Monday, December 21, 2009


Olympic gold medalist and record-breaking track and field star Bob Beamon was born on August 29, 1946, in Jamaica, New York. When he was eight months old, his mother, Naomi Brown Beamon, died of tuberculosis. Because his stepfather was incarcerated, Beamon's maternal grandmother, Bessie, became his primary caregiver.
Beamon's childhood was set against a background of violence, gangs and drugs. During a fight at school, Beamon struck a teacher and was expelled. He was sent to a juvenile detention center and then an alternative school for delinquents in New York. At this school, he learned discipline and began to look away from street culture. Beamon used sports as a means to focus his attention and energy toward positive goals. He regularly broke track records at the local and state levels. After graduating from high school, Beamon attended North Carolina A&T to be close to his ill grandmother. When she died, he transferred to the University of Texas-El Paso, a school with a prominent track and field team.
In 1968, Beamon qualified for the Olympics in Mexico City. Four months before, he had been suspended from the University of Texas-El Paso track team for refusing to compete against Brigham Young University, a Mormon college with racist policies. This left Beamon without a coach. However, Olympian Ralph Boston began to coach him unofficially On October 18, 1968.
(Bob Beamon Biography - Sponsored by: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation at

Ralph Boston and Bob beamon

From AOL Sport
"I was lucky because my grandmother stepped up for me and said she would take responsibility for me. A compassionate juvenile judge took a chance and gave me one. They were getting ready to send me away to do real time, but they sent me instead to a juvenile alternative day school. And I guess that was the beginning of my turnaround."
What a turnaround it was. Bob Beamon would go from being a gang leader and adjudicated juvenile delinquent to performing what is considered one of the most spectacular athletic achievements ever.
(Juvenile Justice Bulletin, May 2000)

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The greatest Olympic feats to date
World record-setting long jump of 8.90 m (29 feet, 2 1/2 inches)
Summer Olympics in Mexico City, October 18, 1968
Beamon out-leaped the former record by 55 cm, or 21 3/4 inches

Images from

By hermaxi at

Robert (Bob) Beamon became the first man to pass the 28 and 29 feet mark as he bettered the old record by 21.75 inches, or 55 centimetres. To put that into perspective, in the previous 33 years, the world record had been improved by just 22cm from Jesse Owen's 8.13m in 1935 to Igor Ter-Ovanesyan's 8.35m in 1967.
Beamon's 8.90m jump had to be measured manually as the technology on hand could not cope with such a distance. Detractors point to the fact that Beamon's jump was achieved at altitude where the thinner air helps athletes who compete in sprinting and jumping events and that he had a following wind of 2.0m per second, which is the maximum allowed for a world record to stand. It was just his day and it was one of those glorious moments in sport where everything clicks.
He never came close to matching his record, 8.22m being the furthest he achieved in the rest of his career, but his record lasted an incredible 23 years before compatriot Mike Powell eclipsed it.
Powell's leap of 8.95m came in one of the finest long jump competitions of all time at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo when he beat team-mate Carl Lewis, who had been undefeated in his previous 65 competitions spanning a decade.
(Peter Scrivener at BBC SPORT)
In what is widely considered the greatest individual physical feat in human competition, 24 year-old, New Yorker Bob Beamon obliterated an Olympic/World Record in the long jump by a mind-bending two feet. Fellow American, Ralph Boston established the record years before at 27 feet, 43/4 inches, and it was Boston who coached Beamon through his record leap after he had failed to even qualify for a gold metal in two previous jumps. As the Mexico City crowd watched in stunned awe, Beamon tossed his 6-foot-3, 160-pound 8.90 meters -- 29 feet, 21/2 inches for the most lopsided destruction of a world record ever; a record that stood until Mike Powell leaped 2 inches farther at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo. Two inches, not two feet!
When Mexico City was awarded the 1968 Games, other countries immediately complained, citing concerns over the host country's high altitude and extreme climate. At the city's altitude of 2,300 metres, the air contains 30 per cent less oxygen than at sea level. Low-lying countries feared this would put them at a huge disadvantage, especially in distance and endurance events. Those fears had foundation. The winning time in the 5,000m was the slowest in 16 years, and the winning times in the 3,000m steeplechase and 10,000m were the slowest in 20 years. The world record holder in the 10,000m, Ron Clarke of Australia, finished sixth, collapsed and fell unconscious for several minutes.
It almost didn't happen at all - Beamon teetered dangerously close to getting himself eliminated in the qualifying round. The six-foot-three American fouled - something he was quite prone to doing - on his first two attempts. Eschewing the practice of making checkmarks to help his stride in the run-up to the board, he took off way beyond the board on his first attempt. His second was also declared a foul, leaving him with one last throw of the dice. The world-record holder, Ralph Boston of the U.S., advised Beamon to relax and take off from a spot centimetres from the board. He qualified with room to spare.
Beamon was marked down to go fourth in the 17-competitor final. With the first three competitors fouling, he stood at the end of the runway for 20 seconds, telling himself to make it a good one. Whatever he said, it surely worked because he executed a perfect take off, flying through the air and into the history books.
Ralph Boston reportedly turned to the reigning long jump Olympic champion, Lyn Davies, and said: "That's over 28 feet."
"With his first jump, no it can't be," Davies retorted incredulously.
(CBC Sports)

