Frederick Carlton "Carl" Lewis (born July 1, 1961) is a former track and field athlete who won 10 Olympic medals including 9 golds, and 10 World Championship medals, of which 8 were golds, in a career that spanned from 1979, when he first achieved a world ranking, to 1996 when he last won an Olympic title and retired.
He was a dominant sprinter and long-jumper who topped the world rankings in the 100 meter, 200 meter and long jump events frequently from 1981 to the early 1990s, was named "Athlete of the Year" by Track and Field News in 1982, 1983 and 1984, and set world records in the 100 meter, 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relays. His 65 consecutive victories in the long jump over a span of 10 years is one of sport’s longest streaks.
His lifetime accomplishments have led to numerous accolades, including being voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee and being named "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated. He helped transform track and field from its nominal amateur status to its current professional status, thus enabling athletes to have more lucrative and longer-lasting careers.
 Early life
Lewis was born in Birmingham to teachers William McKinley Lewis Jr and Evelyn Lawler, who had competed in the 80 meter hurdles in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Upset at the racial violence that was spreading through the city, the family moved to Willingboro, New Jersey in 1963, when Carl was two years old. Carl later described his childhood in Willingboro "like a storybook experience".
From an early age, track was a central part of Lewis’ life. His parents started the Willingboro Track Club for girls, filling a gap left by the public schools. They would place Carl with younger sister Carol in the long jump pit to play when they didn’t have a babysitter. The club expanded to allow boys, and that is where Lewis started his track career.
Lewis wasn’t initially a promising athlete, self-described as being the “runt” of the family, his elder brothers and sister showing more initial athletic prowess. His parents continued to encourage their son to set goals for himself and to work hard to achieve them. Oakville native Jesse Owens was an early role model, as Lewis’ father would often tell stories of him and speak highly of the man who dominated sprint and long jump events in the 1930s. When Lewis was about nine, he met Owens at a youth track meet, where the legend advised Lewis to “have fun.”
At age 13, Lewis started to compete in the long jump. While attending Willingboro High School, Lewis emerged as a promising athlete. As a junior, he was one of the top long jumpers in New Jersey. By his senior year, he was becoming one of the top long jumpers in the world. Numerous colleges were soon actively recruiting him, and he eventually decided to enroll at the University of Houston where Tom Tellez was coach. Tellez would remain Lewis’ coach for his entire career. Days after graduating from high school in 1979, Lewis broke the high school long jump record with a leap of 26 feet 8 inches. He told Tellez at their first meeting in 1979 that he intended to become a professional athlete: “I want to be a millionaire and I don’t ever want a real job!”
 Early track and field career
At the end of his freshman year, Lewis was ranked 5th in the world in the long jump by Track and Field News. He qualified for the American team for the 1980 Olympics in the long jump and as a member of the 4 x 100 relay team. The United States' decision to boycott the games in Moscow forestalled Lewis' Olympic debut.
In 1981, Lewis began a long domination of his events. For the next eleven years he would rank no lower than 3rd in the 100 meter sprint and no lower than 2nd in the long jump. He won six NCAA titles at Houston and won his first national titles in the 100 m and long jump. His mastery of Owens' sports led to comparisons being made between Lewis and his idol.
On May 16, 1981 at the Southwest Athletic Conference track and field championship, Lewis finished the 100 meter sprint in 10.00 seconds, the third fastest time in history, and the fastest at low altitude. On June 20, 1981 Lewis set the low-altitude long jump record with a leap of 28 feet 3 inches at the TAC Championships. Only Bob Beamon had ever jumped any further, 29 feet 2 1/2 inches at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, at an altitude of over 7,000 feet above sea level. Beamon's jump stands as an Olympic record, one of many jumping records set at those Mexico Olympics. Lewis finished the 1981 season ranked first in the world in both events, and he won that year's James E. Sullivan Award for the top amateur athlete in the United States.
During the 1982 season, Lewis cleared 28 feet five times outdoors and twice more indoors, going as far as 28 feet 9 inches at Indianapolis on July 24. On one jump that was ruled foul because his toe went barely over the board, was said by observers to have reached the 30 foot mark. He held onto his top rankings in both events, and added a No. 6 overall ranking in the 200 meter sprint. Track and Field News named him their "Athlete of the Year".
 International Competition
 1982 World Championships
Lewis’ emerged as a star in track and field just as the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) established the first World Championships in the sport. The World Championships were quickly recognized as one of the most important competitions in sport, boasting greater participation during the 1980s than even the Olympic Games, which had been compromised by politically-motivated boycotts.
Lewis easily dominated the competition in the 1982 championships in Helsinki, beating Jason Grimes in the long jump by more than 10 inches and cruising past world record holder Calvin Smith in the 100 meter sprint with a time of 10.07 seconds. Lewis also anchored the 4 x 100 meter relay, setting a world record with 37.86 seconds.
Lewis’ best performances in 1982, however, were made at other meets. He broke the 10-second barrier with a 9.97 second finish in the 100 meter sprint on May 14 at Modesto, California. On June 19 at the TAC Championships he lengthened his low-altitude long jump record to 28 feet 10 inches. He maintained his top rankings in the 100 meter sprint and long jump, and rose to No. 2 in the 200 meters behind Calvin Smith. He was again named Track and Field News "Athlete of the Year".
