It was Friday 18th October 1968 and four of us were having an evening drink or two by a lake in Switzerland. We were on a product training course across the border in France but staying in Switzerland. The Mexico City Olympics was on the television and the men’s long jump was about to begin. I had done some long jumping at school and Pete’s son was a school high jump champion. Alan and Chris were good at drinking beer! We had been watching ‘our man’ Lynn Davis – the then reigning Olympics long-jump champion – but his first jump was poor – almost a foot shorter that the women’s champion had achieved!
Bob Beamon had come close to missing the Olympic final, overstepping on his first two attempts in qualifying. With only one chance left, he had re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final. When the final stages were beginning, and Bob Beamon was preparing for his first leap, Alan said ‘he don’t look very good; beers all round guys?’ We said yes and turned to the TV screen. Beamon got ready, set off down the track and took off. It looked pretty good but Alan returned with the beers and they now took precedence – although we all did watch his leap.
My beer was almost empty when the announcer called out the distance for the jump, 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.) Bob Beamon was unfamiliar with metric measurements and didn’t realize how far he had jumped. It was when his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken the world record by nearly 2 feet, Bob’s legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by the emotional shock, and collapsed to his knees, his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.
In one of the more endearing images of the Games, his competitors then helped him to his feet. Lynn Davies told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event,” and in sports jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.
We also came to our senses and called for another round of beer to celebrate!