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When the result was flashed up on the board for all the world to see, Beamon, suddenly conscious of what he had just done, collapsed to the ground suffering what was later diagnosed as a catapletic seizure, a paralyzing physical reaction following great emotion. Davies and the other competitors were too shaken up at the enormity of what had happened to perform properly. East German Klaus Beer taking second almost an entire sand pit behind. Beamon never again conjured up such magic, but then again, he surely didn't need to.
(CBC Sports)

Beamon took 19 running steps before leaping six feet into the air. Beamon said he felt like he was suspended for an hour before he finally landed. His 8.9-meter jump was so long that the official measuring device, which only reached 8.6 meters, wasn't even long enough to measure it. The jump had to be measured manually, and it took half an hour before Beamon knew just how far he had flown. Beamon wasn't able to convert his result, which was measured in meters, into feet and inches, so he had no idea how far he had jumped. When a teammate informed him, he was so astounded at what he had done. As he collapsed to the ground in tears, Beamon realized that he had jumped one foot, 10.5 inches farther than his personal best. He entered the competition as a relatively unknown long jumper from Jamaica, N.Y., and he left Mexico City as a glorified Olympic gold medalist and world record holder.
(Christie Succop at

Images from

Naturally some people were skeptical. Critics said Beamon's jump was aided by the thin air in Mexico City, a fast runway, and a wind of two meters per second, which is the maximum allowable speed for a record. But those defending Beamon asked: If the conditions were so perfect, why was Beamon the only athlete to perform so well?
After making his gold-medal-winning jump at the Games, Beamon didn't have much time to celebrate. He had to get back to class at the University of Texas at El Paso. He had grown up in a rough neighborhood, and during his childhood, attending college seemed out of the question. It became important to him to obtain a college degree. He eventually graduated from Adelphi University in 1972 with a degree in sociology.
The Olympian retired from competition before the 1972 Games. He was inducted in 1977 into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. When the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame was established in 1983, he was one of the first athletes to be inducted. The Olympian returned to the Games in Beijing last year to honor the 40th anniversary of his jump.
Although Mike Powell beat Beamon's world record in 1991 at the world championships, the now 63-year-old Beamon still holds the Olympic record for the long jump. And Beamon will go down in history as the person who shattered the previous record by almost two feet.
(Christie Succop at
Following his Olympic triumph, Beamon went on to graduate from Adelphi University and entered a career in public relations first at a bank, then coaching college track, and later running Parks and Recreation programs in Miami-Dade, Florida. He has lived and worked in Mexico and Spain and has remained active in the Olympic movement. Along with actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, he organized the South Florida Inner-City Games for at-risk kids and is Chairman of the Bob Beamon United Way Golf Classic, which benefits youth-related programs of the United Way. He is a member of the New York Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Olympic Hall of Fame and is in the ESPN's list of the top 100 athletes of the 20th Century.
Beamon's story did not end with his athletic gifts and accomplishments. Indeed, he has gone on to pursue new dreams. He operates his own corporation, Bob Beamon Communications Inc., in Miami, Florida where he now lives with his wife and daughter. He is an exhibited artist, has designed and marketed a successful line of neckties and spends much of his time as an inspirational speaker and corporate spokesman. He has developed his own motivational program, The Champion in You, in which he describes how, "Champions are made by the things you accomplish and by the way you use your abilities in everyday life situations." His autobiography, The Man Who Could Fly: The Bob Beamon Story, has just been published. Most recently, Beamon accepted an appointment as the Director of Athletic Development at Florida Atlantic University.
Beamon emphasizes that "we must all do our part to make sure children are a priority in our society." He concentrates on working with troubled kids, "trying to give something back." Acknowledging that, while some kids today are involved in more serious crimes and appear to be less attached to society, he says that "kids are still basically the same; they have the same needs and problems; they are kids; they need our love and attention."
(Juvenile Justice Bulletin, May 2000)

Mr. and Mrs. Bob BEAMON

A gift from the United States Olympic Committee, 2008
40th anniversary of his historic jump
From iceman9294's photostream at flickr

Bob Beamon at the IAAF Golden League Gaz de France meeting
Stade de France on July 18, 2008 in Paris, France
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe

2009 U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
Olympian Bob Beamon and his wife Rhonda
McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois, August 12, 2009
Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images North America

Records Held:
World Record: Long Jump - 8.90 m (1968 - 1991)

1968 Olympics: Long Jump - 8.90 m (1st)
1968 AAU: Long Jump (1st)
1968 Olympic Trials: Long Jump (1st)
1969 AAU: Long Jump (1st)

high school: Jamaica (Jamaica, New York), 1968
undergraduate: UTEP (El Paso, Texas)
undergraduate: Adelphi (Garden City, New York), 1972

Community and social worker

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