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Cuban Jumps Into History Breaks Long-Jump Record On Windy, But Apparently Legal, Leap

Capitalizing on wind gusts and high altitude, Ivan Pedroso set the world long-jump record Saturday at Europe’s highest track, ending a long domination of the event by U.S. athletes with a leap of 29 feet, 4-3/4 inches.

The 22-year-old became the first Cuban to hold the world mark in the long jump and the first non-American to own the record since Russia’s Igor Ter-Ovanesyan tied Ralph Boston’s mark of 27-4-3/4 in 1967, at Mexico City, another high-altitude city.

Pedroso bettered the previous record of 29-4-1/2, set by Mike Powell at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.

The wind, which foiled world attempts by Powell and Heike Drechsler of Germany at the 1992 Sestriere meet, was blowing at 2.68 mph, under the allowable limit of 4.47 mph for record consideration, when Pedroso set the record on his sixth and final attempt.

Meet organizers said record conditions were normal, although a steward later reported that someone may have affected the reading, standing close to the anemometer when Pedroso made his record jump.

The steward, Denis Morino, did not elaborate on whether the wind measurement was affected, and there was no official complaint. It’s now up to the International Athletic Amateur Federation to approve and sanction the record.

Pedroso, who will be battling Powell and Carl Lewis for a gold medal at the World championships in Goteborg, Sweden, starting this week, said he was unaware of any help from the wind.

“I felt it was blowing, but I always waited before jumping, so that it could calm down a bit,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it was within the limit. Certainly altitude and some wind can be favorable conditions.”

There were other conditions that weren’t as favorable. Pedroso jumped amidst fog and in chilly 55-degree temperatures. Pedroso started the competition, in the Italian Alps at 6,726 feet, with an impressive wind-aided leap of 29-2.

He then fouled twice, leaped 25-7-1/4 and 27-2-3/4, before jumping for the world record.

Pedroso ran along the track yelling with joy as the board flashed the record and the fans applauded him wildly.

“I knew I could set a world record, after barely missing 9 meters (29-6-1/2) at the Pan American Games (in March),” Pedroso said. “I realized immediately I had made an impressive jump, as soon as I landed on my last leap. I’m overjoyed. The World Championships will say if I’m really the best jumper.”

He said that the “barrier” of 9 meters could fall in Sweden.

“I can do it. Others can do it,” he said. “The competition will be extremely tough in Goteborg … I’m confident. I have dreamed of becoming a world champion and a world record-holder since I began jumping at age 12.”

A $130,000 Ferrari, the payoff for any athlete setting a world mark at Sestriere, initially appeared to be a problem rather than a prize for Pedroso.

“I never had a car, and I have no driving license,” he said.

He added, however, that he planned to take the car home, stressing the difficult economic situation in Cuba.

Ruling out that he may have problems in getting gasoline - and a driver’s license - for his Ferrari, Pedroso said, “It’s important to get a car, first of all.”