the men’s long jump at the 1968 Olympics: Beamonesque. We take an in-depth look at one of the greatest singular accomplishments in sports history. Beamon improved the WR by 6.59% – that’s the equivalent of someone in 2018 lowering the marathon WR to 1:53:28 or the 100-meter record to 8.95.
50 years later, there’s still only one way to describe the men’s long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics: Beamonesque
By Jonathan Gault
October 18, 2018
This is how Bob Beamon spent October 17, 1968, his final day as a mortal, his final day as Bob Beamon from Queens, New York, before he became the Bob Beamon.
He arrived at the Estadio Olimpico Universitario in Mexico City that morning, and as he walked toward the warmup area for the qualifying round of the men’s Olympic long jump competition, Beamon and Charlie Mays were approached by their American teammate Ralph Boston, who reminded them what the day was all about.
“You can’t win an Olympic medal today,” said Boston, the 1960 Olympic long jump champion and 1964 silver medalist. “All you can do this morning is to qualify and move on to tomorrow.”
Yet by the time Beamon lined up for his third and final qualifying jump, a little past 11:00 a.m., his Olympic fate hung in the balance. Beamon had spent the pre-Olympic training camp honing his speed with Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who had earned gold and bronze in the 200 meters the previous night before making their famous Black Power salute on the medal stand. Now Beamon’s speed was electrifying — he could run 100 yards in 9.5 seconds, and estimated he could run the 100 meters in 10 seconds flat. But that speed had also become his enemy. Beamon was so fast that he could lose control on the runway: on his first attempt, he took off a full foot beyond the board. He fouled again on his second attempt. One more foul and his Olympics would be over, a disaster for the man who had come to Mexico City as the gold-medal favorite after winning 22 of his 23 pre-Olympic competitions.
Boston, looking on, thought back on his words to Beamon earlier that day, and thought back to Greg Bell, the 1956 Olympic champion who had encouraged Boston early in his career. He thought about Beamon’s splendid season, and the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that lay in front of him (this was Boston’s third Olympic team, but he was the exception — in the pre-professional era, most U.S. Olympians would hang up their spikes after their first Games to find a real job). Boston did not think about the Olympic record he had set a few minutes earlier, or the fact that another foul by Beamon would give him a significantly better shot at an unprecedented second Olympic gold.
“What sense would it make for you to go through an entire season and have such a great season and come to Mexico City for the biggest competition of your life and you don’t make the final?” Boston says, 50 years later. “That makes no sense to me.”
So Boston, the man who had inspired Beamon to become an Olympian four years earlier by showing up at his Jamaica High School gym as Beamon sat mesmerized by his red, white, and blue USA warmup suit, approached Beamon and offered some advice: step back a few inches before attempt #3.
“All you’ve gotta do is jump 7.80 [meters, or 25-7 ¼], that’s all you have to do,” Boston told him. “And you can jump that blindfolded.”
Beamon took all possible precautions for his final qualifying jump. He lengthened his run-up, half-jogged down the runway, and did not come close to touching the board; Boston estimated he was 18 inches behind it when he took off, while Beamon thought it was closer to two feet. Still Beamon leaped 8.19 meters (26-10 ½), second only to Boston’s 8.27 (27-1 ¾). He was in the final.
(A note on feet vs. meters: while most modern jumpers speak in terms of meters, Beamon and many of his contemporaries dealt primarily in feet and inches. This story will include both measurements when distance is referenced.)
As Beamon prepared to leave the stadium, he heard that his wife, Bertha, had arrived at the Olympic Village and was looking for him. This was not welcome news. Beamon had brought his girlfriend, Gladys, with him to Mexico City, where they were staying in a three-story white stucco Spanish villa that had been rented for Beamon by Mel Zahn in the hopes that he would sign with Zahn’s Pacific Coast Track Club post-Olympics. Beamon described his marriage to Bertha as loveless; Beamon says he felt pressured into it upon learning that Bertha was pregnant and had grown suspicious when Bertha claimed she had miscarried months later.
Zahn had also provided Beamon with a limousine and chauffeur, and Beamon used it to spend the afternoon hitting the shops with Gladys, buying her pair after pair of shoes. But the shopping spree had done little to calm Beamon down; he was a bundle of emotional energy as they returned to the villa that night. He needed something to help him relax. So he took a shot of tequila (maybe two; Beamon’s memory is fuzzy 50 years later). And he did something that, until that point, he says he had never done the night before a competition: he put on some soft music and made love to Gladys. Beamon had used up that energy, but new thoughts sprang up in its place.
