Bob Beamon says that Carl Lewis can do it. Lewis is confident that it can be accomplished. Now, it just has to be done.
Beamon's world-record long jump of 29 feet 2 1/2 inches, set in the 1968 Olympic Games at Mexico City, is the oldest field-event record in the book and the most revered in the sport. It was once believed to be unbeatable. But Lewis, track's superman, has been closing in on it. He will try to beat it today in the Pepsi Invitational at UCLA's Drake Stadium, a facility that he favors. The meet will start with the field events at 11:30 a.m., and running events will begin at noon.
Last year, Lewis was committed to winning four gold medals in the Los Angeles Olympics. He achieved his goal with a flair. Now he has other priorities.
"I no longer have the goal of trying to win four gold medals and go undefeated," Lewis said. "I'm looking forward to having fun, doing some different things and improving on all my performances.
"There is no question that I can put the long jump out farther than 28-10 (his personal best). Twenty-nine feet is something I've always wanted to do. So that's a major goal for me."
Only four long jumpers have ever exceeded 28 feet--Beamon, Lewis, Larry Myricks and East Germany's Lutz Dombroski. Lewis, unlike the others, is habitually in the 28-foot range. He is responsible for nine of history's top dozen winning jumps, including a 28-7 effort last year at UCLA.
Beamon was a 27-foot jumper before he set the record in Mexico City. He came back to earth, figuratively, after that feat, never again exceeding 28 feet. Myricks has legally surpassed 28 feet twice, Dombroski only once.
There will be a marker for 29-2 1/2 at the pit today, so Lewis will have a target. Beamon will be watching. He has been hired as an analyst for ABC-TV, which will televise a portion of the meet on "Wide World of Sports."
Lewis isn't the only attraction, however.
The meet will also mark the United States outdoor debut of Jarmila Kratochvilova, Czechoslovakia's wonder woman. Kratochvilova, 34, had planned to end her outstanding career in the 1984 Olympics but was denied that opportunity when her country, along with other Eastern Bloc countries, boycotted the Games.
She says that this will be her final year of competition, and she is attempting an arduous double today, running in both the 800- and 400-meter events. She is the world record-holder in both races.
Kratochvilova will be opposed in the 800 by Kim Gallagher, a silver medalist in the Olympics. Then, the muscular Czech runner will have a 1 1/2-hour rest before she lines up for the 400.
Her competition in the 400 will include Diane Dixon, the national indoor champion at 440 yards, and Olympians Florence Griffith and Denean Howard.
Valerie Brisco-Hooks, a triple gold medalist in the Olympics--400, 200 and 1,600-meter relay--will concentrate on the 200 today, facing Jamaica's Merlene Ottey-Page.
Perhaps the best event has been saved for last. The mile is scheduled for 1:46 p.m.
Joaquim Cruz, the long-striding Brazilian who blew away a strong field in winning the 800 meters in the Olympic Games, is now stretching out to longer distances.
He has moved into Steve Scott's territory. Scott, the American mile record-holder at 3:47.69, will be trying to win his sixth consecutive mile at the invitational meet.
But he isn't favored for a change. He barely beat Cruz in last year's meet, and Cruz has already beaten Scott at 1,500 meters--the metric mile--this year.
Track Notes Other events that could produce world-class performances: Pole vault-France's Pierre Quinon, the Olympic gold medalist, will resume his rivalry with Mike Tully, the silver medalist. Tully says he's in excellent shape and proved it by vaulting 18-10 3/4 at the Mt. San Antonio College Relays April 28. High jump--A classy field brings together America's best in the event, Jimmy Howard, Dennis Lewis, Dwight Stones, Doug Nordquist and Tyke Peacock. Howard is the U.S indoor record-holder at 7-8 1/2. Lewis equaled Stones' U.S. outdoor record earlier this season by jumping 7-8. 800--Johnny Gray, the American record-holder at 1:42.96, who runs for the Santa Monica Track Club, will have to be at his best to beat two of his club teammates, Kenya's Billy Konchellah, an Olympic 800-meter finalist, and David Mack, who is making a strong comeback after an injury-shortened 1984 season.