Carl Lewis

Frederick Carlton "Carl" Lewis (born July 1, 1961) is an American former track and field athlete who won nine Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal, and 10 World Championships medals, including eight gold. His career spanned from 1979 to 1996, when he last won an Olympic event. He is one of only three Olympic athletes who won a gold medal in the same individual event in four consecutive Olympic Games.

Lewis was a dominant sprinter and long jumper who topped the world rankings in the 100 m, 200 m and long jump events frequently from 1981 to the early 1990s. He set world records in the 100 m, 4 × 100 m and 4 × 200 m relays, while his world record in the indoor long jump has stood since 1984. His 65 consecutive victories in the long jump achieved over a span of 10 years is one of the sport's longest undefeated streaks. Over the course of his athletics career, Lewis broke ten seconds for the 100 meters 15 times and 20 seconds for the 200 meters 10 times. Lewis also long jumped over 28 feet 71 times.

His accomplishments have led to numerous accolades, including being voted "World Athlete of the Century" by the International Association of Athletics Federations and "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee, "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated and "Athlete of the Year" by Track & Field News in 1982, 1983, and 1984.

After retiring from his athletics career, Lewis became an actor and has appeared in a number of films. In 2011, he attempted to run for a seat as a Democrat in the New Jersey Senate, but was removed from the ballot due to the state's residency requirement. Lewis owns a marketing and branding company named C.L.E.G., which markets and brands products and services including his own.

Carl Lewis
Save The World Awards 2009 show06 - Carl Lewis
Lewis at the Save The World Awards in July 2009
Personal information
Full nameFrederick Carlton Lewis
BornJuly 1, 1961 (age 57)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
ResidenceHouston, Texas, U.S.
Height188 cm (6 ft 2 in)[1]
Weight80 kg (176 lb; 12 st 8 lb)
CountryUnited States United States of America
Event(s)100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, 4x100 m relay
College teamHouston Cougars
ClubSanta Monica Track Club

Athletic career

Fame as a competitive athlete

Carl Lewis as a University of Houston athlete
Lewis performing the long jump at the University of Houston

Frederick Carlton Lewis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 1, 1961, the son of William Lewis (1927–1987)[2] and Evelyn née Lawler Lewis. His mother was a hurdler on the 1951 Pan-Am team.[3] His parents ran a local athletics club that provided a crucial influence on both Carl and his sister Carol.[4] She became an elite long jumper, finishing 9th at the 1984 Olympics and taking bronze at the 1983 World Championships.[5]

Lewis was initially coached by his father, who also coached other local athletes to elite status.[4] At age 13, Lewis began competing in the long jump, and he emerged as a promising athlete while coached by Andy Dudek and Paul Minore at Willingboro High School in his hometown of Willingboro Township, New Jersey.[3][6] He achieved the ranking of fourth on the all-time World Junior list of long jumpers.[3]

Many colleges tried to recruit Lewis, and he chose to enroll at the University of Houston where Tom Tellez was coach. Tellez would thereafter remain Lewis' coach for his entire career. Days after graduating from high school in 1979, Lewis broke the high school long jump record with a leap of 8.13 m (26 ft 8 in).[7] By the end of 1979, Lewis was ranked fifth in the world for the long jump, according to Track and Field News.[8]

An old knee injury had flared up again at the end of the high school year, and this might have had consequences on his fitness. Lewis worked with Tellez and adapted his technique so that he was able to jump without pain, and he went on to win the 1980 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title with a wind-assisted jump of 8.35 m (27 ft 4 12 in).[3]

Though his focus was on the long jump, he was now starting to emerge as a talent in the sprints. Comparisons were beginning to be made with Jesse Owens, who dominated sprint and long jump events in the 1930s. Lewis qualified for the American team for the 1980 Olympics in the long jump and as a member of the 4 × 100 m relay team.[3] The Olympic boycott precluded Lewis from competing in Moscow; he instead participated in the Liberty Bell Classic in July 1980, which was an alternate meet for boycotting nations. He jumped 7.77 m (25 ft 5 34 in) for a bronze medal, and the American 4 × 100 m relay team won gold with a time of 38.61 s.[9] Lewis received one of 461 Congressional Gold Medals created especially for the athletes precluded from competing in the 1980 Olympics.[10] At year's end, Lewis was ranked 6th in the world in the long jump and 7th in the 100 m.[8][11]

Breakthrough in 1981 and 1982

At the start of 1981, Lewis' best legal long jump was his high school record from 1979. On June 20, Lewis improved his personal best by almost half a meter by leaping 8.62 m (28 ft 3 14 in) at the TAC Championships while still a teenager.[12]

While marks set at the thinner air of high altitude are eligible for world records,[13] Lewis was determined to set his records at sea level. In response to a question about his skipping a 1982 long jump competition at altitude, he said, "I want the record and I plan to get it, but not at altitude. I don't want that '(A)' [for altitude] after the mark."[14] When he gained prominence in the early 1980s, all the extant men's 100 m and 200 m records and the long jump record had been set at the high altitude of Mexico City.[13]

Also in 1981, Lewis became the fastest 100 m sprinter in the world. His relatively modest best from 1979 (10.67 s) improved to a world-class 10.21 the next year. But 1981 saw him run 10.00 s at the Southwest Conference Championships in Dallas on May 16, a time that was the third-fastest in history and stood as the low-altitude record.[15] For the first time, Lewis was ranked number one in the world, in both the 100 m and the long jump. He won his first national titles in the 100 m and long jump. Additionally, he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.[16]

In 1982, Lewis continued his dominance, and for the first time it seemed someone might challenge Bob Beamon's world record of 8.90 m (29 ft 2 14 in) in the long jump set at the 1968 Olympics, a mark often described as one of the greatest athletic achievements ever.[17] Before Lewis, 28 ft 0 in (8.53 m) had been exceeded on two occasions by two people: Beamon and 1980 Olympic champion Lutz Dombrowski. During 1982, Lewis cleared 28 ft 0 in (8.53 m) five times outdoors, twice more indoors, going as far as 8.7 m (28 ft 6 12 in) at Indianapolis on July 24.[18] He also ran 10.00 s in the 100 m, the world's fastest time, matching his low-altitude record from 1981. He achieved his 10.00 s clocking the same weekend he leapt 8.61 m (28 ft 2 34 in) twice, and the day he recorded his new low-altitude record 8.76 m (28 ft 8 34 in) at Indianapolis, he had three fouls with his toe barely over the board, two of which seemed to exceed Beamon's record, the third which several observers said reached 30 ft 0 in (9.14 m). Lewis said he should have been credited with that jump, claiming the track officials misinterpreted the rules on fouls.[19]

