What he remembers about the record jump.
“The clarity that I had. Because people ask me when did I know I was going to break the record. I said, ‛When I stepped onto the runway.’ Because when I visualized my whole approach, my takeoff, my landing, and I had such clarity, I (thought), ‛This is it. I can see it. I’m about to go break the world record.’ I could feel it. The track was fast. I could see it and I just went. I kind of compare it to, like, when Michael Jordan went for 63 points or whatever, he said the basket looked like a big peach basket. Everything he threw up was going in. And I just had that kind of feeling, like, ‛It’s going to happen, you guys, watch. Just watch this, here it comes.’ So I had that moment of clarity. I’ve never had that moment of clarity since then.”
On hearing his winning distance announced.
“It’s funny, I knew the world record was 8.90 (meters) and I know the metric system because of the distances that I jumped, but I saw 8.95 and I’m like ... ‛How far is 8.95? What is that again? Is that like 29-5, 29-6?’ And they’re, ‛29-5.’ And I said, ‛Okay, cool.’”
On his career after 1991.
“I was getting older, so physically I wasn’t necessarily getting better, but my technique was better, my focus was better, my confidence was better. So it was just like, I just went out there and did what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t like, ‛Hope I get one today.’ It was like, ‛I’m doing this.’ And when you’re competing that way, the same way that Carl was for a long time, people come to the meet expecting to get second or third. And when I was competing that way people knew they were going to have a hard time beating me, because they might get a far jump but they knew that if I had one jump left I was going to come get ‛em, probably. The only one who really beat me around that time was Carl, and unfortunately it happened in the (1992) Olympics.”
On his Olympic memories.
“The first Olympics (1988) was great, because I was happy just to make the Olympic team. And to get a silver medal was like, ‛Wow.’ I thought at best I’d get a bronze, but to beat Larry (Myricks) and get silver was great. 1992 was a big disappointment because I just felt like I was a lot better than anybody in the world at that time. But Carl showed why he’s an Olympic champion. He competed, jumped his best when he needed to at the meet and I came up a little bit short, came up an inch short. That’s the way it goes. That’s probably the toughest loss of my career. In ‛96 I was hurt going into the final and I gave it my best but my body didn’t hold up.” (He pulled a muscle and finished fifth).
On his level of satisfaction with his career
“I had fun. I had a ball. I had a blast. I got a chance to travel the world, meet some great people, had great experiences that – the richest man in the world couldn’t buy the experiences that I had. So I feel really honored and blessed to have done what I’ve done.”
On whether he enjoyed coaching.
“Love it. Even the frustrating stuff, I love it because it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge for me to motivate the athletes, to get them to actually internalize what I’m teaching them and use it. I know it, but my challenge is to get them to understand it and use it. So it’s exciting, a big payoff, great relationships and it’s just good to see young people become adults.”
On scouting young athletes.
“I see them compete in high school first and I’ll see them compete in some kind of competition and I’ll talk to their coaches. I get a good feel for the kid just by talking to them and seeing what they’re like. A lot of kids can put marks out there but I want to see if they’re a winner, if they work hard, they’re dedicated and if they really want to have a good time. And make sure they’re athletes and kids that fit into our program. And that they’re student-athletes, too. UCLA is no walk in the park. They’ve got to be really good students to not only get in, but stay there and graduate.”
On coaching young athletes.
“I tried to get a read on each person. I tried to treat them all the same, but you know, you’ve got to treat people differently. Some people are really shy; some people are extroverted. I tried to make sure they understand that we’re going to work hard, but we’re going to have fun. I understand that everybody’s not me. Everybody’s not going to be a workaholic. Everybody is not going to care as much as I did about competing. A lot of the kids do, but some of them, it’s just something they do. So I just try to keep in perspective that they’re not me and I’m not living through them so they can be me. I’m just trying to give to them what I’ve gotten and try to have them have a good experience. All I ask is that they work hard.”
On his advice to young coaches.
“Make sure the kids have fun. Get a fun coaching environment and then just try to make yourself as knowledgeable as possible. Know what you know. You don’t have to know everything, but just know what you know and teach that.”
On his future goals in track and field.
“My goal is to coach the next world record-holder in the long jump.”
How he’d feel if an athlete he coached broke his record.
“I’ll get my 10 percent.”
At the time of the 2008 Olympics, Powell was working as an IAAF ambassador, attending
press conferences, track meets, clinics and other events that promoted the sport of track and field.
He was also coaching a group of athletes in California.
Read more: Greatest Moments in Olympic Long Jump
Where Are They Now? The Stories of Former Olympic Jumping Stars