TOKYO - Mike Powell soared through the muggy air at Tokyo National Stadium, darkened by black rain clouds, and it was like a flash of light.
When he landed, it was there - a world long jump record of 29 feet, 4 1/2 inches.
Powell rose to his feet today at the World Track and Field Championships, raised his fists high in the air to a cheering crowd as if to shake off the foes which had haunted him for 10 years - Carl Lewis and Bob Beamon.
"It's just unbelievable," Powell said. "It's the greatest thrill in my life. I knew I could make it. Something went wrong on every jump, but then all of a sudden everything went smooth.
"I predicted this morning that I would go 8.95 meters (29-4 1/2). I called it. I dedicate this to my mom and my grandma."
For 10 years Lewis had won. His string of 65 victories weighed on Powell like a curse. Lewis would jump only in a few, important meets, and win.
Everyone was waiting for Lewis to break Beamon's world record. Lewis kept talking about jumping 29 feet. Powell was ignored.
People felt nobody could beat Lewis. People felt nobody could erase Beamon's mark, set 23 years ago in the high altitude of Mexico City. With that jump of 29-2 1/2, for a world record and an Olympic gold medal, Beamon became a legend.
But today, Powell became the king. He took the victory everyone thought belonged to Lewis.
Lewis again was leading. A first jump 28-5 3/4, then a foul, then two wind-aided jumps, 28-11 3/4 and 29-2 3/4, beyond Beamon's record.
Powell, 27, again was struggling. A bad start with 25-9 1/4, then 28-0 1/4, 27-2 1/2 and a foul. It was a good jump, but a foul. He knelt on the plastic surface and argued with the judges, claiming it was good. And then walked away angered. Again trailing.
But the clock turned to 7:09 p.m. and the hour struck for Powell.
Powell walked around holding his hands up as if in prayer before storming down the runway for his fifth attempt. When he hit the pit, he had altered long-jump history.
"I knew it was far and I knew it would be close to Carl. When I looked at it I thought it might be a world record. I'm living a dream. The runway is so fast, honestly I thought King Carl would beat me on the sixth jump," Powell said.
Lewis had two tries left. When he jumped, Powell sat on the bench holding his right hand up to his heart. Lewis got 29-1 1/4 and 29 for the greatest sequence ever.
"But Mike had the one jump," Lewis said.
As Powell hugged the judges and jumped around acknowledging the crowd, Lewis wiped tears from his eyes and walked away.
Powell crossed the track and jumped into the stands to be congratulated by his coach Randy Huntington as the 60,000 in the stadium gave him a standing ovation.
LONG JUMP WORLD-RECORD PROGRESSION
DATE RECORD SETTER SITE MARK
May, 1935 Jesse Owens, U.S. Ann Arbor, Mich. 26-8 1/4 ;
Aug., 1960 Ralph Boston, U.S. Walnut, Calif. 26-11 1/4 ;
May, 1961 Ralph Boston, U.S. Modesto, Calif. 27- 1/2 ;
July, 1961 Ralph Boston, U.S. Moscow 27-2 ;
June, 1962 Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, U.S.S.R. Yerevan, U.S.S.R.;
27-3 1/4 ;
Aug., 1964 Ralph Boston, U.S. Kingston, Jamaica 27-3 1/4 ;
Sept., 1964 Ralph Boston, U.S. Los Angeles 27-4 1/2 ;
May, 1965 Ralph Boston, U.S. Modesto, Calif. 27-4 3/4 ;
Oct., 1967 Igor Ter-Ovanesyan, U.S.S.R. Mexico City;;
27-4 3/4 ;
Oct., 1968 Bob Beamon, U.S. Mexico City 29-2 1/2 ;
Aug., 1991 Mike Powell, U.S. Tokyo 29-4 1/2 ;