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World Mark Vanishes in Thin Air : Track and field: Cuba’s Ivan Pedroso surpasses Mike Powell with leap of 29-4 3/4 in Italian Alps.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The world record in the long jump, virtually unchallenged for almost a quarter of a century, was broken for the second time in four years Saturday, when Cuba’s Ivan Pedroso jumped 29 feet 4 3/4 inches in the thin, Alpine air of Sestriere, Italy.

With the eclipse of the record of 29-4 1/2 set in 1991 by Mike Powell, it is the first time since the former Soviet Union’s Igor Ter-Ovanesyan tied Ralph Boston’s 27-4 3/4 that a non-American has been on top of the world in the long jump.

Ter-Ovanesyan’s jump came in 1967 at the high altitude of Mexico City, the same site where one year later Bob Beamon made his historic leap of 29-2 1/2 during the Summer Olympics.

As with those records, track and field purists will probably consider Pedroso’s tainted because it came at Europe’s highest track, 6,726 feet above sea level. High altitude is believed to enhance performances in sprints and jumps. Powell set his record at relativelyflat Tokyo.

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There will be further scrutiny of Pedroso’s record because of a dubious wind reading of 1.2 meters per second (2.68 m.p.h.), under the legal allowable of 2.0, on a gusty morning when many other performances were wind-aided.

The wind reading was more than 4.0 meters per second for victories by the United States’ Gwen Torrence (10.83 seconds) and Nigeria’s Olapade Adeniken (9.92) in the 100 meters. That is typical for the annual meet at Sestriere, where Powell and Germany’s Heike Drechsler both had world-record efforts in the long jump nullified in 1992 because of high winds.

A steward, Denis Morino, reported that someone might have affected the wind reading by standing too close to the anemometer when Pedroso jumped, but meet organizers said there was no official complaint. Following standard procedure for world records, the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which governs the sport, will decide upon review whether to ratify it.

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

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Other conditions, including fog and a temperature of 55 degrees, were far from ideal. Pedroso’s first jump was a wind-aided 29-2, followed by two fouls and then jumps of 25-7 1/4 and 27-2 3/4 before the record fell on his final attempt.

Cheikh Tidiane Toure of Senegal was second at 27-1 1/4 and the United States’ Kareem Streete-Thompson was third at 26-11.

Pedroso, 22, emerged last year as a world-class long jumper and had the best mark in the world this year with a 28-7 two weeks ago at Salamanca, Spain. He now becomes the favorite in a showdown with Powell in the World Championships, which open Friday at Goteborg, Sweden. Three-time Olympic long jump champion Carl Lewis also is entered, but said Saturday he might not compete because of injuries.

“I knew I could set a world record after barely missing nine 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.”

Powell, of Rancho Cucamonga, was expecting to lose the record.

“I called it three weeks ago,” Powell said. “I’ve been jumping against him and I’ve said if he goes to Sestriere he’ll get it. My only hope was that it would be too windy.”

Powell, who has been injured, said he has little hope of retaking the record this year.

“My goal is to go to the World Championships and beat the world-record holder,” he said. “I’m not the man now, he is.”

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Lewis also was not surprised by Pedroso’s achievement.

“He’s been jumping very well, and obviously Sestriere is a great place to jump,” Lewis said. “It has perfect runways, straight down, and I’m surprised that it’s gone this long without someone jumping past a world record.”

Pedroso earned a $130,000 Ferrari sports car, a bonus for world records at Sestriere, then fretted about how he would take advantage of it considering the fuel shortage in Cuba.

Other potential problems are that he neither has a driver’s license nor knows how to drive.

“I wish I could have been there to talk to him about that car--I hope [Fidel] Castro doesn’t snatch it,” Lewis said.

Times staff writer Ara Najarian in Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Associated Press contributed to this story.


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