“All I could think of were words that started with D — deplete, drain, dissipate, distract,” Beamon wrote in his 1999 autobiography, The Man Who Could Fly. “You have just left your gold medal on the sheets.”
None of it mattered, of course. The fouls, the tequila, the sex, all were washed away by what Beamon accomplished the next day.
At 3:46 p.m. on October 18, Bob Beamon stood on the Estadio Olimpico Universitario runway with a breeze at his back, readying for his first attempt of the 1968 Olympic long jump final. It was 74 degrees and humid, and though dark clouds had threatened a storm all day, there was no precipitation. In the leadup to the Olympics, Beamon had started his runup 120 or 125 feet from the board, but he was faster now, and backed up to 130. Beamon’s willowy 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame was perfectly still: back straight, arms by his sides, legs apart with his left slightly in front of the right. He said a prayer, reminded himself not to foul, slowly rocked his body back and forth, and finally dipped his head to launch into his runup.
Beamon, who had changed into adidas spikes for the final, feeling that the pair of Pumas he had worn in the prelims were not sturdy enough, flew down the runway. His lungs gobbled up the thin Mexico City air as his cheeks puffed out with each exhale. After 19 steps, he launched himself into the sky, where he hung for what seemed like an eternity before landing feet-first, his butt touching down just behind. Beamon took two hops out of the end of the pit, turned around, and began to shake out his limbs as he jog-danced his way back to his sweats, doling out low-fives to teammates Mays and Boston.
Beamon had just made history, but no one knew it yet. During the 1968 Olympics, all marks were measured with a new device that slid along a metal rail parallel to the pit. The rail extended out to the 28-foot mark (8.53m), which officials figured to be more than enough in the case that someone broke the existing world record of 27-4 ¾ (8.35m).
But the officials were wrong, and soon a cluster of men in maroon blazers had gathered around the long jump pit trying to figure out how to measure Beamon’s jump. The competition was delayed for 20 minutes as the officials sent for a tape measure, and after measuring (and measuring again), the mark flashed up on the scoreboard: 8.90.
Beamon began to celebrate, literally jumping for joy, but still did not fully grasp what he had done.
“What does that mean?” Beamon, unfamiliar with metric measurements, asked Boston as he wrapped him up in a hug.
Boston told him: around 29-2 (29-2 ½, actually, as it turned out).
That Beamon understood. Immediately, his legs gave out, the result of a cataplectic episode brought on by the shock of what he had just accomplished.
While Beamon felt pure joy, the vibe among his competitors was a combination of awe and despair. Beamon had jumped 29 feet when no one else in history had jumped 28 (or even 27-6).
“You have destroyed this event,” reigning champion Lynn Davies of Great Britain told Beamon.
“After that jump, the rest of us are children,” remarked the Soviet Union’s Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, who had, along with Boston, jointly held the previous world record.
It was clear: even though they were just four attempts into a competition that could feature up to 72 jumps in total, the gold medal was spoken for.
“Prior to that attempt, everybody seemed to be in their own little cocoon,” Boston says. “You were focusing, everybody was into their own little focus area. And once that distance flashed, it changed the complexion of the competition.”
As if on cue, the heavens opened immediately after Beamon’s jump. It would rain for the remainder of the competition, ensuring that Beamon’s mark would not be approached. Not that it would have made a difference: 50 years later, Beamon’s 8.90-meter long jump still stands as the oldest Olympic record on the books.
The track & field competition at the 1968 Games was historic, perhaps the greatest in Olympic history. Thanks to Mexico City’s 7,350-foot elevation, world records were set in 14 of the 36 events, with Olympic records in an additional 12. The 1968 Games saw the first human being run under 10 seconds for the 100 (Jim Hines), 20 seconds for the 200 (Tommie Smith), and 44 seconds for the 400 (Lee Evans). In the triple jump, three athletes combined to break the world record a total of five times. In the distance events, 1500 runner Kip Keino, 10,000 runner Naftali Temu, and steeplechaser Amos Biwott ushered in the era of East African dominance. Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump by winning gold with the Fosbury Flop.
