Ralph Boston, an Olympic gold medalist who broke Jesse Owens‘ world record in the long jump, has passed away, reports NBC Sports. He was 83.
Tennessee State, his alma mater, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic alumni associations both confirmed that Boston passed at his home in Peachtree City, Georgia. due to complications from a stroke.
In August 1960, Boston made history by breaking Owens’ world record in the long jump, a record that stood for 25 years. Boston jumped 8.21 meters, beating Owens' mark by eight centimeters.
“Suddenly people recognized me,” Boston told the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 2012. “Before that night nobody outside of Laurel, Mississippi, knew who I was and the people in Laurel knew me as Hawkeye Boston, not Ralph Boston.”
A few weeks later at the 1960 Summer Olympics, Boston won gold in Rome, and in 1961, he became the first long jumper to break the 27-foot mark. At the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, he won the silver medal and earned bronze at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968.
Outside of his own athletic prowess, Boston coached Bob Beamon after noticing that his steps are off following consecutive fouls. Beamon eventually set a world-record jump of 29 feet 2 ½ inches due in part to Boston’s advice at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.
Almost six decades later, Boston remains the lone person to win an Olympic long jump medal of every color and only Carl Lewis' four gold medals top his all-time total in the event.
After retiring from the competition, Boston relocated to Knoxville, Tennessee, where he worked for the University of Tennessee as Coordinator of Minority Affairs and Assistant Dean of Students from 1968 to 1975. With the CBS Sports Spectacular, he served as the field event reporter for the coverage of domestic track and field events. In 1974, he was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974 and into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1985.
On Twitter, Lewis expressed his gratitude for Boston's accomplishments and noted his hero's immense impact on the track and field.
“I'm devastated about Ralph Boston's passing. As a child I idolized him and he was a major influence in my life. I'll miss his voice and support,” Lewis’ post read. “He changed the game as an athlete, advocate and mentor. Jumpers, Know his name!!! Rest with the greats.”
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ralph Boston.