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Bob Beamon auctions off 1968 Olympic long jump medal

Beamon said he hopes the medal finds its way to someone who "understands the significance of athletic achievement."

Half a century after his 29-foot long jump at the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon’s record still stands – though he is ready to part with his gold medal.

“It’s time for me to pass it on,” the 77-year-old told AFP, ahead of the award’s auction by Christie’s on Thursday in New York.

Beamon’s historic leap – technically at 8.9 metres, or 29 feet and 2 1/4 inches – shattered the previous record by nearly 22 inches. It remained a world record until the 1991 Tokyo World Championships, and still stands as the top Olympic jump.

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Amid a growing sports memorabilia market, the experts at Christie’s have valued it between $400,000 and $600,000.

“The auction was an excellent way to showcase the medal, but also to preserve the memories of it,” Beamon told AFP, adding he hopes it finds its way to someone who “understands the significance of athletic achievement.”

The approaching Paris Games, set for July, make for plenty of opportunities to display the gold in exhibitions for the public, he mused.

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Beamon still remembers the “extraordinary day” that was 18 October 1968, after almost missing the games due to overstepping two of his qualifying jumps.

But “that day… everything was perfect for me. The wind was perfect. The weather when I jumped was perfect,” he recalls. “It rained right after I jumped.”

“I made a couple of mistakes in the preliminaries and I wanted to make sure that in the finals, I would get a fair jump, a legal jump,” he said.

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“But to my surprise, it was not only a jump, but it was an incredible moment in history.”

It wasn’t the only piece of history made in Mexico City: those were the same games that saw John Carlos and Tommie Smith expelled from the competition after raising their fists during the US national anthem to protest discrimination against African Americans.

Smith and Carlos were castigated in much of the US media and sporting world – but that didn’t stop Beamon, also black, from raising his fist on the podium the very next day.

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“It was a very important day for Tommie and John. Unfortunately, at that time, it was not interpreted in that sense,” Beamon said.

These days, Beamon has gotten back into drumming – a childhood passion he dropped when “sports became number one to me”.

The title of a recent album he recorded, with a jazz and funk group?

“Olympik Soul.”

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