Yet Beamon’s long jump overshadows all of those performances. 29-2 ½ is the distance from the NBA three-point line to the basket. Plus another four and a half feet.
“When I was a freshman in college, we measured it out in the sand one day and we were just like, No way. No way anybody jumped this far,” says Mike Powell, who broke Beamon’s world record in 1991 and remains the only man in history to have jumped farther than Beamon.
When Powell finally broke Beamon’s record, in 1991, it was over 10 years older than the next-oldest men’s world record.
“It’s one of the greatest athletic feats ever,” Powell says. “To break the record by as far as he did, it’d be like [Usain] Bolt going out there and running like, 9.2. It was kind of like what? Are you kidding me?”
Statistically speaking, Powell is actually selling Beamon short. Beamon improved the world record by 21.75 inches (55 cm), or 6.59% of the previous record. That’s the equivalent of someone in 2018 lowering the 100-meter record to 8.95. Or lowering the marathon world record to 1:53:28. Or lowering the mile world record to 3:28. It was a performance so utterly beyond explanation that the only way to describe it was to invent a new word.
“Beamonesque,” says Carl Lewis, the only man to have won four Olympic long jump titles. “His jump defined what excellence was in sports. Not track. In all sports. Who else has done that, ever?”
Every sport has performances that make you ask, How did he do that? How did Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927? How did Wilt Chamberlain score 100 points in 1962?
But those performances are measurements of an athlete’s dominance over his peers. Put Barry Bonds in a time machine and he might have bashed 80 home runs against 1920s pitching. LeBron James might have been able to score 120 against the 1962 Knicks. Beamon was dominant not just against his peers, but in an absolute sense; his 8.90 would have won every competition in the history of the world, save one.
“Obviously he was way ahead of his time,” says University of Florida jumps coach Nic Petersen, whose athletes, including 2016 World Indoor champ Marquis Dendy, have combined to win 16 NCAA titles. “There were many athletes who probably could have broken it [since] and there were athletes that were close to it, but what he did on that day, it was almost like it was magic.
“I’ve read one of the original biomechanics [studies] that they did on Bob Beamon. They didn’t even call it the long jump, they called it the long high jump. Because at that point in time, he got more height than anybody had ever been able to attain. His speed was great, sure, but he got more vertical height. And you can see it when you watch the jump, it’s like he was in the air forever. So from a biomechanical standpoint, he put more vertical velocity into the takeoff than anybody had at the time.”
According to Sports Illustrated, Jesse Owens, who was in the stadium doing radio commentary, estimated that at his peak, Beamon was five and a half to six feet off the ground.
Beamon’s jump was worthy of a world record under any conditions, but the wind and altitude of Mexico City ensured that it would last for decades. The maximum allowable tailwind for a record-eligible jump is 2.0 meters per second, and that is exactly what Beamon got in Mexico City, where the thin air allowed him to sprint faster in his approach and hang in the air longer.
“To jump at that much altitude helps you a lot, and I know,” says Powell, who jumped 8.99 meters (29-6) — the longest all-conditions jump ever — with a 4.4 m/s wind at his back in the Italian mountain town of Sestriere (elevation: 6,677 feet). “[And] the wind, especially when you’re light like me and Bob were, it really helps a lot because it’s like a little bit of a push going down the runway.”
In 1986, scientific study by A.J. Ward-Smith of Brunel University London calculated that the combined effects of altitude and wind were worth 31 centimeters (one foot and one-quarter of an inch); Powell concurs, saying that he believes the conditions were worth “at least a foot.”
“Whether it was at altitude or sea level or in the middle, I was ready for something for that hopefully would turn into something big,” Beamon says. “I just felt that it was a matter of time that I would break a record. I didn’t see breaking it by almost two feet, but just breaking a record, I’ll take all the additional inches that I can take.”
Beamon’s jump has been referred to as “The Perfect Jump” — Dick Schaap even wrote a book about Beamon with that title in 1976, calling the jump “quite possibly the greatest individual athletic achievement in the history of mankind” — but Powell doesn’t think it was perfect. Just like a jumbo jet deploying the landing gear, a long jumper must drop his feet to land in the pit. Powell has studied the tape, and he believes that Beamon dropped his feet early. It’s something Powell believes he did when he broke the record as well — neither he nor Beamon were used to being in the air that long, so they reflexively brought their feet down early.
