Beamon and Powell

coupla good uns here

Damn, Beamon looks good to go still. Who would win if they jumped off today, say off 10-stride approach (and also, say, from a three-step aproach)?

Keith Connor, (triple jump world No.1 in 1982) did a year on scholarship at UTEP and said the great (true) story going around when he got there was that former student Beamon had planted a couple of coins on top of the basketball backboard! How’s that for hops!

I also remember way back hearing from a javelin thrower, Greg Glynn, who was at UTEP at the time Beamon was there (coming up to Mexico 1968). He said Beamon had plenty of times cleared around 28ft off his “wrong” takeoff foot at training. Apparently he was a notoriously inconsistent jumper (and it was Ralph Boston who sorted him out in Mexico City). kk

You’ll really believe a man can fly!
Thursday 26 April 2007
Belgrade, Serbia - Take a tape measure, go out onto your backyard or lawn, or any quiet stretch of road or pavement will do, and mark out eight metres and ninety five centimetres (29’4¼”). Pace it out, then stand aside a little, and take a good look at it. And wonder how it’s possible for a man to jump that far, without being born on the planet Krypton!

That distance, and the marginally shorter mark of 8.90m were marked out on the floor of the conference room of the City Hall in Belgrade, Serbia last week. The stretch virtually covered the width of the hall. And the reason for the display is that the special guests at last weekend’s Belgrade Banca Intesa Marathon were long jumpers par excellence, Mike Powell and Bob Beamon. And those distances are, of course, the world record that Beamon set in winning Olympic gold in Mexico City in 1968, and the one that broke it, set by Powell in winning the World Championships title in Tokyo 1991.

In Belgrade (l to r): Beamon, Powell and BG race director and ex-400m YUG international, Dejan Nikolic

Both marks will be coming into focus again, shortly. Next year will be the 40th anniversary of Beamon’s mind-blowing exploit, still an Olympic record incidentally, and one that may not be broken for another decade or two yet. And this summer, the IAAF World Championships in Athletics will return to Japan, Osaka to be precise, for the first time since Powell’s victory in 1991.

And Powell the World record holder plans to be just as profoundly involved in the Long Jump in Osaka as he was in Tokyo, albeit in the women’s contest this time. No, he hasn’t had a gender change and is planning a ‘headline’ comeback. It’s simply that Powell is now coaching several of the world’s leading women jumpers, such that he hopes to have, “half of the final pool jumpers in Osaka…. if everything works out”.

The marathon-jump connection

In Belgrade: (l to r) Bob Beamon and Mike Powell
(Victah Sailer)

As the organisers would be first to admit, Belgrade is not a first-rank marathon and the troubles in that region of the Balkans over the last 15 years have meant that development of the event has been repeatedly stymied. But Race Director, Dejan Nikolić has made a virtue of necessity, and repeatedly persuaded local sponsors to fund a special guest, to help boost track and field athletics generally.

There have been marathon guests in the past, notably the legendary Emil Zatopek, 1952 Olympic triple gold winner, from the neighbouring Czech Republic; and 1988 Olympic champion, Gelindo Bordin of Italy. Equally, there have been luminaries from other events, such as Sergey Bubka, Patrik Sjőberg, Merlene Ottey and Steve Ovett. But the first guest, when Nikolić and his team took over the race almost 20 years ago was Beamon. And since last year’s guest was Carl Lewis, Nikolić reasoned that the only man to top him was a man who topped him in the best-ever Long Jump competition in history, Powell in Tokyo ’91. Hence the double-header of jump champs in Belgrade.

After a Q&A with local journalists at the City Hall press conference, then a meeting with Serb premier, Vojislav Koštunica, the pair went to the Partizan Beograd stadium, and oversaw a training session with some of Belgrade’s most talented youngsters, chosen from schools throughout the city.

The following day, after holding the marathon finish line tape to greet race winners, John Maluni of Kenya, and the hugely popular, Olivera Jevtić of Serbia, Beamon and Powell broke off from anecdotes of their most spectacular fouls, for the younger man to talk about his new career as a coach at UCLA, the college where he had formerly been a student.

