Edwin Moses and Bob Beamon: All-time Olympic greats on how to make track & field even more popular 

Put the future of athletics in the hands of these legends and this is what they'd do

By Sean McAlister

It's not often you get the chance to pick the brains of two Olympic legends.

75-year-old Bob Beamon obliterated the world long jump record at Mexico City 1968, leaping 8.90m to add a full 55cm to the former record in the sport. It was a mark that stood for nigh on 23 years and is still to this day the Olympic record.

Edwin Moses, for his part, won gold at two Olympic Games, Montreal 1976 and Los Angeles 1984, and was - quite literally - unbeatable in the 400m hurdles for 10 years. The now 66-year-old went 122 races without ever being bested and broke the world record on four occasions.

At the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, Beamon and Moses spoke exclusively to Olympics.com about what they would do to increase the popularity of track & field if they were in charge of the sport. Read on to find out what they said.

Bob Beamon: 'We need to talk more about track and field being a sport where you can make a living'

For Beamon, one of the main messages he wants to send is that track & field is a viable occupation. With the salaries of many other stars in American sport so often flashed across the newspapers, Beamon, who competed in a time when only amateurs took part in the Olympics, was keen to stress the fact that for athletes - and even support personnel - there are opportunities to live well off of a sport you may love.

"I think that we need to talk a lot more about track & field being a sport where you can make a living out of it," he said. "And that it's not just we look at it just running for a gold medal, but... by winning, you can make a great living out of it also.

"I mean, it can be behind the scenes. It can be an agent, it can be so there are lots of opportunities that are there for us in track & field, and I think that we need to expose those areas more."

Beamon also pointed the opportunities to bring in the help of other sports to increase the popularity of athletics.

"Track and field is very interesting because we run, jump and throw and all of those good things. And I feel that we can't miss the opportunity to allow other sports to get involved with track and field."

Taking the example of 110m hurdler Devon Allen who will move to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles after a successful track career, Beamon pointed to the fact that athletes in other sports would have watched his run to the World Championships final and fancied their own chances of making an impact in the sport.

"I think that we have to find a way to make that transition from just strictly track and field and have the football players or the basketball players to come in and be involved in it, because a lot of them have come through the ranks of track and field.

" I think that [when Allen raced during the World Championships] it was a great chance for us to really get the NFL to be involved.

"Other athletes in football are going to say, 'man, I'm going to take a shot at that.'"

Edwin Moses: 'We ran a lot more against our top competition'

The first thing Moses would do if offered the reins of the sport would be to increase the number of times athletes raced and competed against their nearest rivals each year.

"Have some type of algorithm where athletes could run and had to run more races per year against top competition," he said. "If you don't have that, you don't have a sport.

"It doesn't matter how fast someone can run world records. In my generation it was the mile and Steve Ovett would run a world record, Sebastian Coe would run a world record and then Steve Cram would run a world record, but it was very seldom that they would run against each other.

"I think in Moscow [the 1980 Olympics] was the first time that Ovett and Coe ran. People were waiting for that race. But they saw a lot of world records but they never saw five match-ups a year of those guys, so that's what track is lacking."

Moses was a prolific runner in his time, and feels that for anyone to match or beat his achievement of 122 races won, things will need to change for today's runners who run less and have less opportunity to pit their wits against the very best.

"It's going to be pretty tough, number one the athletes don't run enough to really even get at it. I think the top guys are running what, seven or 10 races a year? We used to run 20 or 25 races a year. I even had two years when I didn't run and still racked up 122 races.

"And when I was running I had to run against my top competitors all the time, ran two to three races against Danny Harris, two or three races against Harald Schmid, to or three races against Andre Phillips, like every year. So that's like 10 races, plus championship races where everyone was running.

"So we ran a lot more against our top competition and I think you stay a lot sharper. If I was running only seven or eight races a year, yes, I could probably run faster times on average, but there's little margin for error."


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