“It only takes a fraction of a second to finish, but he wasn’t used to being that high,” Powell says. “Even with all that said, I still think he could have [jumped 29-2 ½] at sea level also, because if he had finished that jump…he could have gone over 30 feet [in Mexico City], easily.”
Fifty years on, few athletes are more intertwined with a single moment than Beamon and his jump — for years, he signed his name Bob Beamon 29’ 2 ½” Mexico City 1968. Beamon is that jump in the same way that Don Larsen is his perfect game from the 1956 World Series, a life boiled down to a single moment of sporting greatness.
But it’s also worth remembering that, as transcendent as that moment was, it was still just that: a moment. A moment can remain frozen; a human being cannot. Beamon, now 72, has a phrase that he likes to use, “peak experience.” It’s his way of describing whatever excites him at a particular point in time. And when a peak experience is over, that’s it. Beamon moves on, looking for the next challenge.
“It was great,” Beamon told Schaap, “but it was just something I did.”
It is a small miracle that Beamon was jumping in Mexico City at all. Born in 1946, Beamon never knew his mother, Naomi Brown Beamon, who died of tuberculosis before Beamon was even one year old. Beamon knows even less about his father. James Beamon, the man whose last name Bob took, was not his biological father; James had been incarcerated for attempted robbery at the time of Bob’s conception. Bob was the product of an affair between Naomi and a doctor at Triboro Hospital in Queens, where she worked as a nurse’s aide (Bob’s father was transferred to a hospital in Los Angeles before he was born; Bob never learned his name).
The fact that Bob was not James’ son had a massive impact on his early life, even though Bob would grow up believing James to be his father until he found out the truth at age 17. According to Beamon, for much of that time, James, an alcoholic, showed no love for Bob, the visible proof of his wife’s infidelity; the most attention he paid a young Bob was when he would beat the boy after a night of drinking. As a boy, Bob would shuffle between James’ relatives’ houses in New York, and none of them were eager to raise a child that was not directly related to them. Only James’ mother, Minnie — known to Bob simply as Ma — showed any affection for him. Wherever he moved, poverty was a constant; his staple dish was corn flakes and water, with luxuries such as candy, chips, or soda only available when Bob could steal them.
Largely ignored at home, Beamon resorted to any means to earn attention at school. He was suspended from kindergarten after bringing in a switch blade and a .38 Smith & Wesson for show and tell. According to Schaap in The Perfect Jump, one day in middle school, “Beamon unzipped his fly, pulled out his penis, and told three girls sitting in front of him, ‘Turn around and look at my joint.’” His idols were the neighborhood drug dealers, who dressed in flashy clothes, wore diamond rings, and threw money around like candy. People paid attention to them.
By his early teenage years, Beamon was on a path to join them. He was the “war counselor” for the Frenchmen, a branch of the local gang known as the Cheyennes. He stole, he smoked, he drank, he sold marijuana, even heroin once or twice. He saw a boy stabbed to death with an ice pick. He was expelled from middle school for slamming a teacher against the blackboard, not that he had been learning much anyway — his grades were poor and he was illiterate. When Beamon was 14, he appeared in juvenile court and was sent to a “600 school” — P.S. 622 in Manhattan — a last-chance remedial school for troubled students.
“[I] was out of control,” Beamon says. “Truly out of control.”
But things changed. James, in a rare act of kindness, taught Bob to read before he enrolled at P.S. 622, and Minnie instilled self-confidence by buying him nice clothes, not the size-too-big hand-me-downs Bob was used to. By the spring of 1962, Beamon had taken up jumping, and after going door-to-door to raise bus and subway fare, he traveled to Randall’s Island for a Junior Olympic meet. He showed up 15 minutes before the competition, proceeded to jump 24-1 (7.34m) in a pair of borrowed shoes, and found a writeup on the meet in the next day’s paper. For the first time, Beamon realized that he could get attention for doing something good.
With the help of the school’s track coach Larry Ellis, Beamon enrolled at Jamaica High — the first student ever to transfer in from a 600 school — and graduated in 1966 with a track scholarship to North Carolina A&T, though he would quickly transfer to UTEP upon learning that the car, apartment, and other extra benefits he had been offered by the NC A&T coach were all NCAA violations.
It was in El Paso that Beamon’s talent blossomed. A 21-year-old Beamon began 1968 by breaking the indoor world record by jumping 8.25 meters (27-0 ¾) in Kansas City on January 20; he would break it again two months later with a leap of 8.30 (27-2 ¾) at the NCAA championships in Detroit (no one would jump farther indoors for 12 years).
