Q: How would your life had been different if you hadn't won?
A: First of all, I would not have been champion, and the champion gets to do things. He gets asked to do things. I wouldn't have been asked so much. Even though at that point I was world-record holder, I don't think I would have been quite as marketable. Not that we made money.
I took silver in the next Olympics, and it was really interesting. In Rome when I won, I must have gotten a stack of telegrams like this. [Boston held his palms about three inches apart.] And in Tokyo [in 1964], when I got silver, the only people that made contact, the only contact I had was from my mother, my family. Nobody else said a word. But everybody was on the bandwagon when you won.
Q: The 1960 Olympics are remembered as one of the more important in history for athletic, social and political reasons. Were you at all aware of that as it happened?
A: Not really. I was more caught up in the things that I thought would make you go ga-ga. Like Bing Crosby walking through the Olympic Village. Cassius Clay [later Muhammad Ali] winning a gold medal and always walking around with his medal [in the village]. Wilma [winning three golds] and all of that.
But I think I was caught up in those kinds of things. Nothing that changed the world. I just had a really good time.
Q: Your winning jump in Rome (26 feet, 7 3/4 inches) would have placed seventh at the 2008 Olympics. What does that say?
A: I'm not sure. I hadn't given it any thought. They haven't improved as much as I thought. Or that I was better than I thought. I like that one better.
Q: What memories do you have of Bob Beamon's world-record jump in 1968 in Mexico City?
A: I remember sitting at the head of the runway with the reigning Olympic champion, who had beaten me in Tokyo, and I said, ‘Watch this guy.' He started sprinting. I said, ‘Watch him miss his step.' Because he'd always had step problems. He didn't miss a step, and when he hit the pit, there was a roar. Whooooaaaa!
Q: Have you ever felt like you had to live up to the gold?
A: Hmm. Interesting question. I don't know. I certainly think that it's something I wanted to use to make a point to younger people, so I guess in that sense, yes, you have to live up to it, but beyond that, I'm not sure. I don't think so.