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Great Leap Forward
Kenny Moore
September 09, 1991
Mike Powell broke Bob Beamon's storied long jump record
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September 09, 1991

Great Leap Forward

Mike Powell broke Bob Beamon's storied long jump record

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"I thought he'd beat me," Powell said. "Deep down I thought he'd do nine meters [29'6½"]."

Lewis's fifth leap was 29'1¼", against a 0.2 wind. It was the best legal jump of his life. He didn't crack a smile. He had one left.

Powell folded his hands in prayer. Lewis's knees came high as he sprinted down the runway. The jump was not lofty, but it was long. It was 29'0". Powell had it all.

Abashed, Lewis put an arm briefly over Powell's shoulders but couldn't seem to bring himself to look him in the face.

Powell was overjoyed. He embraced the dumbfounded board judge. "I wanted to hug somebody," said Powell. "He was in the way. He got a hug."

Powell then climbed into the stands, through shrieking Japanese who all wanted hugs, and found Huntington, who received a crushing one.

"He said, 'We got it and we got him,' " Huntington said, "only not that politely."

Then the rains descended, in long skeins of silver silk. In an hour, the greatest long jump competition in history had upstaged the rest of a splendid World Championships. In Tokyo it seemed that wonderful changes and performances were constantly being overtaken by more fantastic ones.

The first appearance of a unified German team since 1964, for example, embodied in the gleaming Katrin Krabbe sprinting to a double win in the women's 100 and 200, paled in contrast to the nine-gold-medal, possible last hurrah of a Soviet Union that was splintering as the meet went on.

Only the U.S. won more golds, 10, aided by a final-day, 7'9¾" high jump victory by nerveless Charles Austin of San Marcos, Texas.

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