But Beamon’s UTEP career would not last much longer. 1968 was a turbulent year for race relations in the United States, and in April, a week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Beamon was one of nine UTEP track athletes who boycotted a meet against Brigham Young. At the time, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a policy preventing black men from being ordained as priests — a ban that would remain in place until 1978.
“The Book of Mormon castigates the black race as inferior and descended from the devil,” Beamon wrote in The Man Who Could Fly. “We went ballistic.”
Beamon lost his scholarship, but still had his eyes on Mexico City (a number of African-American athletes would consider boycotting the Games, but that effort ultimately fizzled; Beamon, like many of the other African-American athletes, did not want to give up his one shot at Olympic glory to make a political statement). He jumped a world-leading 8.33 meters (27-4) to win the AAU Championships in Sacramento in June, but rather than continue training for the Olympic Trials in September, he returned to New York, where he spent the next month and a half hitting the town, sipping Heineken and Lowenbrau in Greenwich Village. It was not uncommon for Beamon to arrive back home at 5 in the morning, enough time to grab a couple hours’ sleep before heading off to his job at a school playground.
“I didn’t train at all,” Beamon says. “I had to go into training camp in September or something like that and I wanted to have a great time in New York. I didn’t want to be training. I worked while I was in New York and so I was more or less just taking my time off and enjoying social life.”
Despite the extended break, Beamon still proved unbeatable when he returned to competition: he leaped a windy 8.39 meters (27-6 ½)to win the Olympic Trials (which were held at elevation in Echo Summit, California, to mimic Mexico City’s thin air) and spent the next month trying to keep up with Smith and Carlos in speed sessions. If Beamon fell too far behind, they would force him to do 10 push ups as punishment. He arrived at the Olympics faster than ever before, and ready to make history.
Where do you go when you conquer the world at the age of 22? It was a question Bob Beamon was already asking himself as The Star-Spangled Banner came to an end at the long jump medal ceremony in Mexico City. If, as the British jumper Lynn Davies had told him during the competition, Beamon had destroyed the event, what was there left to accomplish?
Beamon expected that he would have his pick of endorsement deals upon returning from the Olympics, but no one reached out.
“You have to look at what was happening during that time,” Beamon says. “Black people, they weren’t given any endorsements…Not until the big endorsements with O.J. [Simpson] with Hertz-Rent-a-Car [in 1975 did] great opportunities start to arrive.”
Without a scholarship, Beamon was relying on a few kind professors and El Paso businesspeople to help pay his tuition. He had splurged on a new house and a Cadillac Eldorado after the Olympics, but now the bills were piling up. Beamon was drafted by the Phoenix Suns of the NBA in 1969, but mainly as a publicity stunt; he never played an NBA game. When he met President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, Johnson told him “good job.” Beamon responded with, “I need a job.”
Beamon was still competing, but as an “amateur” — what little money he did receive was paid under the table (he eventually turned pro in 1973, winning a little under $4,000 in prize money in three seasons). And the pressure to deliver was immense. He was no longer Bob Beamon of UTEP, but Bob Beamon, the greatest long jumper in the history of the world. Beamon would show up to meets nursing injuries, yet even when the promoters told him that it was okay to scratch, he would still go out there and compete, feeling he owed it to the promoters and the fans.
But after Beamon had jumped 29 feet, anything less was never enough. A nagging hamstring injury caused Beamon to switch his takeoff leg, from his right to his left, at the 1969 AAU championships in Miami. Beamon won the competition with the longest jump by an American that year, 26-11 (8.20m), while jumping off his wrong foot. Still the fans booed him. After Mexico City, he would never again jump 29 feet. Or 28. Or 27.
Beamon did play one more part in Olympic history, helping coach American Arnie Robinson to Olympic gold in Montreal in 1976. As for his own career, Beamon doesn’t remember exactly when he stopped jumping for good — “1976, 1977, somewhere around then” — but mentally, he had checked out long before then. Nothing he could do would ever surpass Mexico City.
“I didn’t have the interest,” Beamon says now. “I was looking for other peak experiences.”
