Carl Lewis – Greatest Athlete of All Time
The world knows Carl Lewis as one of the great sprinters of all times, with 9 gold medals in Olympics and 10 World Championships medals (out of which 8 gold medals). Carl Lewis set world records in 100 m, 4 x 100 m, 4 x 200 m and he is still the record man in indoor long jump since 1984. The American athlete dominated 100 m, 200 m and long jump events from 1991 until early 1990s (1993-1994).
The gifted athlete from Alabama enrolled at University of Houston in 1979. This was the place from where an unique talent emerged. Carl Lewis achieved his fist world rankings as an amateur athlete (he was ranked 5th in long jump in 1979). Also, during his spell at University of Houston, Lewis was considered a potential future sprinter talent due to his impressive abilities.
The man who is considered by many specialists the Greatest Athlete of All Time qualified for 1980 Moscow Olympics, but USA decided to boycot the Games. Carl qualified in the long jump event and as a member of 4 x 100 m relay team.
Carl Lewis became the second athlete to win 100 m and long jump events in NCAA history, in 1981. The first man to achieve this objective was Carl’s idol: Jesse Owens.
Lewis participated in 4 Olympic Games (1984 – Los Angeles; 1988 – Seoul; 1992 – Barcelona; 1996 – Atlanta), winning 10 Olympic medals, out of which 9 gold medals and 1 silver medal (200 m race – 1988 Seoul Olympics). Carl Lewis is the only athlete in history to successfully defend his Olympic long jump gold medal ( he successfully defended his title for 3 times). His achievement is remarkable because he overshadowed the long jump record holder, Mike Powell, in 1988 and 1992.
The Greatest Athlete of All Time was involved in the most controversial and interesting 100 m race final. Lewis finished second in 1988 Seoul Olympics, crossing the line after his long standing rival: Ben Johnson. However, Carl Lewis was declared winner after 48 hours because Ben Johnson tested positive for steroids.
Carl Lewis recorded another important achievement in 1992 Barcelona Olympics: world record in 4 x 200 m relay (the record is still held by 1992 USA relay team).
In his final Olympic Games in 1996, completed his gold medal streak in Olympics with a final win in long jump. Carl Lewis regained the ranking of No. 1 in long jump event in 1996, an astonishing 15 years after first claiming the top spot.
Lewis named was always linked with fame and success, but also with linked with bad press image. Carl always had a complicated relationship with the public and the press, always showing confidence in himself and criticizing his opponents, being dubbed by many as arrogant. Edwin Moses, the undefeated athlete, said that Lewis could have been the best if he would have been a little more humble. Even though his agent compared him with Michael Jackson, there were few endorsements for Lewis. When Carl finally managed to sign a good contract, he was accused of being homosexual and Nike decided to end the endorsement.
However, Carl Lewis was voted “Sportman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and also declared “World Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federations. Also, Sports Illustrated declared him the “Olympian of the Century”.
Why do I consider Carl Lewis the Greatest Athlete of All Time? Firstly, because Carl won 9 gold medals in Olympics, being on the second position of multiple Olympic gold medalists, along side Paavo Nurmi, Larisa Latynina and Mark Spitz, behind legendary swimmer Michael Phelps. Secondly, Lewis is one of only three Olympians to win the same individual event four times, alongside Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm and discus thrower Al Oerter of the United States. Moreover, 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. Why do I still consider Carl Lewis the Greatest Athlete of All Time, instead of Usain Bolt? Simply because Carl Lewis won 10 World Championships medals, including 8 gold, but we have to take into consideration that World Championships were held every 4 years, not every 2 years like now. I am pretty sure that Carl Lewis would have completed his achievements with more gold medals in World Championships if the competition would have been held every 2 years, because the American in his prime years showed that no one can match him.