Local athletics enthusiasts and non-aficionados alike will be watching out for Kelly Proper’s progress in the Long Jump at the World Indoor Championships in Doha, Qatar this pre-Paddy’s weekend.

Waterford has a close connection to the first official IAAF Long Jump World Record, namely, Peter O’Connor’s leap of 7.61 metres in Dublin in 1901. It caused a sensation at the time, falling just short of the 25ft barrier. It remained unbeaten for 20 years, and it would be 89 years before an Irishman surpassed it. The current benchmark of 8.07m was set by Ciaran McDonagh in Switzerland in 2005.

O’Connor, of course, caused controversy at the 1906 Olympics in Athens, when, having been denied the long jump gold in controversial circumstances (the only judge was the team manager of the questionable American winner) he scaled a flagpole in the middle of the field and waved the Irish flag during the medal presentation ceremony in protest at only being allowed to compete under the Great Britain/Union Jack banner. He won the hop, step and jump competition two days later.

Though born in England and raised in Wicklow, Peter was a founder member and first vice-president of Waterford Athletic Club, and attended subsequent Olympics both as judge and spectator. He practiced as a solicitor on Suirside, and was married here with nine children. He died in Waterford on in November 1957.

Americans have dominated the men’s event down the decades. The legendary Jesse Owens was the first human to go beyond 8 metres, when he jumped 8.16m in 1935, a record that stood for 25 years.

Bob Beamon’s incredible leap of 8.90 in Mexico City in 1968 — way further than anyone dreamed man could go — had the definite advantage of altitude. Indeed, Beamon’s previous career best was 8.33m and after winning the gold medal he never again jumped over 8.22.

His mark stood until it was eclipsed by another American, Mike Powell, at the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991, pipping a certain Mr Lewis’s best effort (which is still third in the all-time list) by 4cm; ‘King Carl’ having had a 8.91 scratched due to an illegal wind advantage.

See The Munster Express newspaper for full story.