The world record going into that year, was 27 feet 4 ¾ inches, and none of the other competitors even reached 27 feet at those Games. But on his first jump in the final round, Bob Beamon jumped 29 feet 2 ¼ inches. It was announced in meters, and he didn’t realize at first what had happened. But when his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had just beaten the world record by nearly two feet, Beamon crumpled to his knees in emotional shock.
The defending Olympic champion Lynn Davis told Beamon later, “You have destroyed this event.” And a new adjective was born – Beamonesque – to describe a singular, spectacular event. Indeed, Beamon's jump stood as the world record for 23 years (it took 12 more years for any other human to jump 28 feet) until another American Mike Powell jumped 29 feet 4 ¼ inches, and it remains the Olympic record to this day, 55 years later!
Of course, one of the lessons from Bob Beamon's life might be to hang onto your dream, and go for it, and you too can achieve Olympic Gold or whatever your goals for life might be. And as Christians, we would include God in this, asking him to help set the direction for our life and then give us the strength and stamina to reach our God-given dreams.
But I think there’s another lesson here too, maybe one that’s even more important. When Bob Beamon was floundering, trying to make the finals, with two failed attempts already and only one last chance to make a qualifying jump, it was his coach and mentor Ralph Boston who came over to him and gave him an encouraging word. Boston, by the way, had been a Gold Medal winner in the long jump at a previous Olympics, and was also competing for a medal that day and got the bronze. He told Beamon this:
Take off early. You have room to spare. Give ‘em two inches on the front. You’ll take two feet when you land. Your legs have never been as strong as they are right now. At this moment your body weighs nothing. Your mind has wings. Use them. Fly up. Fly out.
I don’t know about the specific words of instruction, but the words of encouragement are what helped to make this a Beamon moment. We all need someone who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. We need people who push us past our limits by reminding us of who we are and what we’re capable of. We need those voices of encouragement in our ears, from other people, and especially from God, who say things like:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
So hear those words of Ralph Boston to Bob Beamon again applied to your life: “Your life has never been as strong and optimal as it is right now. At this moment everything that is holding you back weighs nothing. Your mind and spirit have wings. Use them. Fly up. Fly out!”
Grace and Hope to you,