15 August 2009

Approaching lightspeed

It's not that I'm not looking forward to the beginning of the Premier League. But if I had to pick just one sporting event to watch this weekend, it would be the men's 100m final at the World Athletics Championships in Berlin on Sunday. The football's great and all, but it's just beginning, and it's not going to blow any minds. Well, Andrey Arshavin might. But you get my point.

In honour of one potentially mind-blowing track & field occasion, here, thanks to the blessed soul who posted it on YouTube, is the ultimate brain-shatterer. The Guardian's blog correctly called the 1991 long jump final "the greatest moment in World Championships history". It's even more than that: it is one of the greatest sporting contests of all time. The jumpers are Carl Lewis and Mike Powell, and if this doesn't stir your sports-loving soul ... well, it's been nice knowing you.

Some small points:

* Few long-jumpers ever manage to get close to these distances. I'm not particularly fond of Lewis, but for him to make four 8.80m-plus jumps in one final is astonishing. Hey, for Powell, or anyone, to make that jump just once is astonishing.

* If you're as thrown by seeing athletics measurements in imperial form as I am (was it some retro thing?), the metric numbers are here.

* For a 6-2 non-basketball player, Powell could really dunk.

* Not to oversell it to those of you who may not have seen it, but: This. Is. Fucking. Glorious.

Below (even though it says "part 2") is the first part. Thanks to the pain-in-the-arse YouTube "embedding disabled" feature, you'll have to go here for the second part (the really good one). The final part is here.


Eric 15/8/09 10:43 PM  


But I have to say, I'm almost resigned to being disappointed with this. As in, Bolt not breaking the record, Powell running a 10.8 in the final (or whatever), and Gay getting hurt at some point. But it certainly has potential to be brilliant.

Mark 17/8/09 10:15 AM  

This was some of the most brilliant sport. Bolt's performances (and Johnson's 19.32, which was a bit handy back in the day) were incredible clinical displays, but when you have an event where battle was joined like this. Incidentally, no long jumper has been within 20cm of Powell's mark since.

And, in an anorakky-but-you-know-what-it's-amazing-so-shut-up moment, Bob Beamon took the world record in the long jump from 8.35m to 8.90m in a day, and the record stood for 23 years and has only been beaten once in 41 years. That, for want of a better word, is awesome.

Fredorrarci 17/8/09 5:54 PM  

Well, to be really anoraky, Ivan Pedroso did once jump 8.96m, though he did have a gale behind him. But yes, you're right.

For me, this is one of the reasons that athletics trumps swimming (not that it's a competition, mind you) -- there are still some records which endure. Beamon and Powell, Seb Coe's old 800m record, Mennea and Johnson's 200m marks: these each lasted for more than a decade, whereas swimming records, even pre-supersuit, have tended to fall in clumps. None have them have the mystique that certain athletics records have had.

Fredorrarci 18/8/09 1:15 AM  

I forgot to mention Jonathan Edwards' triple jump record. That's stood for fourteen years, and no-one has yet got near it. It was as noteworthy as Beamon and Powell, in my opinion, but Edwards doesn't seem to get the same kind of acclaim -- I suppose the triple jump isn't as sexy as the long jump.

Mark 18/8/09 11:52 AM  

Ivan Pedroso, I remember that, but it was at altitude and(?) wind assisted, wasn't it?

You're right about Edwards, that was ridiculous. I remember the Times did a graphic about it being five or six minis that he had leapt past, as if the 18 metres + was insufficient to cause wonderment. That said, the record that always gets me is the high jump. How in the name of sanity can anyone clear something 2.45m high? That's the equivalent of scaling a crossbar. Whoops - and now I've turned into the Times.

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