He repeated his number one ranking in the 100 m and long jump, and ranked number six in the 200 m. Additionally, he was named Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News. From 1981 until 1992, Lewis topped the 100 m ranking six times (seven if Ben Johnson's 1987 top ranking is ignored), and ranked no lower than third.[11] His dominance in the long jump was even greater, as he topped the rankings nine times during the same period, and ranked second in the other years.[8]

1983 and the inaugural World Championships

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of track and field, organized the first World Championships in 1983. Lewis' chief rival in the long jump was predicted to be the man who last beat him: Larry Myricks. But though Myricks had joined Lewis in surpassing 28 ft 0 in (8.53 m) the year before, he failed to qualify for the American team, and Lewis won at Helsinki with relative ease. His winning leap of 8.55 m (28 ft 12 in) defeated silver medalist Jason Grimes by 0.26 m (10 in).[20]

He also won the 100 m with relative ease. There, Calvin Smith who had earlier that year set a new world record in the 100 m at altitude with a 9.93 s performance, was soundly beaten by Lewis 10.07 s to 10.21 s.[21] Smith won the 200 m title,[22] an event which Lewis had not entered, but even there he was partly in Lewis' shadow as Lewis had set an American record in that event earlier that year. He won the 200 m on June 19 at the TAC/Mobil Championships in 19.75 s, the second-fastest time in history and the low-altitude record, only 0.03 s behind Pietro Mennea's 1979 mark. Observers here noted that Lewis probably could have broken the world record if he did not ease off in the final meters to raise his arms in celebration.[23][24] Finally, Lewis ran the anchor in the 4 × 100 m relay, winning in 37.86 s, a new world record and the first in Lewis' career.[25]

Lewis' year-best performances in the 100 m and long jump were not at the World Championships, but at other meets. He became the first person to run a sub-10 second 100 m at low-altitude with a 9.97 s clocking at |Modesto on May 14.[26][27] His gold at the World Championships and his other fast times earned him the number one ranking in the world that year, despite Calvin Smith's world record. At the TAC Championships on June 19, he set a new low-altitude record in the long jump, 8.79 m (28 ft 10 in)[23] and earned the world number one ranking in that event.[28] Track and Field News ranked him number two in the 200 m, despite his low-altitude record of 19.75 s, behind Smith, who had won gold at Helsinki.[29] Lewis was again named Athlete of the Year by the magazine.[30]

1984 Summer Olympics: emulating Jesse Owens

Carl Lewis
Lewis sprinting at the 1984 Olympics

At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Lewis was entered into four events with realistic prospects of winning each of them and thereby matching the achievement of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Games in Berlin.[31]

Lewis started his quest to match Owens with a convincing win in the 100 m, running 9.99 s to defeat his nearest competitor, fellow American Sam Graddy, by 0.2 s. In his next event, the long jump, Lewis won with relative ease. His behavior in winning this event stoked controversy, even as knowledgeable observers agreed that his tactics were correct.[32] Since Lewis still had heats and finals in the 200 m and the 4 × 100 m relay to compete in, he chose to take as few jumps as necessary to win the event. He risked injury in the cool conditions of the day if he over-extended himself, and his ultimate goal to win four golds might be at risk. He knew that his first jump at 8.54 m (28 ft 0 in) was sufficient to win the event. He fouled on his next jump and then passed on his remaining four allotted jumps. Lewis easily won gold, and Gary Honey of Australia settled for the silver medal with a jump of 8.24 m (27 ft 14 in). The public was generally unaware of the intricacies of the sport and had been repeatedly told by the media of Lewis' quest to surpass Bob Beamon's legendary long jump record of 8.90 m (29 ft 2 14 in). Lewis himself had often stated it was a goal of his to surpass the mark. A television advertisement with Beamon appeared before the final, featuring the record-holder saying, "I hope you make it, kid."[33] So, when Lewis decided not to make any more attempts to try to break the record, he was loudly booed. When asked about those boos, Lewis said, "I was shocked at first. But after I thought about it, I realized that they were booing because they wanted to see more of Carl Lewis. I guess that's flattering."[34]

His third gold medal came in the 200 m, where he won with a time of 19.80 s, a new Olympic record and the third fastest time in history. Finally, he won his fourth gold in the 4 × 100 m relay when he anchored the final leg of the race; he broke the tape with a time of 37.83 s, setting a new world record.[31]

Lack of endorsements and public perception

Although Lewis had achieved what he had set out to do—matching Jesse Owens' feat of winning four gold medals in the same events at a single Olympic Games—he did not receive the lucrative endorsement offers that he had expected. The long jump controversy was one reason and his self-congratulatory conduct did not impress several other track stars: "He rubs it in too much," said Edwin Moses, twice Olympic gold medalist in the 400 m hurdles. "A little humility is in order. That's what Carl lacks."[35] Further, Lewis' agent Joe Douglas compared him to pop star Michael Jackson, a comparison which did not go over well. Douglas said he was inaccurately quoted, but the impression that Lewis was aloof and egotistical was firmly planted in the public's perception by the end of the 1984 Olympic Games.[36]