“Right now, I have the number one junior in the world, Rhonda Watkins from Trinidad, she’s jumped 6.64m legal, and 6.71m (with) wind just over the limit. She’s only 19, and she’s going to jump seven metres this year, I’m really excited about her. I’m also working with Brianna Glen, who jumped 6.71m at Mt Sac (2 weeks ago), then Grace Upshaw from the US, who has jumped 6.90 something, so looking forward to her jumping seven metres. Then there’s Jackie Edwards from the Bahamas, she’s looking great, she may go further than any of them. My goal all along was to have half the Long Jump final at the World Championships in Osaka.”

Basketball, hurdling, long jumping

That may not quite rank alongside breaking one of the oldest records in the book, but Powell, 43, is nothing if not meticulous in his planning, and if his coaching mirrors the development of his own career, this is just the start. Like many athletic youngsters at school in the USA, he was originally more interested in basketball. “The first thought of being an Olympian was watching Ed Moses win the 400m Hurdles in 1976. I told my mother, I’m going to the Olympics, and win the 400 Hurdles.

“The Long Jump didn’t come along ‘til later, even in High School, when I was recruited, I was a high jumper. In my freshman year in UCLA, after I transferred from Irvine, I jumped maybe 7.47m. Then when I was 18, and in my sophomore year, I jumped 8.05m, and that’s when I became a long jumper.

“Prior to the 1987-8 season my best was 8.27 and then I started working with the coach who helped me break the world record, Randy Huntingdon. What Randy taught me was the bio-mechanics of running and jumping, the periodisation of training, pool work-outs, the various physical therapists, I started seeing a sports psychologist, Randy introduced me to a whole realm of things that I didn’t have a clue about.

It was the time for the record

“If it (the world record) had not been Tokyo it would have been somewhere else. It was the time. When I first started competing against Carl Lewis he was beating me by 60 centimetres. That was in 1983 and each year I would get closer and closer, more confident, better in my technique, faster, everything. So in the last competition at the US Championships (prior to Tokyo ’91) I was beating him up to the last round, then he ended up jumping one centimetre better than me, 8.64m to 8.63m. People asked me, are you upset? I said, no, he almost lost his (winning) streak, I’m only down to one cm now. The next time I’m going to get him.

“I was jumping great that summer and I was on a mission to beat him because he was the best, he was the target. I had a foul jump in Sestrières that was 8.91m, we knew because we measured it. After we got to Tokyo and saw how he (Lewis) ran (and won) the 100, I said okay, if I’m going to beat this guy, I have to be ready to break the world record. So that became the focus then, breaking the World record, because that was the only way I was going to win. When people said, did you expect to break the world record? I said, yes, I had to”.

Masters’ record plans

Sixteen years later, Powell, who admits that his weight can be problematic – he has been as heavy as 104kg (230lbs), when his jumping weight was 75kg (165lbs) – has his eye on another World record, for Veterans or Masters, currently held by Aaron Sampson of the USA, at 7.68m.

“I’ve been wanting to do it for the last couple of years, but it’s difficult to train as well as to coach. I started to train about two months ago and the first thing I had to do was lose some weight, to get down from 100kg and my goal was around 85kg. I was well on my way, and I was in training and jumping over seven metres over half of an approach and based on that, from a full approach I would have been capable of going over 7.40m and I figured, okay, another 5kg or so and I’d be ready to jump over 7.60m.

“Then one day when I was in training, I did a plyometric workout I wouldn’t have my top jumpers do. But I was feeling so good, I felt like my old self and I was running 60 metres, and I said, I feel great, and I did a little bit more and I felt something at the back of my knee, and the next morning it was the size of a grapefruit. That was two and a half weeks ago, and it still hasn’t healed completely, it’s taking its time. My goal was to go after the record at the Modesto Relays on May 5, but now I think I’m going to wait till the summer, probably at Bad Langensalza in Germany, a small jumps meet, because I want to break the world masters’ record there.”

Pat Butcher (with thanks to Andy Edwards) for the IAAF