Hundreds of long jumpers over the course of nearly five decades have attempted to break Bob Beamon’s Olympic record in the event, and all have failed.
The mark still stands 48 years after it was set at the 1968 Mexico City Games, a feat remarkable not just for its jaw-dropping distance – 8.90 meters – but for how long it has weathered all comers across 12 Summer Games.
To put this into perspective: Beamon’s distance was more than a half-meter beyond what the USA’s Jeff Henderson (8.38) posted to win gold in Saturday’s finals.
USA’s Jeff Henderson leaps to gold in long jump
That gap of .52 meters is nearly as large as the distance Beamon himself added to the then-world record in 1968 – he bested that previous mark by 21 inches, or .53 meters, so shocking both himself and judges that officials double-checked his leap with a steel tape measure before certifying the distance.
Even as sprinting and distance records are set, reset and broken again, Beamon’s leap seems to stand the test of time in Olympic competition.
It has been bested in overall competition, however. Another American, Mike Powell, jumped 8.95 meters at an event in Tokyo in 1991.
Yet Beamon’s leap continues to echo and reverberate in Olympic lore, part of that short list of records that many have labeled unbreakable.
“We’ve got to look at the distance that was set. It’s one of the greatest distances of all time,” said bronze medalist Greg Rutherford of Great Britain. “Bob Beamon’s job always gives me that bit of motivation to think, when you catch one it’ll be really big. It was a special jump back then and a special jump right now.”