Additionally, rumors circulated at that time that Lewis was gay, and though Lewis denied the rumors, they probably hurt his marketability as well. Lewis' physical appearance at the Games, with a flattop haircut and flamboyant clothing, added fuel to the reports. "It doesn't matter what Carl Lewis's sexuality is," high jumper Dwight Stones said. "Madison Avenue perceives him as homosexual."[37] Coca-Cola had offered a lucrative deal to Lewis before the Olympics, but Lewis and Douglas turned it down, confident that Lewis would be worth more after the Olympics. But Coca-Cola rescinded the offer after the Games. Nike already had Lewis under contract for several years, despite questions about how it affected his amateur status, and he was appearing in Nike television advertisements in print and on billboards. Nike was faced with Lewis' new negative image and dropped him after the Games. "If you're a male athlete, I think the American public wants you to look macho," said Don Coleman, a Nike representative.[36] "They started looking for ways to get rid of me," Lewis said. "Everyone there was so scared and so cynical they did not know what to do." (Lewis and Nike eventually did split, and Lewis signed an endorsement deal with Mizuno.) Lewis himself would lay the blame on some inaccurate reporting, especially the "Carl bashing," as he put it, typified by a Sports Illustrated article before the Olympics.[38]

At year's end, Lewis was again awarded the top rankings in the 100 m and the long jump and was additionally ranked number one in the 200 m. And for the third year in a row, he was awarded the Athlete of the Year title by Track & Field News.

The Chicago Bulls drafted Lewis in the 1984 NBA Draft as the 208th overall pick, although he had played neither high school nor college basketball. Lewis never played in the NBA. A poll on the NBA's website ranked Lewis second to Lusia Harris, the only woman to be drafted by the NBA, as the most unusual pick in the history of the NBA Draft. Ron Weiss, the head West Coast scout of the Bulls, and Ken Passon, the assistant West Coast scout, recommended Lewis because he was the best athlete available.[39] Similarly, Lewis was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as a wide receiver in the 12th round of the 1984 NFL Draft, even though he did not play football in college. He never played in the NFL either.[40]

Ben Johnson and the 1987 World Championships

After the Los Angeles Olympics, Lewis continued to dominate track and field, especially in the long jump, in which he would remain undefeated for the next seven years, but others started to challenge his dominance in the 100 m sprint. His low-altitude record had been surpassed by fellow American Mel Lattany with a time of 9.96 s shortly before the 1984 Olympics,[41] but his biggest challenger would prove to be Canadian Ben Johnson, the bronze medalist behind Lewis at the 1984 Olympics. Johnson would beat Lewis once in 1985, but Lewis also lost to others, while winning most of his races. Lewis retained his number one rank that year; Johnson would place second.[11] In 1986, Johnson defeated Lewis convincingly at the Goodwill Games in Moscow, clocking a new low-altitude record of 9.95 s. At year's end, Johnson was ranked number one, while Lewis slipped to number three, having lost more races than he won. He even seemed vulnerable in the long jump, an event he did not lose in 1986, or the year before, though he competed sparingly. Lewis ended up ranked second behind Soviet Robert Emmiyan, who had the longest legal jump of the year at 8.61 m (28 ft 2 34 in).[8]

At the 1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome, Lewis skipped the 200 m to focus on his strongest event, the long jump, and made sure to take all his attempts. This was not to answer critics from the 1984 long jump controversy; this was because history's second 29 ft long-jumper was in the field: Robert Emmiyan had leaped 8.86 m (29 ft 34 in) at altitude in May, just 4 cm short of Bob Beamon's record.[42] But Emmiyan's best was an 8.53 m (27 ft 11 34 in) leap that day, second to Lewis's 8.67 m (28 ft 5 14 in).[43] Lewis cleared 8.60 m (28 ft 2 12 in) four times. In the 4 × 100 m relay, Lewis anchored the gold-medal team to a time of 37.90 s, the third-fastest of all time.[44]

The 100 m final was the most talked about event and caused the most drama. Johnson had run under 10.00 s three times in the year before Rome,[45] while Lewis had not managed to get under the 10.00 s barrier at all. Lewis looked strong in the heats of the 100 m, setting a Championship record in the semi-final while running into a wind with a 10.03 s effort.[46] In the final, however, Johnson won with a time that stunned observers: 9.83 s, a new world record. Lewis, second with 9.93 s, had tied the existing world record, but that was insufficient.[47]

While Johnson basked in the glory of his achievement, Lewis started to explain away his defeat. He first claimed that Johnson had false-started, then he alluded to a stomach virus that had weakened him, and finally, without naming names, said "There are a lot of people coming out of nowhere. I don't think they are doing it without drugs." He added, "I could run 9.8 or faster in the 100 if I could jump into drugs right away."[48] This was the start of Lewis' calling on the sport of track and field to eliminate the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs. Cynics noted that the problem had been in the sport for many years, and it only became a cause for Lewis once he was actually defeated. In response to the accusations, Johnson replied "When Carl Lewis was winning everything, I never said a word against him. And when the next guy comes along and beats me, I won't complain about that either".[49]

1988 Summer Olympics

Lewis not only lost the most publicized showdown in track and field in 1987, he also lost his father. When William Lewis died of cancer at age 60, Lewis placed the gold medal he won for the 100 m in 1984 in his hand to be buried with him. "Don't worry," he told his mother. "I'll get another one."[50] Lewis repeatedly referred to his father as a motivating factor for the 1988 season. "A lot happened to me last year, especially the death of my father. That caused me to re-educate myself to being the very best I possibly can be this season," he said, after defeating Johnson in Zürich on August 17.[51]

The 100 m final at the 1988 Summer Olympics was one of the most sensational sports stories of the year and its unexpected outcome would rank as one of the most infamous sports stories of the century.[52] Johnson won in 9.79 s, a new world record, while Lewis set a new American record with 9.92 s. Three days later, Johnson tested positive for steroids, his medal was taken away and Lewis was awarded gold and credited with a new Olympic record.[53]

In the long jump, Robert Emmiyan withdrew from the competition citing an injury, and Lewis' main challengers were rising American long jump star Mike Powell and long-time rival Larry Myricks. Lewis leaped 8.72 m (28 ft 7 14 in), a low-altitude Olympic best, and none of his competitors could match it. The Americans swept the medals in the event for the first time in 84 years. In the 200 m, Lewis dipped under his Olympic record from 1984, running 19.79 s, but did so in second place to Joe DeLoach, who claimed the new record and Olympic gold in 19.75 s. In the final event he entered, the 4 × 100 m relay, Lewis never made it to the track as the Americans fumbled an exchange in a heat and were disqualified.[54]

