After 1968, sports historians began to use the word 'beamonesque' to describe a sporting feat that was dramatically superior to any that went before. In that year, at the Mexico Olympics, American long jumper Bob Beamon had leapt straight into the record books with a mammoth jump of 8.90 metres.
Beamon soared into the thin air of Mexico City (many of the records were attributed to the high altitude) and landed too far for the sighting device to be used. The steel tape had to be used to measure the distance. Then came the announcement and the commentators, spectators and officials could not believe it. The previous record had been bested by almost 60 cm!
There was an interesting parallel between the qualifying jumps of Beamon and Jesse Owens. Just before Owens' final jump in the qualifying round, when he was a step away from elimination, fellow-competitor Lutz Long advised him on his run-up. Beamon was also one jump away from elimination, when team-mate and fellow-competitor Ralph Boston offered him a tip on his run-up. Boston took the bronze.
Beamon was an orphan who was part of a tough New York street gang in his teen years. What saved the youngster was his grandmother's encouragement and the faith reposed in his long jumping ability by his coaches. Says he,"They didn't give up on me."
Beamon's record stood for more than two decades and was broken only in 1991.
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