Bob Beamon

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Bob Beamon
1992 Bob Beamon.JPG
Beamon in 1992
Personal information
Birth nameRobert Beamon
NationalityUnited States
Born (1946-08-29) August 29, 1946 (age 74)
South Jamaica, Queens, New York
Height6 ft 3 in (191 cm)[1]
Weight154 lb (70 kg)[1]
SportTrack and field
Event(s)Long jump
College teamUTEP Miners

Robert Beamon (born August 29, 1946) is an American former track and field athlete, best known for his world record in the long jump at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. He broke the existing record by a margin of 55 cm (​21 23 in.) and his world record stood for almost 23 years until it was broken in 1991 by Mike Powell. As of 2020, the jump is still the Olympic record and the second longest wind legal jump in history.

Early life[edit]

Robert Beamon was born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York, and grew up in the New York Housing Authority's Jamaica Houses.[2]

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.[vague] Beamon began his college career at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, to be close to his ill grandmother.[3] After her death, he transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso, where he received a track and field scholarship.[4]

In 1965 Beamon set a national high school triple jump record and was second in the nation in the long jump. In 1967 he won the AAU indoor title and earned a silver medal at the Pan American Games, both in the long jump.[5]

Beamon was suspended from the University of Texas at El Paso for participating in a boycott of competition with Brigham Young University because of the Book of Mormon's teachings on race.[6][7] Fellow Olympian Ralph Boston became his unofficial coach.[8][9]

1968 Summer Olympics[edit]

Beamon leaping
Beamon in 1968

Beamon entered the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City as the favorite to win the gold medal, having won 22 of the 23 meets he had competed in that year, including a career best of 8.33 m (equivalent to 27 feet 4 inches) and a world's best of 8.39 m (27 ft. ​6 12 in.) that was ineligible for the record books due to excessive wind assistance. That year he won the AAU and NCAA indoor long jump and triple jump titles, as well as the AAU outdoor long jump title.[5] He came close to missing the Olympic final, overstepping on his first two attempts in qualifying. With only one chance left, Beamon re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final. There he faced the two previous gold-medal winners, American Ralph Boston (1960) and Lynn Davies of Great Britain (1964), and twice bronze medallist Igor Ter-Ovanesyan of the Soviet Union.[10]

Beamon smiling
Bob Beamon

On October 18, Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a first jump of 8.90 m (29 ft. ​2 12 in.), bettering the existing record by 55 cm (​21 23 in.). When the announcer called out the distance for the jump, Beamon—unfamiliar with metric measurements—still did not realize what he had done.[11] When his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken the world record by nearly two feet, his legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by the emotional shock,[12] and collapsed to his knees, his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.[13] The defending Olympic champion Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event", and in sports jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.[14]

Prior to Beamon's jump, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm (​2 12 in.) and the largest increase being 15 cm (6 in.). In the years following the jump, the mark was considered unbeatable. It took 12 years for another human being to jump 28 feet, much less 29.[15] His world record stood for 23 years until it was finally broken in 1991 when Mike Powell jumped 8.95 m (29 ft. ​4 38 in.) at the World Championships in Tokyo, but Beamon's jump is still the Olympic record and 52 years later remains the second-longest wind-legal jump in history. One journalist called Beamon "the man who saw lightning".[16] Sports journalist Dick Schaap wrote a book about the leap, The Perfect Jump.

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.

Beamon's world-record jump was named by Sports Illustrated magazine as one of the five greatest sports moments of the 20th century.[citation needed]

Later life[edit]

Shortly after the Mexico City Olympics, Beamon was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the 15th round of the 1969 NBA draft but never played in an NBA game.[17] In 1972 he graduated from Adelphi University with a degree in sociology.[18]

Beamon has worked in a variety of roles to promote youth athleticism, including collaborations with former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Beamon's work at the athletic programs of several universities. He is a graphic artist with work exhibited by the Art of the Olympians (AOTO), and was the former chief executive of the Art of the Olympians Museum in Fort Myers, Florida.[citation needed]


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.[18][19] There is a Bob Beamon Street in El Paso, Texas.


  1. ^ a b "Bob Beamon". Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  2. ^ "Record Breaking Olympian, Bob Beamon, Honored by City of New York - Robert E. Cornegy Jr". New York City Council. September 26, 2018. Retrieved October 4, 2019 – via
  3. ^ Schwartz, Larry. "Beamon made sport's greatest leap". ESPN. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  4. ^ Williams, Lena. "TRACK AND FIELD; Soothing an Old Ache", The New York Times, January 1, 2000. Accessed November 7, 2007.
  5. ^ a b Bob Beamon Archived June 30, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Lena Williams, "Track and Field; Soothing an Old Ache", The New York Times, January 1, 2000.
  7. ^ Jack Olsen, The black athlete: a shameful story, pp 65-76. Time-Life Books, 1968.
  8. ^ Bob Beamon Biography at
  9. ^ Craig Collisson, The BSU takes on BYU and the UW Athletics Program, 1970
  10. ^ Bagchi, Rob (November 23, 2011). "50 stunning Olympic moments No2: Bob Beamon's great leap forward". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "CCTV International". October 15, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2011.
  12. ^ Redgrave, Steve (October 13, 2011). Great Olympic Moments. Headline. pp. 16–. ISBN 978-0-7553-6339-1.
  13. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica Article on Bob Beamon". Retrieved October 29, 2011.
  14. ^ IOC Athlete Profile, – "His achievement inspired a new word in the English language: Beamonesque, meaning an athletic feat so dramatically superior to previous feats that it overwhelms the imagination."
  15. ^ Lorge, Barry (July 29, 1980). "Mennea Nips Wells In Olympic Drama". The Washington Post.
  16. ^ Rompedas (December 21, 2009). "rompedas: THE MAN WHO SAW LIGHTNING". Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  17. ^ " Draft Oddities". Archived from the original on June 10, 2019. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "The HistoryMakers". The HistoryMakers. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  19. ^ "Notable US Olympic Hall of Fame inductees". NBC Sports. April 20, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2019.

Further reading[edit]

  • Beamon, Bob, and Milana Walter Beamon. (1999). The Man Who Could Fly: The Bob Beamon Story. Columbus, MS: Genesis Press. ISBN 1-885478-89-5.
  • Schaap, Dick. (1976). The Perfect Jump. New York, NY: New American Library.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
United States Ralph Boston
Soviet Union Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Men's Long Jump World Record Holder
October 18, 1968 – August 30, 1991
Succeeded by
United States Mike Powell
Preceded by
United States Jim Ryun
Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
United States Bill Toomey
Preceded by
Soviet Union Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Men's Long Jump Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Soviet Union Igor Ter-Ovanesyan
Poland Waldemar Stepien