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Robert "Bob" Beamon (born August 29, 1946) is an Americanmarker former track and field athlete, best known for his long-standing world record in the long jump at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, which remained the world record for 23 years. This is the second longest holding of this record, as Jesse Owens held the record for 25 years, 1935-1960.

Early life

Bob Beamon was born in South Jamaica, Queens, New Yorkmarker. He was raised by his grandmother, who told him about his mother who died at 25 from tuberculosis, when Beamon was only 8 months old. He later found out that his mother was physically abused by his father. He was sent to his grandmother's because his father threatened to kill Beamon if his mother took him home.

When he was attending Jamaica High Schoolmarker he was discovered by Larry Ellis, a renowned track coach. Beamon later became part of the All-American track and field team. In 1965, he ranked second in the long jump in the United States, and received a track and field scholarship to the University of Texas at El Pasomarker.

Beamon qualified for the Olympics four months before he was suspended from the University of Texas at El Pasomarker, for refusing to compete against Brigham Young Universitymarker, alleging it had racist policies. This left him without a coach, and fellow Olympian Ralph Boston began to coach him unofficially.

1968 Summer Olympics

On October 18 at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico Citymarker, Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.). The record stood for 23 years until Mike Powell broke it in 1991. When the announcer called out the distance for the jump, Beamon — unfamiliar with metric measurements — wasn't affected by it. When his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he broke the world record, an astonished Beamon collapsed to his knees and placed his hands over his face in shock. In one of the more enduring images of the games, his competitors then helped him to his feet. One journalist called Beamon "the man who saw lightning." Sports journalist Dick Schaap wrote a book about the leap, called The Perfect Jump. Prior to Beamon’s jump, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm (2½ in) and the largest increase being 15 cm (6 in) while Beamon's gold medal mark bettered the existing record by 55 cm (21¾ in.).

The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies of Great Britainmarker, told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event", and in track and field jargon, a new adjective — Beamonesque — came into use to describe spectacular feats. 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 which added to the jump's aura. Shortly after Beamon's jump a major rainstorm blew through making it more difficult for his competitors to try to match Beamon's feat. None were able to do so. Klaus Beer finished second with a jump of 8.19 m.

In making his record jump, Beamon enjoyed a number of advantageous environmental factors. At an altitude of 2240 m (7349 ft), Mexico City's air had less resistance than air would have at sea level. This allows runners to run faster and jumpers to jump farther. In addition to Beamon's record, world records were broken in most of the sprinting and jumping events at the 1968 Olympic Games. Beamon also benefited from a trailing wind of 2 meters per second on his jump, the maximum allowable for record purposes.

Beamon entered the Olympic games as the favorite, having won 22 of the 23 meets he had competed in that year, including a career best of 8.33 m (27 ft. 4 in.). After winning the gold medal in Mexico City, he never again jumped over 8.22 m (26 ft. 11¾ in.)

Beamon's world record stood for 23 years, and was named by Sports Illustrated magazine as one of the five greatest sports moments of the 20th century. Beamon's world record was finally broken in 1991 when Mike Powell jumped 8.95 m (29 ft. 4-3/8 in.) at the World Championship in Tokyomarker, but Beamon's jump is still the Olympic record and more than 40 years later remains the second longest of all time.

Later life

Shortly after the Mexico City Olympics, Beamon was drafted by the Phoenix Suns basketball team.In 1972 he graduated from Adelphi Universitymarker with a degree in sociology

He currently lives in Miami, Floridamarker.

Honors

Beamon is in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, and when the United States Olympic Hall of Fame started to induct athletes in 1983, Beamon was one of the first inductees.

References

Further reading

  • Beamon, Bob, and Milana Walter Beamon. (1999). The Man Who Could Fly: The Bob Beamon Story. Columbus, MS: Genesis Press. ISBN 1885478895.
  • Schaap, Dick. (1976). The Perfect Jump. New York, NY: New American Library.


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