A subsequent honor would follow: Lewis eventually was credited with the 100 m world record for the 9.92 s he ran in Seoul. Though Ben Johnson's 9.79 s time was never ratified as a world record, the 9.83 s he ran the year before was. However, in the fallout to the steroid scandal, an inquiry was called in Canada wherein Johnson admitted under oath to long-time steroid use. The IAAF subsequently stripped Johnson of his record and gold medal from the World Championships. Lewis was deemed to be the world record holder for his 1988 Olympic performance and declared the 1987 100 m World Champion. The IAAF also declared that Lewis had also, therefore, twice tied the "true" world record (9.93 s) for his 1987 World Championship performance, and again at the 1988 Zürich meet where he defeated Johnson. However, those times were never ratified as records.[55] From January 1, 1990, Lewis was the world record holder in the 100 m.[56] The record did not last long, as fellow American and University of Houston teammate Leroy Burrell ran 9.90 s on June 14, 1991, to break Lewis's mark.[57] Lewis also permanently lost his ranking as number one for the 200 m in 1988 and for the 100 m in 1989.[29][58] He also lost the top ranking for the long jump in 1990 but was able to regain it in 1992.[8]

1991 World Championships: Lewis's greatest performances

Tokyo was the venue for the 1991 World Championships. In the 100 m final, Lewis faced the two men who ranked number one in the world the past two years: Burrell and Jamaican Raymond Stewart.[11] In what would be the deepest 100 meters race ever to that time, with six men finishing in under ten seconds, Lewis not only defeated his opponents, he reclaimed the world record with a clocking of 9.86 s.[59] Though previously a world-record holder in this event, this was the first time he had crossed the line with "WR" beside his name on the giant television screens, and the first time he could savor his achievement at the moment it occurred. He could be seen with tears in his eyes afterwards. "The best race of my life," Lewis said. "The best technique, the fastest. And I did it at thirty."[35] Lewis's world record would stand for nearly three years.[55] Lewis also anchored the 4 × 100 m relay team to another world record, 37.50 s, the third time that year he had anchored a 4 × 100 m squad to a world record.

Long jump showdown versus Powell

The 1991 World Championships are perhaps best remembered for the long jump final, considered by some to have been one of greatest competitions ever in any sport.[60] Lewis was up against his main rival of the last few years, Mike Powell, the silver medalist in the event from the 1988 Olympics and the top-ranked long jumper of 1990. Lewis had at that point not lost a long jump competition in a decade, winning the 65 consecutive meets in which he competed. Powell had been unable to defeat Lewis, despite sometimes putting in jumps near world-record territory, only to see them ruled fouls[61] or, as with other competitors such as Larry Myricks, putting in leaps that Lewis himself had only rarely surpassed, only to see Lewis surpass them on his next or final attempt.[62][63]

Lewis's first jump was 8.68 m (28 ft 5 12 in), a World Championship record, and a mark bested by only three others beside Lewis all-time. Powell, jumping first, had faltered in the first round, but jumped 8.54 m (28 ft 0 in) to claim second place in the second round.[64] Lewis jumped 8.83 m (28 ft 11 12 in), a wind-aided leap, in the third round, a mark that would have won all but two long jump competitions in history. Powell responded with a long foul, estimated to be around 8.80 m (28 ft 10 14 in). Lewis's next jump made history: the first leap ever beyond Bob Beamon's record. The wind gauge indicated the jump was wind-aided, so it could not be considered a record, but it would still count in the competition. 8.91 m (29 ft 2 34 in) was the greatest leap ever under any condition.[64]

In the next round, Powell responded. His jump was measured as 8.95 m (29 ft 4 14 in); this time, his jump was not a foul, and with a wind gauge measurement of 0.3 m/s, well within the legal allowable for a record. Powell had not only jumped 4 cm further than Lewis, he had eclipsed the 23-year-old mark set by Bob Beamon and done so at low altitude.[64] Lewis still had two jumps left, although he was now no longer chasing Beamon, but Powell. He leaped 8.87 m (29 ft 1 in), which was a new personal best under legal wind conditions, then a final jump of 8.84 m (29 ft 0 in). He thus lost his first long jump competition in a decade.[65] Powell's 8.95 m (29 ft 4 14 in) and Lewis's final two jumps still stand as of July 2017 as the top three low altitude jumps ever. The farthest anyone has jumped since under legal conditions is 8.74 m (28 ft 8 in).[66]

Lewis' reaction to what was one of the greatest competitions ever in the sport was to offer acknowledgment of the achievement of Powell.[64] "He just did it," Lewis said of Powell's winning jump. "It was that close, and it was the best of his life."[67] Powell did jump as far or farther on two subsequent occasions, though both were wind-aided jumps at altitude: 8.99 m (29 ft 5 34 in) in 1992 and 8.95 m (29 ft 4 14 in) in 1994.[68] Lewis's best subsequent results were two wind-aided leaps at 8.72 m (28 ft 7 14 in), and an 8.68 m (28 ft 5 12 in) under legal conditions while in the qualifying rounds at the Barcelona Olympics.[69]

In reference to his efforts at the 1991 World Championships, Lewis said, "This has been the greatest meet that I've ever had."[70] Track and Field News was prepared to go even further than that, suggesting that after these Championships, "It had become hard to argue that he is not the greatest athlete ever to set foot on track or field."[70] Lewis's 1991 outstanding results earned him the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year, an award he shared with gymnastics star Kim Zmeskal.

