Since 1968, he has only beaten a world record in Mexico. In 1979 he got the Italian Pietro Mennea in the 200 meters (19.72 seconds). Somehow he questions the idea of a Games so favored by the altitude and the novelty of the synthetic track that was taken for granted the break of the records. On the contrary, we can speak of the emergence in Mexico of one of the best generations of American athletics, with sprinters and portentous jumpers, in addition to the brilliant Dick Fosbury, the prophet of a style unknown at the time and hegemonic now. Mexico 68 produced extraordinary results. Kenya won its first gold medals, the Czechoslovak gymnast Vera Caslavska equaled the four gold medals of Jesse Owens in Berlin 36 and a young Mark Spitz crashed four years before winning seven golds at the Munich Games.
Broken borders. The American sprinters demolished the mythical borders of 100, 200 and 400 meters. Jim Hines lowered for the first time in the history of the 10 seconds (9.95s). Tommie Smith ran the 200 meters in less than 20 seconds (19.83s), something that only his teammate John Carlos had achieved in the selection tests of the United States team. The Carlos brand (19.75s) was never homologated. He ran with the shark slippers, so called because of his excessive number of nails. Lee Evans won the 400 meters with a time of 43.86 seconds. Nadia had broken the wall of 44 seconds until then.
The flight of Beamon. The New Yorker Bob Beamon was the favorite in the length test, but he was not a reliable jumper. On his first attempt, he jumped so far that the optical viewfinder could not measure the distance. Its maximum measure reached 8.60 meters. The judges had to use the tape measure. The process lasted half an hour. When the jump record appeared (8.90 meters, 55 centimeters above the previous record), Bob Beamon did not understand the nature of his feat. I did not know the metric system. His teammate Ralph Boston moved his impressive record by inches and inches.
Wyomia Tyus repeats. Wyomia Tyus won the 100 meters, broke the world record (11.08 seconds) and became the first person to win in two consecutive Olympic finals. Tyus dedicated his victory to Tommie Smith and John Carlos, reprisals after his famous protest at the medal award ceremony in the 200 meter event. Neither Wyomia Tyus nor any other woman could participate in the Olympic Human Rights Projects (OHRP), base of the Black Power movement. Only men could integrate it.
That strange Fosbury. Little was known about Dick Fosbury in the world of athletics. Few episodes have caused more surprise in the Games than his impeccable run in the high jump final. Only one attempt failed. He won with 2.24 meters, Olympic record. More than the brand, the important thing was the style. Fosbury jumped with his back to the rod, a variant that initially deserved general discredit. In a short time it became the hegemonic model for the high jump.
100m Jim Hines (USA), 9.95s.
200m Tommie Smith (USA), 19,83s.
400m Lee Evans (USA), 43,86.
4x100m Charles Green, Mel Pender, Ronnie Ray Smith and Jim Hines (USA); 38.24s.
4x400m Vincent Matthews, Ronald Freeman, Larry James and Lee Evans (USA); 2m 56.16s.
Length. Bob Beamon (USA), 8,90m.
Triple jump. Viktor Saneyeb (USSR), 17,39m.
400m hurdles. David Hemery (R.U.), 48.12s.
100m Wyomia Tyus (USA), 11.08s.
200m Irena Szewinska (Pol), 22.58s.
Length. Viorica Viscopoleanu (Rum), 6,82m.
4x100m Margaret Bales, Barbara Ferrell, Mildrette Netter, Wyomia Tyus (USA); 42,88s.
Weight. Margitta Gummel (Ale Or.), 19.61m.
Irresistible Keino. The Kenyan Kip Keino ran the finals of 10,000, 5,000 and 1,500 meters, in addition to the corresponding elimination series, within a week. Third in the 5,000 meters, he offered an impressive demonstration in the 1,500 meters, where the undisputed favorite was the American Jim Ryun. Keino launched his partner Ben Jipcho as a hare. Nobody dared to follow them. He won with an extraordinary mark: 3m34.9s, at 2,300 meters of altitude. He took Ryun almost 30 meters ahead, second place.
The first gold of Kenya. Kenya competed in the Games since 1956, five years before proclaiming its independence. In 1964, he won his first medal, Wilson Kiprugut's bronze in the 800 meters. In Mexico, Naftalí Temu won the first Olympic victory in Kenya in the 10,000 meters, which has won 31 gold medals in the semifund and fundraiser races. In Mexico 68 won nine medals.
Madness in the triple. Only two men – the Polish Joszef Schmidt and the Finnish Pousi – had jumped more than 17 meters before Mexico 68. Schmidt's record (17.03 meters) was broken five times in Mexico. The Soviet Víktor Saneiev won with a jump of 17.39m, a progression of 36cm that reminded the Beamon. Saneiev, who began to stand out in the specialty, would win triple in the 1972 and 1976 Games. In 1980 he was second.
Queen Vera With 26 years, the Czechoslovak Vera Caslavska was a veteran of gymnastics. Months before the Games, he signed the Manifest of the 2000 words, in support of the democratic opening in his country, liquidated after the Soviet invasion. He went to the Games with a meager preparation, but his success was as resounding as his disdain for his Soviet rivals. He did not hesitate to take his eyes off the flags while the USSR anthem sounded on the bar and floor tests. He won four gold medals and two silver medals.
The failure of Spitz. Unlike athletics, altitude did not favor good results in swimming. Only a world record was recorded. The Australian Michael Wenden got it in the 100 meters free, proof that he had a unanimous favorite: the young American Mark Spitz, whose declared goal was none other than to achieve six gold medals. Failure. He only won two golds, in relay events. He was labeled arrogant and vague. Four years later, in Munich 72, he won seven gold medals.
The Foreman flag. Texan George Foreman arrived in Mexico without much noise. He left the Games as Joe Frazier's successor in the heavyweights. Days after the protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, Foreman walked through the ring with an American flag in his hand. He showed it as support to his partner Albert Robinson, featherweight to whom the judges had shamelessly stolen the gold medal. However, his gesture remained forever as a rejection of Black Power.