In the 50 years since Mexico City, Beamon has had his share of valleys to go with those peaks. He’s been married six times — at least (he didn’t want to share the exact number, saying only “I don’t want to go there” when I brought it up in our interview). The armchair psychologist might conclude that had something to do with the loss of his mother, and indeed that is exactly what Beamon wrote in a psychology paper in grad school at San Diego State in the 1970s. Beamon won’t go quite that far now (the assignment was to analyze his life in terms of Freudian theory, which naturally lends to speculation about the mother), but admits that he felt his mother’s absence well into adulthood.
“I don’t think you ever get over the loss,” Beamon says. “You always think about what it would be like with a mother.”
But overall, the peaks have outweighed the valleys. In 1972, Beamon became the first person in his family to graduate from college, earning his degree in sociology from Adelphi University after transferring from UTEP. Since then, he has dedicated much of his time to working towards providing opportunities to kids that weren’t available to him growing up in Queens. He spent 13 years in charge of the sports development program in his role as associate commissioner of the Miami-Dade County Parks and Recreation Department, raised money for youth programs through the Bob Beamon United Way Golf Classic, and took on a role as a global ambassador for the Special Olympics.
“That’s what I admire the most about Bob,” says Carl Lewis. “This is a guy who jumped 29 feet, changed the course of sports, and he took that as a platform to do other things for other people.”
Beamon currently lives outside of Las Vegas with wife Rhonda, and while Sin City would have been an opportunity for young Bob to run wild, he has no vices to speak of these days. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. Other than the occasional brunch buffet, he doesn’t step foot in the casinos. Beamon prefers to spend his time with wife Rhonda (their 15th anniversary is in December) and their dogs, a miniature Schnauzer named Bailee and a Maltese Poodle named Feebee. Beamon says he’s close with his daughters, Tameeka, 44, and Deanna, 33, (both from previous marriages) and his two grandsons.
Rhonda Beamon, Bob Beamon, and Tameeka Beamon Barnes
Beamon remains an in-demand motivational speaker (he does some endorsements as well — better late than never), and has no shortage of people willing to honor him on the golden anniversary of his jump. September 26 was proclaimed Bob Beamon Day in New York, where 160th Street in Queens will be renamed Bob Beamon Way. Last week, Beamon was feted at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. He just returned from Mexico City, where the 1968 Olympic warmup track was named in his honor; there will be more trips to Japan, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
“He seems to be even more popular overseas,” Rhonda says. “You walk down the street, and people our age know who he is, but It’s amazing to see teenagers and 20-to-30-year-olds that know who he is. And that’s something that we would love to happen here in the States.”
Indeed, while the name Bob Beamon will always conjure images of that jump for sports fans of a certain age, Rhonda says that, in the U.S., there are fewer and fewer of those fans as the years pass.
“All the people that paved the way for Bob — Ralph Boston, Jesse Owens — he knew about them when he was growing up,” Rhonda says. “When he goes around the world to do motivational speaking, the children here don’t seem to know that.”
Petersen says he’s found the same thing with new recruits at the University of Florida.
“Unfortunately as I keep getting older and the kids keep getting younger here, I think some of the historical part of it is lost where they may not know about it,” Petersen says. “But the moment they get here, they sure know about it because it’s something we talk about. It’s something we watch.”
Petersen makes sure every new jumper sits down to watch Beamon’s jump — he and Dendy have watched it together over 50 times — and he still uses it as a teaching tool, Beamon’s ease on the runway serving as a reminder not to overcomplicate the event. But more than anything, what Beamon did in Mexico City is history; to truly appreciate the event, you must appreciate its master.
“I love Mike Powell, and I will never take anything away from Mike Powell, what Bob Beamon did, how far he broke it,” Petersen says. “Fifty-five centimeters? I mean, shoot, the measuring device didn’t even go that far. They hadn’t even thought that it was remotely possible that a human was capable of that. I think no matter if somebody jumps nine meters and just continues to move that out there, I think that Bob’s jump will always stand the test of time…It will always be iconic to me.”
More: Talk about Beamon’s feat on our world famous fan forum / messageboard: MB: 50 years ago, Bob Beamon made history. Where does his performance rank on list of greatest singular sports performances?
Related: LRC Why Is The Long Jump World Record So Hard To Break? Mike Powell‘s WR has stood for 27 years and the #2 mark from Bob Beamon celebrates its 50th anniversary today. What explains their longevity? Are the best athletes in the NFL? Are the runways too soft? Is there a mental block?