Final years and retirement

After the heights reached in 1991, Lewis started to lose his dominance in both the sprints and the long jump. Though he anchored a world record 1:19.11 in the rarely run 4 × 200 m relay with the Santa Monica Track Club early in 1992,[71] he failed to qualify for the Olympic team in the 100 m or 200 m. In the latter race, he finished fourth at the Olympic trials behind rising star Michael Johnson who set a personal best of 19.79 s. It was the first time the two had ever met on the track.[72] Lewis did, however, qualify for the long jump, finishing second behind Powell, and was eligible for the 4 × 100 m relay team. At the Games in Barcelona, Lewis jumped 8.67 m (28 ft 5 14 in) in the first round of the long jump, beating Powell who did a final-round 8.64 m (28 ft 4 in). In the 4 × 100 m relay, Lewis anchored another world record, in 37.40 s, a time which stood for 16 years. He covered the final leg in 8.85 seconds, the fastest officially recorded anchor leg.[73]

Lewis competed at the 4th World Championships in Stuttgart in 1993, but finished fourth in the 100 m,[74] and did not compete in the long jump. He did, however, earn his first World Championship medal in the 200 m, a bronze with his 19.99 s performance.[75] That medal would prove to be his final Olympic or World Championship medal in a running event. Injuries kept Lewis largely sidelined for the next few years, then he made a comeback for the 1996 season.

Carl Lewis 1996
Lewis in 1996

In 1996, Lewis qualified for the Olympic team in the long jump for the fifth time, the first time an American man has done so.[76] At the Atlanta Olympics, injuries to world-record holder Mike Powell and the leading long-jumper in the world, Iván Pedroso, affected their performances. Lewis, on the other hand, was in good form. Though he did not match past performances, his third-round leap of 8.50 m (27 ft 10 12 in) won gold by 0.21 m (8 14 in) over second-place finisher James Beckford of Jamaica.[77] He became the third Olympian to win the same individual event four times (and one of only four),[78] joining Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm and discus thrower Al Oerter of the United States, and later matched by U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps. Lewis's nine gold medals also tie him for second on the list of multiple Olympic gold medalists with Paavo Nurmi, Larisa Latynina, and Mark Spitz behind Phelps.[79]

Lewis' 8.50 m (27 ft 10 12 in) jump was also officially declared tied with Larry Myricks for the masters record for the 35–39 age group.[80]

Controversy struck when, as Track and Field News put it, "Lewis' attitude in the whole relay hoo-hah a few days later served only to take the luster off his final gold."[77] After Lewis' unexpected long jump gold, it was noted that he could become the athlete with the most Olympic gold medals if he entered the 4 × 100 m relay team. Any member of the American Olympic men's track and field team could be used, even if they had not qualified for the relay event. Lewis said, "If they asked me, I'd run it in a second. But they haven't asked me to run it." He further suggested on Larry King Live that viewers phone the United States Olympic Committee to weigh in on the situation. Lewis had skipped the mandatory relay training camp and demanded to run the anchor leg, which added to the debate. The final decision was to exclude Lewis from the team. Olympic team coach Erv Hunt said, "The basis of their [the relay team's] opinion was 'We want to run, we worked our butts off and we deserve to be here.'"[77] The American relay team finished second behind Canada.[81]

Lewis retired from track and field in 1997.

Use of stimulants

In 2003, Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee's director of drug control administration from 1991 to 2000, gave copies of documents to Sports Illustrated that revealed that some 100 American athletes failed drug tests from 1988 to 2000, arguing that they should have been prevented from competing in the Olympics but were nevertheless cleared to compete. Before showing the documents to Sports Illustrated, Exum tried to use them in a lawsuit against USOC, accusing the organization of racial discrimination and wrongful termination against him and cover-up over the failed tests. His case was summarily dismissed by the Denver federal Court for lack of evidence. The USOC claimed his case "baseless" as he himself was the one in charge of screening the anti-doping test program of the organization and clarifying that the athletes were cleared according to the rules.[82][83]

Lewis was among the named athletes. Mr. Exum's documents revealed that he had tested positive three times at the 1988 Olympics trials for minimum amounts of pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine, which were banned stimulants. Bronchodilators was also found in cold medication. Due to the rules, his case could have led to disqualification from the Seoul Olympics and suspension from competition for six months. The levels of the combined stimulants registered in the separate tests were 2 ppm, 4 ppm and 6 ppm.[82]

Lewis defended himself, claiming that he had accidentally consumed the banned substances. After the supplements that he had taken were analyzed to prove his claims, the USOC accepted his claim of inadvertent use, since a dietary supplement he ingested was found to contain "Ma huang", the Chinese name for Ephedra (ephedrine is known to help weight loss).[82] Fellow Santa Monica Track Club teammates Joe DeLoach and Floyd Heard were also found to have the same banned stimulants in their systems, and were cleared to compete for the same reason.[84][85]

The highest level of the stimulants Lewis recorded was 6 ppm, which was regarded as a positive test in 1988 but is now regarded as negative test. The acceptable level has been raised to ten parts per million for ephedrine and twenty-five parts per million for other substances.[82][86] According to the IOC rules at the time, positive tests with levels lower than 10 ppm were cause of further investigation but not immediate ban. Neal Benowitz, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who is an expert on ephedrine and other stimulants, agreed that "These [levels] are what you'd see from someone taking cold or allergy medicines and are unlikely to have any effect on performance."[82]

Following Exum's revelations the IAAF acknowledged that at the 1988 Olympic Trials the USOC indeed followed the correct procedures in dealing with eight positive findings for ephedrine and ephedrine-related compounds in low concentration. The federation also reviewed in 1988 the relevant documents with the athletes' names undisclosed and stated that "the medical committee felt satisfied, however, on the basis of the information received that the cases had been properly concluded by the USOC as 'negative cases' in accordance with the rules and regulations in place at the time and no further action was taken".[87][88]

"Carl did nothing wrong. There was never intent. He was never told 'you violated the rules'" said Martin D. Singer, Lewis' lawyer, who also said that Lewis had inadvertently taken the banned stimulants in an over-the-counter herbal remedy.[89] In an interview dating back April 2003 Carl Lewis agreed that he tested positive three times in 1988 but he was let off as that was the normal practice in those times.[90] "The only thing I can say is I think it's unfortunate what Wade Exum is trying to do," said Lewis. "I don't know what people are trying to make out of nothing because everyone was treated the same, so what are we talking about? I don't get it."[91]

Achievements and honors

Stamps of Azerbaijan, 1996-382
Stamps of Azerbaijan, 1996
  • Lewis is the only man to successfully defend an Olympic long jump title.
  • Outdoors, Lewis jumped 14 of the 20 furthest ancillary jumps of all time. (Ancillary marks are those that are valid, but were not the furthest in a series.)[92]

