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IAAF: World Long Jump record celebrates 20th anniversary
IAAF ARTICLE: World Long Jump record celebrates 20th anniversary

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mike Powell jumps 8.95m World record in Tokyo on 30 August 1991

Daegu, Korea - Some say that across all disciplines it is the greatest ever competition that has taken place in the history of the IAAF World Championships but whatever your opinion there is certainly no forgetting the Men’s Long Jump Final which took place on 30 August 1991 at the 3rd edition of the IAAF World championships in Tokyo, Japan.

Since the Mexico Olympics of 1968 the World Long Jump record for the event had stood to Bob Beamon at 8.90m. It was a mark that had attained almost mythical proportions in the minds of all jumpers, a statistic which in many ways transcended not just the event but the sport itself, a distance that most sports fans knew whether they were track and field fans or not, a dead cert inclusion in every sports quiz. The adjective "Beamonesque” had become established sports jargon for legendary feats.

The World Championships Final in Tokyo in essence was to come down to a two man duel.

Carl Lewis of the USA, unbeaten at that point since 1981, had won the previous two World titles at the Long Jump and was already half way towards his career record of four Olympic gold medals at the event. He had for years peppered the sand pits of the world with close attempts at Beamon’s record with a wind legal best of 8.79m prior to Tokyo.

Lewis’ teammate Mike Powell, the 1988 Olympic silver medallist came into the competition with a wind legal best of 8.66m, some way off from his compatriot, and along with the third member of the US squad, Larry Myricks, was a favourite to be on the podium in Tokyo.

In the qualification round (Aug 29) Lewis was flying, a large foul in the 8.80 region, was followed up with a legal 8.56, the best qualifying mark at a championships ever.

Lewis immediately got up full steam in the final (30) with a first round 8.68, a championship record, but fouled in the second having witnessed Powell, who had started with a lowly 7.85, move close to his lead with a wind legal 8.54.

Mike Powell jumps 8.95m World record
in Tokyo on 30 August 1991

Lewis, after his second round hiccup, got back into stride and in the next four rounds was to produce a very special series. The god’s were not in Lewis’ favour however as his third round personal best of 8.83 was windy. Further disappointment was to come in the fourth as when ‘8.91m’ registered on the scoreboard, the joyful realisation that Beamon’s mark had at last been surpassed was tempered by the wind reading which showed 2.9 m/s (the legal limit for records being 2m/s).

Still the two-time defending champion had a lot to be pleased about. He was in the form of his life, and leading the competition by 37cm he seemed to be sailing to expected victory.

Yet Powell, who in the fourth round had had a long foul in the region of 8.80, was by no means beaten. In the next round, the Philadelphia born jumper, in wind conditions which were now virtually still, met up with his sporting destiny breaking the sand at 8.95m (0.3m/s). Beamon’s 23-year-old record had been rubbed out by 5 centimetres, and Powell’s euphoric celebrations as he sped down the track at lightning speed would probably have set a record in itself if there had been a timing system in operation!

What Lewis was thinking about at that moment is anyone’s guess. He’d leapt further than ever before in his life, but the record he had sought ever since he had first become World champion in 1983 had been snatched away, and now he risked losing his World title. In one jump Lewis’ world had changed.

But jumping in order after Powell, Lewis still had two attempts remaining and so all was not lost, and, in a situation which would have psychologically crushed lesser men, showing the spirit of a great champion he responded well, launching two wind legal efforts at the new World record which landed close at 8.87 and 8.84.

Gold Powell, silver Lewis, and Myricks who took the bronze, thanks to an 8.42 leap did so in that magical fifth round with had witnessed Powell’s World record and Lewis’ 8.87 response.

Afterwards Powell was modest in his reaction having expected Lewis to have come back to win the title even after his 8.95: "I thought he would jump nine metres.”

Lewis summed-up the extraordinary competition: "It was a great competition for me, and even greater for Mike.”

30 August 1991, a date which will never be forgotten by any true track and field fan.

Chris Turner

IAAF Editorial Senior Manager


The men’s Long Jump qualification at the IAAF World Championships, Daegu 2011 takes place on the morning of Thursday 1 September (Day 6), with theFinal being contested on the evening of Friday 2 September (Day 7).



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