Historic Profiles

BOB BEAMON

by on May.25, 2009, under Historic Profiles

bob_beamon

BOB BEAMON

Early life

Bob Beamon was born in South Jamaica, Queens. 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 School 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 was declared second in the long jump in the United States, and received a track and field scholarship to the University of Texas at El Paso.

Beamon qualified for the Olympics four months before he was suspended from the University of Texas at El Paso, for refusing to compete against Brigham Young University, alleging it had racist policies. This left him without a coach.

However

Olympian Ralph Boston began to coach him unofficially.

The Jump

On October 18, 1968 at Summer Olympics in Mexico City, 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 wasn’t affected by it. However when his 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.[3] 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). Beamon’s gold medal mark bettered the existing record by 55 cm (21¾ in.) as he became the first person to reach both 28 and 29 feet.

The defending Olympic champion, Lynn Davies of Great Britain, told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event”, and in track and field jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.[4] 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.[5] 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 Championships in Tokyo, but Beamon’s jump is still the Olympic record and 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.[6] In 1972 he graduated from Adelphi University with a degree in sociology

He currently lives in Miami, Florida and is married to Milana Walter Beamon, a film producer.
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Bob Beamon was born on August 29, 1946 in Jamaica, New York. Although Beamon is now recognized as one of the country’s greatest track and field athletes of all-time, he barely made it out of his childhood. Beamon dealt with a myriad of problems as a youngster, surviving street violence, gangs and drugs to persevere and conquer the athletic world.
Beamon’s troubles began when he was just eight months old when his mother died of tuberculosis. Beamon�s stepfather was spending time in jail, so his grandmother, Bessie, became his legal guardian.

Beamon was raised properly, but occasionally fell victim to the crooked ways of the street. In school, Beamon was once expelled and sent to an alternative learning center after striking a teacher in a school fight.

Beamon did not continue to sink into a hole, however, as he used his new setting, surrounded by juvenile delinquents, as motivation for the future. The new school taught him discipline, and soon Beamon’s new life lessons transferred into his athletic endeavors. Throughout school, Beamon broke several local and high school records for track.

Upon graduating high school, Beamon elected to attend North Carolina A&T, mainly to be close to his ill grandmother, Bessie. Once Bessie passed away, Beamon decided to transfer to the University of Texas-El Paso. UTEP, at the time, was a perennial powerhouse in the track and field arena.

In 1968, Beamon began to prepare for the Olympics in Mexico City. Beamon did not have a trainer, however, because he was suspended from UTEP for not participating in an event.

The said event was against Brigham Young University, a Mormon school. BYU had strict racial policies that were of no secret, and Beamon refused to participate against a school with these policies still in order.

At the Olympics in ’68, Beamon broke the world record in the long jump, becoming the first person to jump longer than 28 feet. Beamon�s mark was 29 feet, 4.75 inches.

After his Olympic success, Beamon graduated from Adelphia University in 1972 with a degree in Sociology. Since then, he has written an autobiography, which was co-authored with his wife, and been inducted in both the National Track and Field Hall of Fame and Olympic Hall of Fame.

Beamon will be forever remembered for his athletic accomplishments, as well as a man of high character, as displayed by his actions at UTEP concerning racism.

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