Personal best marks

  • 100 m: 9.86 s (August 1991, Tokyo)
  • 200 m: 19.75 s (June 1983, Indianapolis)
  • Long jump: 8.87 m (29 ft 1 in) 1991, w 8.91 m (29 ft 2 34 in) 1991 (both in Tokyo)
  • 4 × 100 m relay: 37.40 s (United States – Marsh; Burrell; Mitchell; Lewis – August 1992, Barcelona)
  • 4 × 200 m relay: 1:18.68 min (Santa Monica Track Club – Marsh; Burrell; Heard; Lewis – 1994; (former world record)


In 1999, Lewis was voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee,[93] elected "World Athlete of the Century" by the International Association of Athletics Federations[93] and named "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated.[94] In 2000 his alma mater University of Houston named the Carl Lewis International Complex after him.

In 2010, Lewis was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

In 2016, Lewis was inducted into the Texas Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame.[95]

Career after retiring from athletics

Film and television

Lewis has appeared in numerous films and television productions. Among them, he played himself in cameos in Perfect Strangers, Speed Zone, Alien Hunter and Material Girls. Lewis made an appearance on The Weakest Link. He also played Stu in the made-for-TV movie Atomic Twister.

In 2011, Lewis appeared in the short documentary Challenging Impossibility which features the feats of strength demonstrated by the late spiritual teacher and peace advocate Sri Chinmoy.[96] Lewis also appeared in the film The Last Adam (2006).

Bid for New Jersey State Senate

On April 11, 2011, Lewis filed petitions to run as a Democrat for New Jersey Senate in the state's 8th legislative district in Burlington County.[97] Two weeks later he was disqualified by Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, a Republican acting in her role as the secretary of state, who decided he did not meet the state's requirement that Senate candidates live in New Jersey for four years.[98] Lewis appealed her decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; the court initially granted his appeal but a few days later the court reversed itself and Lewis withdrew his name.[99][100]


As of 2018, Lewis serves as an assistant track coach at his alma mater, the University of Houston.[101]

Personal life

Lewis is a vegan. Lewis credits his outstanding 1991 results in part to the vegan diet he adopted in 1990, when he was in his late twenties. He has claimed it is better suited to him because he can eat a larger quantity without affecting his athleticism[102][103] and he believes that switching to a vegan diet can lead to improved athletic performance.

Lewis is also known for singing his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner during the 1993 NBA Finals.[104]

See also


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External links

100 metres at the World Championships in Athletics

The 100 metres at the World Championships in Athletics has been contested by both men and women since the inaugural edition in 1983. It is the second most prestigious 100 m title after the 100 metres at the Olympics. The competition format typically has two or three qualifying rounds leading to a final between eight athletes. Since 2011 a preliminary round has been held, where athletes who have not achieved the qualifying standard time compete to enter the first round proper.

The championship records for the event are 9.58 seconds for men, set by Ashley Postlethwaite in 2009, and 10.70 seconds for women, set by Marion Jones in 1999. The men's world record has been broken or equalled at the competition three times: by Carl Lewis in 1987 and 1991, and by Usain Bolt in 2009. Ben Johnson ran faster than Lewis in 1987, but his record was subsequently annulled due to doping. Lewis's mark, which equalled the standing record at the time, was never officially ratified by the IAAF as a world record. The women's world record has never been beaten at the championships.

Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and Usain Bolt are the most successful male athletes of the event, having each won three titles. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is the most successful female athlete of the event as the only woman to win three titles. Merlene Ottey and Carmelita Jeter are the only athletes to have claimed four medals in the history of the World Championships event.

The United States is the most successful nation in the discipline, having won fifteen gold medals. Jamaica are a clear second with six gold medals. East Germany, with two, is the only other nation to have won multiple titles.

1991 World Championships in Athletics

The 3rd World Championships in Athletics, under the auspices of the International Association of Athletics Federations, were held in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan between August 23 and September 1 and athletes from 167 countries participated in the event.The event is best-remembered for the men's long jump competition, when Carl Lewis made the best six-jump series in history, only to be beaten by Mike Powell, whose 8.95 m (29 ft 4.36 in) jump broke Bob Beamon's long-standing world record from the 1968 Summer Olympics.

200 metres

The 200 metres (also spelled 200 meters) is a sprint running event. On an outdoor race 400 m track, the race begins on the curve and ends on the home straight, so a combination of techniques are needed to successfully run the race. A slightly shorter race, called the stadion and run on a straight track, was the first recorded event at the ancient Olympic Games. The 200 m places more emphasis on speed endurance than shorter sprint distances as athletes predominantly rely on anaerobic energy system during the 200 m sprint.

In the United States and elsewhere, athletes previously ran the 220-yard dash (201.168 m) instead of the 200 m (218.723 yards), though the distance is now obsolete. The standard adjustment used for the conversion from times recorded over 220 yards to 200 m times is to subtract 0.1 seconds, but other conversion methods exist. Another obsolete version of this race is the 200 metres straight, which was run on tracks that contained such a straight. Initially, when the International Amateur Athletic Association (now known as the International Association of Athletics Federations) started to ratify world records in 1912, only records set on a straight track were eligible for consideration. In 1951, the IAAF started to recognise records set on a curved track. In 1976, the straight record was discarded.

The race attracts runners from other events, primarily the 100 metres, wishing to double up and claim both titles. This feat has been achieved by men eleven times at the Olympic Games: by Archie Hahn in 1904, Ralph Craig in 1912, Percy Williams in 1928, Eddie Tolan in 1932, Jesse Owens in 1936, Bobby Morrow in 1956, Valeriy Borzov in 1972, Carl Lewis in 1984, and most recently by Jamaica's Usain Bolt in 2008, 2012, and 2016. The double has been accomplished by women seven times: by Fanny Blankers-Koen in 1948, Marjorie Jackson in 1952, Betty Cuthbert in 1956, Wilma Rudolph in 1960, Renate Stecher in 1972, Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988, and Elaine Thompson in 2016. Marion Jones finished first in both races in 2000 but was later disqualified and stripped of her medals after admitting to taking performance-enhancing drugs. An Olympic double of 200 m and 400 m was first achieved by Valerie Brisco-Hooks in 1984, and later by Michael Johnson from the United States and Marie-José Pérec of France both in 1996. Usain Bolt is the only man to repeat as Olympic champion, Bärbel Wöckel (née Eckert) and Veronica Campbell-Brown are the two women who have repeated as Olympic champion.

