A characteristically forthright Carl Lewis spoke to the media in Bangalore on Friday, and did not pull his punches.
An all-time great does not come to town often. Given the significance of the occasion, it came as no surprise that everyone present — the media, fans, organisers and athletes — scrambled to get a piece of Carl Lewis. The ‘Sportsman of the Century’, as voted by the International Olympic Committee, soaked in the adulation he received as brand ambassador of the TCS World 10K Bangalore.
A characteristically forthright Lewis spoke to the media here on Friday, and did not pull his punches.
Winning four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics:
I was 23, and I felt that I could achieve anything. The reality was that if I got a silver — in, say, the 200m — people would have said: “Well, you did not get four golds”.
When I won the 100m, it was a relief, and it became easier to kick on.
It is hard to top the four golds in 1984, but if you judge purely on performance, it has to be the 1991 World Championships at Tokyo. I set the world record in the 100m, and in the long jump, Mike Powell and I traded records (Lewis won silver in a contest where he and Powell recorded the top-three jumps ever in low altitude).
To jump over 29 feet three times in one day was huge. The relay win was phenomenal too. I was 30 years old, which made it better.
Doping and other issues in the sport:
A lot of athletes stay silent on the issue of doping. When I competed, I spoke out. I had said that we needed random testing way back in the 1980s.
They should also press for a higher minimum wage, better hotels and other basic deals for other athletes.
An athlete’s talent and ability is only the beginning of his role in the sport. Athletes think that if they win ten Olympic golds, their work is done. What kind of a sport do they want to be a part of? Who will take a stand?
You should be remembered for what you stood for, not for your timings.
Multi-discipline success possible now?
Yes, it is possible. My motto was to jump for distance, not for place. The guys now jump for place, not distance.
When I started, I had said that I wanted to jump 29 feet. I did not care about how much the other athletes jumped. I just wanted to jump 29 feet.
Athletes today want to win medals, but fans want to see great performances.
Tyson Gay's reduced sentence:
It is not right. I admire him for being open and honest.
But, it is a slippery slope when we can talk our way to a lesser ban.
What would you tell Ben Johnson if you met him now?
I got over that conflict a long time ago (Johnson and Carl Lewis often sparred on Johnson’s ban after his use of banned steroids in the 100m final of the 1988 Olympics).
I thought everyone was a victim of it (expose on drug use in athletics) — he, I, all the athletes in that race, and the fans.
If I saw him now, I’d just say: ‘Let it go, Ben’.
It still burns in his heart, and that’s a long time to be angry.