Carl Lewis is a retired American track and field athlete who is famous for his exceptional Olympic record. Lewis is also the current indoor long jump world record holder; a record which he has held since 1984.
Frederick Carlton Lewis was born on July 1, 1961 in Birmingham, Alabama. His parents, William and Evelyn Lewis, were athletes themselves. Lewis’s parents had founded a local athletics club that helped shape the athletic career of both him and his sister (who also went on to become a professional long jumper). While at the club, Lewis was coached by his father who pushed him on to the long jumping circuit. By his high school years, Lewis began competing at state level championships, and by his junior year, Lewis was by far the best long jumper in New Jersey.
Due to his impressive high school career, Lewis was invited to train at many universities and colleges. He finally chose the University of Houston, mainly due to the fact that he would be coached by the legendary Tom Tellez there, who was considered by many as the best athletic coach of that time. In 1979, Lewis broke the high school long jump record with an 8.13m leap.
Lewis then won the 1980 National Collegiate Athletic Association medal in the long jump category despite battling a knee injury. He then qualified for the 1980 Olympics Long Jump team and the 4x100m relay sprint team, where he won a Gold medal for the relay race category and a Bronze Medal for the long jump category. It was at the 1980 Olympics where people saw Lewis as a serious contender for the 100m sprint category due to his impressive performance at the relay meet. Lewis then bested his personal long jump record at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with a stunning 8.63m leap, which was only 0.27m behind the world record at that time. Even so, Lewis held the record for the longest jump at low-altitude.
In 1981, Lewis bested his 100m record at the Southwest Conference Championships when he ran the distance in a stunning 10.00 seconds, which was the fastest time in the world then. Lewis then participated in the inaugural IAAF Championships, where he won gold medals in both the long jump and the 100m race, beating Larry Myricks and Calvin Smith respectively.
The 1984 Olympics would be marked by Lewis’s attempt to match Jesse Owens’s record of winning four gold medals at a single Olympic Championship, which he did after winning gold medals in the long jump, 100m race, 4x100m relay race, and the 200m race. However, the attempt was not short of controversy as Lewis was criticized for doing the ‘bare minimum’ required to win the medals. Lewis defended himself by saying that he needed to conserve energy to win all four medals, he also stated that he felt exceptionally flattered by the fact that the fans wanted to ‘see more of Carl Lewis’. After the 1984 Olympics, Lewis had not lost a single long jump event in any competition whatsoever for a period of seven years.
In the 100m race category, Lewis faced stiff resistance by Ben Johnson and other 100m sprinters; however, he won the 1988 Olympic gold medal in the category even after he lost to Johnson in the race, as Johnson had been tested positive for steroid use. Then came the 1991 IAAF World Championships, where Lewis set the world record for the 100m race (9.86s), however, he lost his first long jump competition in over a decade to Mike Powell.
Carl Lewis ended his career with ten Olympic Medals, and ten World Championship levels.