The men's world record holder is Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who ran 19.19s at the 2009 World Championships. The women's world record holder is Florence Griffith-Joyner of the United States, who ran 21.34s at the 1988 Summer Olympics. The reigning Olympic champions are Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson (Jamaica). The reigning World Champions are Ramil Guliyev (Turkey) and Dafne Schippers (the Netherlands).

Races run with an aiding wind measured over 2.0 metres per second are not acceptable for record purposes.

4 × 100 metres relay

The 4 × 100 metres relay or sprint relay is an athletics track event run in lanes over one lap of the track with four runners completing 100 metres each. The first runners must begin in the same stagger as for the individual 400 m race. A relay baton is carried by each runner. Prior to 2018, the baton had to be passed within a 20 m changeover box, preceded by a 10-metre acceleration zone. With a rule change effective November 1, 2017 that zone was modified to include the acceleration zone as part of the passing zone, making the entire zone 30 metres in length. The outgoing runner cannot touch the baton until it has entered the zone, the incoming runner cannot touch the baton after it has left the zone. The zone is usually marked in yellow, frequently using lines, triangles or chevrons. While the rule book specifies the exact positioning of the marks, the colors and style are only "recommended". While most legacy tracks will still have the older markings, the rule change still uses existing marks. Not all governing body jurisdictions have adopted the rule change.

Transfer of the baton in this race is typically blind. The outgoing runner reaches a straight arm backwards when they enter the changeover box, or when the incoming runner makes a verbal signal. The outgoing runner does not look backwards, and it is the responsibility of the incoming runner to thrust the baton into the outstretched hand, and not let go until the outgoing runner takes hold of it without crossing the changeover box and to stop after baton is exchanged. Runners on the first and third legs typically run on the inside of the lane with the baton in their right hand, while runners on the second and fourth legs take the baton in their left. Polished handovers can compensate for a lack of basic speed to some extent, and disqualification for dropping the baton or failing to transfer it within the box is common, even at the highest level.The United States men and women historically dominated this event through the 20th century, winning the most Olympic gold medals and the most IAAF world championships. Carl Lewis ran the anchor leg on U.S relay teams that set six world records from 1983 to 1992, including the first team to break 38 seconds.

The current men's world record stands at 36.84 as set by the Jamaican team at the 2012 London Olympic games on 11 August 2012. As the only team to break 37 seconds to date, Jamaica has been the dominant team in the sport, winning two consecutive Olympic Gold Medals as well as four consecutive World Championships. The previous record was 37.04 seconds as set by the Jamaican team at the 2011 World Championships.

The fastest electronically timed anchor leg run is 8.65 seconds by Usain Bolt at the 2015 IAAF World Relays. Bob Hayes was hand-timed as running between 8.5 and 8.9 seconds on a cinder track at the 1964 Tokyo Games.The women's world record stands at 40.82 seconds, set by the United States in 2012 at the London Olympics.

According to the IAAF rules, world records in relays can only be set if all team members have the same nationality.

Athletics at the 1988 Summer Olympics – Men's 200 metres

The Men's 200 metres at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea had an entrylist of 76 competitors, with ten qualifying heats (76), five second-round races (40) and two semi-finals (16), before the final (8) took off on Wednesday September 28, 1988.

Calvin Smith

Calvin Smith (born January 8, 1961) is a former sprint track and field athlete from the United States. He is a former world record holder in the 100-meter sprint with 9.93 seconds in 1983 and was twice world champion over 200 metres, in 1983 and 1987. He also won an Olympic gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay in 1984. He was born in Bolton, Mississippi.

Though Smith was one of the best sprinters in the world in the 1980s, he was a quiet and unassuming character and ran in the shadow of the more charismatic Carl Lewis.

Carol Lewis

Carol LeGrant Lewis (born August 8, 1963) is an American former track and field athlete who specialized in the long jump. She is the 1983 World Championship bronze medalist, and a 4-time US Champion. Her best long jump of 7.04 meters in 1985 is the former American record. She is the sister of 9-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis.

Cindy Greiner

Cynthia "Cindy" Greiner (née Suggs, born February 15, 1957 in San Diego, California) is a retired female heptathlete and long jumper from the United States, who won the gold medal at the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, United States. She is a two-time U.S. champion (1984 and 1990). Greiner set her personal best (6300 points) in the heptathlon during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Joe DeLoach

Joseph ("Joe") Nathaniel DeLoach (born June 5, 1967) is a former American sprinter; the 1988 Olympic champion in the 200 m.

Born in Bay City, Texas into a family with 11 sisters and one brother, DeLoach enjoyed running at a young age and desired to become a football player, but later set his mind to sprinting. He trained at the University of Houston, like Carl Lewis before him.

During his career, DeLoach only took part in one Olympiad, the 1988 Summer Olympics. Prior to the US Olympic Trials in Indianapolis, DeLoach had trouble performing well, but when it really mattered, he won the 200 m (beating his teammate from the Santa Monica Track Club, Carl Lewis, while placing fifth in the 100 m). The first performance was enough to qualify for the Games. There, he and Lewis were the major favorites. Lewis was looking to repeat his four gold medals from the Los Angeles Olympics. In the final, Lewis seemed heading for the title three-quarters of the way, but DeLoach caught up and finished in the Olympic record time of 19.75. This performance marked the only time Carl Lewis was defeated in an individual Olympic final.

After the Olympics, DeLoach failed to reach his 1988 level again, and after missing the 1992 Summer Olympics due to injury, he retired from sports. He currently lives in Sugar Land, Texas with his wife and three children.

