Beamon made sport’s greatest leap By Larry Schwartz

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Six seconds. That’s all it took for Bob Beamon to leap into history. That’s all it took for the slender 22-year-old long jumper to speed 19 strides down the runway, ascend to a height of six feet, stay up in the air like a bird and finally land an incomprehensible 29 feet, 2½ inches later.

 

 

Of all Olympict records, none is as impressive as the one Beamon stunningly set Oct. 18, 1968 in Mexico City.

 

 

Beamon didn’t just set a record; he shattered one. He had leaped where no one had gone before. Not only did he become the first 29-foot long jumper that evening; he became the first to pass 28 feet, too.

Records are supposed to be broken by inches, not by demolition. Not Beamon. He snapped the existing mark by almost two feet. He had jumped one foot, 10½ inches farther than his previous best.

 

Soviet jumper Igor Ter-Ovanesyan said, “Compared to this jump, we are as children.” English jumper Lynn Davies, the defending Olympic champion, told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event.”

 

Before Beamon’s leap, the farthest long jump had been 27 feet, 4¾ inches, by Ter-Ovanesyan and Ralph Boston. Jesse Owens had set a record of 26-8¼ in 1935 that had held up for 25 years. But from 1960 to 1967, the record was broken or tied eight times by Boston or Ter-Ovanesyan — yet it had climbed just 8½ inches. In one jump, Beamon stretched the record by an incredible one foot, 9¾ inches. It was a record Beamon would keep for almost 23 years, until Mike Powell hit 29-4½ on Aug. 30, 1991 at Tokyo.
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