Robert "Bob" Beamon (born August 29, 1946) is an American former track and field athlete, best known for his long-standing world record in the long jump at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, which remained the world record for 23 years.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
He currently lives in Miami, Florida and is married to Milana Walter Beamon, a film producer.