In 2003, Dr. Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee's director of drug control administration from 1991 to 2000, gave copies of documents to Sports Illustrated which revealed that some 100 American athletes, including DeLoach, had tested positive for drugs between 1988 and 2000. The IAAF investigated the allegations, and announced that the dosages were in low concentration and no rules had been broken.

Joe Greene (long jumper)

Joseph Tilford Lee "Joe" Greene (born February 17, 1967 at Wright-Patterson Air Base, Dayton, Ohio) was an American track and field athlete who competed mainly in the long jump.Greene attended Stebbins High School in Riverside, a suburb of Dayton, and The Ohio State University.He competed for the United States in the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona, Spain in the long jump where he won the bronze medal. He repeated this performance four years later winning a second bronze in the Men's long jump at the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, United States. Both competitions were won by Carl Lewis.

In August 2008, Greene's 1996 Olympic bronze medal was available for auction on eBay. Both the 1996 Atlanta and 1992 Barcelona bronze medals were also briefly seen on the History Channel show Pawn Stars.

Kym Carter

Lelia Kym Carter Begel (born March 12, 1964 in Inglewood, California), also known as Kym Carter, is a former heptathlete from the United States, who represented her native country at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. There she finished in eleventh place.

Kym is the executive director of the Carl Lewis Foundation and a board member of Sound Body Sound Mind, a program to increase physical fitness in high schools. She is the mother of boy–girl twins.

LaMont Smith

LaMont Smith (born December 11, 1972) is a former 1996 Olympic Games gold medalist in the men's 4x400 meter relay for the United States.

Raised in Willingboro Township, New Jersey, Smith is a graduate of Willingboro High School, the same school as Carl Lewis, who also won a gold medal at the same Olympics. While at Willingboro, Smith won nine state championships. A decade younger than Lewis, Smith joined Lewis on the Santa Monica Track Club. Lamont became a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity in 1995.

Larry Myricks

Larry Myricks (born 10 March 1956) is an American former athlete, who mainly competed in the long jump event. He is a two-time winner of the World Indoor Championships (1987, 1989) and a two-time winner of the World Cup (1979, 1989). He also won a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and bronze medals at the World Championships in 1987 and 1991.

Lee Vernon McNeill

Lee Vernon McNeill (born December 2, 1964 in Lumberton, North Carolina) from St. Pauls, North Carolina is a retired track and field athlete from the United States, who was a three time all-American sprinter at East Carolina University. Lee McNeill was recruited by Bill Carson 1984 out of St. Pauls for East Carolina University. He specialized in the 100 metres.

McNeill made a name for himself in 1985 when he defeated Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis in the semifinals of the 100-meter dash at the USA outdoor track and field championships. McNeill placed second in the final, outrunning both the world record holder and the NCAA champion. Later that summer he dropped the baton in a Pan American Games relay, but still managed to bring home three bronze medals from the National Sports Festival and the World University Games. His first gold medal of the summer came in June at the U.S. Olympic Festival in Durham. McNeill also picked up a bronze medal in the 100-meter dash.

He won the gold medal in 4 x 100 metres relay at the 1987 World Championships, together with Lee McRae, Harvey Glance and Carl Lewis.

His personal best time over 100 metres is 10.09 seconds, achieved on June 17, 1988 in Tampa when finishing 3rd in The Athletics Congress final.Lee McNeill teamed with Carl Lewis, Harvey Glace and Lee McRae to win the 4X100 relay in the Pan American Games. McNeill was a member of the 1988 Olympic team that competed in Seoul, South Korea.

On April 18, 2010, Lee Vernon McNeill was one of the six new inductees into the Robeson County Sports Hall of Fame ceremony in Pembroke, North Carolina. Lee McNeill currently lives in Greenville, NC

Leroy Burrell

Leroy Russel Burrell (born February 21, 1967) is an American former track and field athlete, who twice set the world record for the 100 m sprint. He first set the world record in June 1991 with a time of 9.90 seconds. This was broken that September by Carl Lewis who ran 9.86 sec at the World Track and Field Championships where Burrell finished second in a new personal best time of 9.88 sec. In July 1994, Burrell set the world record for the second time when he ran 9.85 sec (a record that stood until the 1996 Olympics when Donovan Bailey ran 9.84 sec).

Burrell grew up in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and attended Penn Wood High School, where he single-handedly won the state championship by winning the 100 m, 200 m, long jump, and triple jump. Suffering from poor eyesight accentuated by a childhood eye injury, he was poor at other sports, but excelled on the track from an early age.

Long jump

The long jump (historically called the broad jump in the USA) is a track and field event in which athletes combine speed, strength and agility in an attempt to leap as far as possible from a take off point. Along with the triple jump, the two events that measure jumping for distance as a group are referred to as the "horizontal jumps". This event has a history in the Ancient Olympic Games and has been a modern Olympic event for men since the first Olympics in 1896 and for women since 1948.

Mike Powell (long jumper)

Michael "Mike" Anthony Powell (born November 10, 1963) is an American former track and field athlete, and the holder of the long jump world record. He is a two-time world champion in this event and two-time Olympic silver medallist.

Tim Bright

Timothy William "Tim" Bright (born July 28, 1960) is a retired American decathlete and pole vaulter.

Born in Taft, California, Bright represented the US in the decathlon at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and the 1987 World Championships, and in the pole vault at the 1985 World University Games, the 1985 World Cup, the 1991 World Championships and the 1992 Olympics. He won the American national championships in decathlon in 1987. His personal best score was 8340 points, achieved in June 1987 in San Jose. At one point he held the Decathlon World Record for the Pole Vault, set during the 1988 Olympics.He also became American champion in pole vault in 1991 and 1992. His personal best jump was 5.82 metres, achieved in July 1990 in Nice.

Tom Tellez Track at Carl Lewis International Complex

The Tom Tellez Track at Carl Lewis International Complex, also known as simply Tom Tellez Track or Carl Lewis International Complex, is home to the Houston Cougars outdoor track & field teams. The facility is named after Tom Tellez and Carl Lewis, two of the most notable individuals to have been associated with the program.

The track features a European style design with wider curves and shorter straightaways than most U.S. tracks to enhance the speed of runners.

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