Nine time Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis discussed his athletic achievements including the 1984 winning moment in the Men's 4x100 meter relay securing his fourth gold medal matching the feat previously achieved only by Jesse Owens. Carl speaks candidly on the state of the sport, the USA Track and Field Federaton, the 1996 Olympic Games, the Santa Monica Track Club and the public scrutiny as well as his political aspirations. The legendary sprinter and long-jumper offers extended discussion on the Men's 4 x100 meter relay including the 1992 Barcelona victory and the 1998 disqualification. Plus find out which 1990s popular actor really challenged Carl off-the-track in his acting class as we reminisce over some the comical moments from Carl's career including the National Anthem, the first pitch, the Break It Up video and Eddie Murphy's SNL skit.
“Beware!” states the Olympian of the Century when asked what the immediate action the next President of USA Track and Field should take. “The structure is the problem. How can you run a business [when] you really don’t have any autonomy as a leader?” explained Carl Lewis.
Currently seeking his own leadership role as the State Senator for New Jersey’s 8th District, the aspiring politician articulates “ if people followed my career they knew that I was politically active even in my sport . . . and it just seemed like the time was right to go for it now.” And in 1984 he went four it, after famously proclaiming to duplicate the 1936 Olympic performance of Jesse Owens, Carl won four Olympic Gold medals in the Men’s 100m, 200m, 4 x 100m relay and long jump. “First of all, everyone yells at me for switching the baton. It was relief. It’s just one of those moments that it’s impossible to duplicate. There’s no way you could do that again the rest of your career.”
The nine-time Olympic Gold Medalist’s luminous athletic career saw it’s flame extinguished in Atlanta at the close of 1996 Summer Games. “I knew there was going to be drama because I know track and field,” recalls Lewis. “They find a way of stealing defeat out of the hands of victory. I should have just left. I knew all along that that relay thing wasn’t going to happen because I knew what their intention was,” a reminiscent Carl reflects regarding his exclusion from the 4 x 100 meter relay, an event he anchored and never lost from 1983 to 1992. “That was the one race of all of them I didn’t just want to win, I wanted to make a statement,” demonstratively proclaims the event’s former world record holder in reference to 1992 Barcelona Olympic relay race. Absent from the timeline is the 1988 Seoul Korea Olympic Games where the US teams was disqualified due to an exchange zone violation during the heats. “Eighty-eight was a microcosm of what was to come in the United States,” Lewis believes, “and we lost the focus on trying to win the race and it was more important just to get everyone on there just to get a medal. I think it was kind of a precursor as to where we headed and look where we are now.”
And where we are now is 2011, so when questioned, if permitted, as to which event he would re-do from his national anthem performance, his first pitch toss, or his “Break It Up “ video, the now 50 year-old Lewis joking responds, “the entire 80’s! What we’re we thinking about in the 80’s.”
But as it relates the athletes of the decade, “King Carl” affirms “We were a tremendous era . . . the 80’s were a golden age. But I think that’s when sports changed so much and it became more marketable.” In counseling today’s young athletes Lewis stresses “take control of your career [and] be the CEO of your business.” He further states you can have success while keeping your vision in mind, but you must also “believe in what you say and do . . . I stayed with the same coach, club, track and team my whole career.”
Now far removed from the glory days of the 1980s for various reasons, Lewis acknowledges his sport faces a difficult challenge in attempting to restore Track and Field to its former level of prominence. “Unfortunately the sport’s the same and we have great athletes out there trying to do their best, but the reality is the sport is not changing and that’s one of the problems with it right now.”
Perhaps what Carl was thinking in the 80’s was not so far off as it relates to the sport’s bureaucratic structure and we should just “Break It Up.”