Full Name: Frederick Carleton Lewis
Born: 01 July 1961; Birmingham, Alabama
Height: 6-2 (1.88m)
Weight: 175 pounds (80 kg)
College: University of Houston '81
Club: Santa Monica Track Club
Carl Lewis, almost certainly the greatest track and field athlete of all time, keeps on making history.
Perhaps his two most memorable performances were in the 1984 Olympic Games at Los Angeles, where he won gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4x100-meter relay, matching Jesse Owens' 1936 coup in Berlin, and his 1991 World Championship feats in Tokyo, where he won the 100m in world record time (9.86), anchored the U.S. to a world record in the 4x100m (37.50), and made three 29-foot (8.84-plus) long jumps while losing the gold medal Mike Powell's world record 29-4 1/2 (8.95).
Athletic talent runs in the family. His father, Bill, was a top New Jersey high school coach; his mother, Evelyn, was sixth in the 80-meter hurdles in the 1951 Pan-American Games. Sister Carol won 18 national championships of various sorts in the hurdles and long jump. Older brother Cleve was an All-American soccer player for Brandeis University and played professionally.
From 1981 through 1985 Lewis was the most dominant single individual over a five-year period of anyone in the sport's history. He was ranked No. 1 in the world by Track & Field News in those five years in both the 100 meters and the long jump, and in the 200 meters in 1984. In addition to his four Olympic gold medals in 1984, he won gold medals at the 1983 World Championships in the 100, the long jump and the 4x100. In those five years, he jumped past 28 feet (8.53m) more than 25 times. He also anchored U.S. 4x100 relay teams to world record victories in the 1983 World Championships and the 1984 Olympics.
Two of Lewis' performances, both in Indianapolis, should have been world records, but neither was. In the 1982 National Sports Festival (now the Olympic Festival), Lewis launched a jump estimated at least 9 meters (29 feet 6 1/2 inches) and perhaps more than 30 feet (9.14), but because the event officials erroneously called the jump a foul although it was a legal jump, the mark was quickly raked over and went unmeasured.
In the 1983 TAC 200 meters, Lewis eased up 15 meters from the tape with an easy victory. His time of 19.75 seconds (an American record) missed by a foot Pietro Mennea's world record of 19.72, set, like Beamon's, in Mexico City. If Lewis had run hard through the tape, his time might have been close to 19.50.
In 1986, Lewis studied voice, dance and acting at Warren Robertson's Theater Workshop in New York. He has sung with his own group in discos and produced several records, to much acclaim in Japan and Sweden but little or none in the United States.
In 1988, Lewis again moved back to top gear in track and field. He won the Olympic Trials 100m and long jump (in a classic competition with Larry Myricks) and finished a close second to Santa Monica T.C. teammate Joe DeLoach in the 200m.
At the Seoul Olympics, he had a chance to repeat his four-event sweep of 1984. He won the long jump handily, leading a U.S. sweep of the event, and won the gold medal in the 100m after Ben Johnson of Canada was disqualified for drug use. But he finished second to DeLoach again in the 200, and never got a chance to run in the 4x100 because of a botched baton pass in the first round, when Lewis was replaced by a substitute. For anyone else, two gold medals and a silver would be an earthshaking success. For Lewis, of whom people expect so much, it was a below-par performance. As Dwight Stones noted in 1984, "If Carl doesn't win four gold medals, he's a failure."
Lewis finally got his first individual world record a year later, when Ben Johnson's 9.83 100 meters, accepted as a world record when he beat Lewis at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, was disallowed by the IAAF Congress in September 1989. Lewis' gold-medal winning time at Seoul, 9.92 seconds, was recognized as the world record. Meanwhile, Lewis racked up another good competitive year in 1989, being world-ranked No. 1 in the long jump and No. 2 at 100 meters.
In 1990, he fell to second in both events, although in the 100 he was beaten only by his Santa Monica T.C. teammates Leroy Burrell (ranked No. 1) and Mark Witherspoon (No. 4). In the long jump, he entered only two meets, beating top-ranked Mike Powell in both to stretch his streak of consecutive victories, which started on March 14, 1981, with a victory in the NCAA indoor championships, to 64. Off the track Lewis' book, Inside Track: My Professional Life in Amateur Track and Field, written with journalist Jeffrey Marx, was published by Simon & Schuster.
In 1991, his streak reached 65 in New York at TAC when he beat Powell by a centimeter with a final-round jump of 28-4 1/4 (8.65). He finished 2nd in the TAC 100m as his teammate Leroy Burrell lowered the world record to 9.90. After his Tokyo ups and downs, Lewis was again ranked No. 2 in the 100 and LJ.
1992 started ominously; he finished 6th in the Olympic Trials 100, 4th in the 200, and 2nd in the long jump; reportedly he was suffering from a virus infection. But he came back to win his 3rd straight Olympic long jump in Barcelona and anchor the U.S. 4x100 to a 37.40 victory, the 6th world record performance he has anchored. It was his 8th Olympic gold medal.
Though he fell to No. 3 in the 100m rankings, he regained his top ranking in the long jump -- his 9th No. 1 in the event.
Lewis slumped a bit in 1993. After finishing 3rd in the USA/Mobil 100m and 2nd in the 200, in the World Championships in Stuttgart he took 4th in the 100 and 3rd in the 200. But when he joined the gold medalists in both events taking victory laps, the applause was loudest for Lewis.
1994 started well in both the 100 and the long jump, but re- recurrent injuries, plus a giardia intestinal parasite picked up at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, cut his season short.
-- Bill Mallon/James Dunaway
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