With 10 Olympic medals, nine of which are gold, American track and field superstar Carl Lewis continues to be the standard for success on the international level.
Lewis, 51, is still involved with the sport as the spokesman for the Hershey Track & Field Games, which introduces the sport to children in elementary and middle schools. Lewis has been a part of the Hershey’s program for six years and is hoping to see an Olympian emerge from the event someday.
Lewis said that a meeting with Olympic track and field legend Jesse Owens when he was younger helped spur his involvement with the Hershey games. He spoke to Metro about the 2012 Olympics in London and how the U.S. track team stacks up.
U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin won the gold in 2004 then missed the 2008 Olympics due to a doping ban. Does he have a chance to challenge the Jamaican sprinters in the 100-meters?
It’s an interesting story, because I think he served his time and he’s back and running again. The part of the story that is being missed because of the Jamaicans and the talk about them — [Gatlin] could also be the second person to repeat as the 100-meter champions. Everyone is talking about the Jamaicans, but if Gatlin repeats, he’d be the second person ever to repeat. [Ed. Note: Lewis is the other athlete to do it. He won gold in 1984 and 1988, after Ben Johnson failed a drug test.] No one is talking about that, and he has that on him as well.
There will be a lot of pressure on him for sure.
I don’t think the pressure is big to him. He’s been through a lot and running very well. I think the Americans are going to do better than people think. I think we’ve got a great shot at winning the relay if we put the right people on — or more importantly, we leave the right people off because we have trouble with certain people. I think we’re going to do better than most people think.
What about the Jamaican sprinters, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. Is this a golden generation we’re seeing now or has the American program fallen behind?
I’m not following them enough. I’m getting the same question and I follow them as much as the average American. I’m busy with the Hershey games and thing like that.
But wow, you’ve got all these athletes in a row running great. Time will tell. I always tell people that history defines greatness. I think we will do very well in the Olympics.
Does Bolt need another gold to be truly great?
Here again I go back to anyone who wins the Olympic gold medal is one of the greats. But history defines greatness. We’ll see what happens. Eight years ago, people were talking about [U.S. sprinter] Maurice Green and saying he was going to be one of the greatest of all-time. He tried to repeat in 2004 and he ended up in third and you never saw him on the national team again.
After a positive drug test, U.S. runner Debbie Dunn has had to withdraw from the 4×400-meter relay team. How does that affect the relay team?
I think the United States will win it. It is disheartening as we continue to fight these issues. I think that’s the bigger issue. I will admit, I’m glad she has said, ‘OK, I will accept my situation,’ instead of the game a lot of them continue to play.
But the United States has been so strong in the 4×400 and my favorite athlete in the games is [former Giants and current Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross’s wife] Sanya Richards-Ross, and she is running better than ever and might even set the American record.