Although he was drafted in the 12th round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys and in the 208th pick if the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls, Lewis did not pursue a place on either team. Instead, Lewis began to prepare for the 1984 Olympics by setting his sights on Jesse Owens' record of four gold medals, which was set at the 1936 games in Berlin.
 1984 Olympics
Although he was already an international star in the world of track and field, the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles would make Lewis a household name in the United States. Lewis and his agent, Joe Douglas, founder of the Santa Monica Track Club, determined that the best way to establish Lewis as a star, and thereby secure the endorsements that would allow Lewis to meet his professional goals, would be to challenge Owens' 1936 gold medal total, one of the longest standing records in Olympic competition.
Lewis finished first in the 100 meter sprint with a time of 9.99, two tenths of a second ahead of silver medalist Sam Graddy. He also won gold in the long jump with a jump of 28 feet 0 1/4 inches. After defaulting on his second jump, Lewis passed on his last four allowed attempts, calculating that none of the remaining challengers could match his first jump, and in fact, silver medalist Gary Honey's jump was a full twelve inches shorter. From an athletic standpoint the decision was defensible as Lewis did not need to risk overexertion or injury in order to prepare for his other two events. Nevertheless, the decision sparked controversy as fans were hoping to see him challenge Beamon's record - a likelihood that had been played up in the media. Beamon himself appeared in a television commercial saying "I hope you make it, kid." When the decision was announced, a round of "boo"s came down from the Olympic stadium crowd.
Lewis went on to set a new Olympic record with his 19.80 second finish in the 200 meter sprint, and as the anchor for the 4 x 100 meter relay he helped break his own record with a 37.83 second win. Although Lewis had easily achieved his athletic goal, the flow of endorsements was slower than expected.
The American public held on to a different view of amateurism than most of the world, giving their greatest respect to athletes who labored without big lucrative endorsements. Lewis had been sponsored by Nike for several years and was being courted by other companies before the games, helping to transform the sport into a more professional level. He put off signing deals with others, including Coca-Cola, until after the games, hoping that his value would shoot up when he broke Owen's record.
The publicity surrounding the games, however, had the opposite effect, limiting his appeal to Madison Avenue. Among the factors which damaged Lewis' marketability was his growing reputation as an egotist, highlighted by the controversy over his decision to pass on his final long jump attempt. Pundits and fellow athletes alike criticized Lewis' conduct in interviews, in which he showed a lack of humility. Others stated that Lewis was perceived as too flamboyant, and possibly homosexual. His flashy clothes and stylish flat-top did little to combat this perception. Nike dropped him as a spokesman in the wake of the games, with representative Don Coleman explaining "If you're a male athlete, I think the American public wants you to look macho." Lewis reacted angrily to what he viewed as "Carl bashing", further limiting his appeal to the public.
His dominance on the field, however, was undimmed. He added a number 1 ranking in the 200 meter spring while retaining his top rank in his other events. He won Track and Field News "Athlete of the Year" for the third consecutive year.
 1987 World Championships
In the years following the 1984 games, Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson emerged as a contender to challenge Lewis in the sprinting events. Johnson had won bronze in Los Angeles, and beat Lewis in a 1985 race. In the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow, Johnson handed Lewis a convincing defeat in the 100 meters while setting a new low-altitude record of 9.95 seconds. He overtook the top ranking in that event while Lewis slipped to third. Lewis continued to dominate the long jump through 1985 and 1986, but lost ground to Russian Robert Emmiyan, who broke the 29 foot barrier with a May 1987 high altitude leap of 29 feet 1 inch, earning the top rank in that event.
The 1987 World Championships in Rome was Lewis' greatest opportunity to re-establish his dominance, and he took advantage. Lewis beat Emmiyan in the long jump with a leap of 28 feet 5 1/4 inches to Emmiyan's 27 feet 11 3/4 inches. Lewis did not compete in the 200 meter race in order to focus on his best events. In the 100 meter sprint Lewis tied the 9.93 second world record, but was beaten by Johnson who came in with a stunning 9.83 second time. In follow-up interviews Lewis blamed a stomach virus for weakening him, alleged that Johnson had false-started, and implied that Johnson was using performance-enhancing drugs. These allegation were widely perceived as petty.
 1988 Olympics
Lewis' father, William, died in 1987. He was buried with Carl's gold medal from the 1984 Olympic 100 meter event. "Don't worry,” he told his mother. “I'll get another one.” Lewis repeatedly referred to the loss of his father as a motivating factor for the 1988 season.
The 100 m final at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul was one of the most anticipated sports stories of the year, and the drama did not disappoint. Johnson had suffered a hamstring injury earlier in the year and in the preliminary rounds it seemed it might still be bothering him. In the final, however, he held onto the lead, setting a new world record at 9.79 seconds while Lewis had to settle for the American record of 9.92 seconds. Three days after the competition, Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids and his gold medal was stripped and given to Lewis, whose time became the new Olympic record.
In the long jump, Lewis faced competition from fellow Americans Mike Powell and Larry Myricks, but did not have to match up against Robert Emmiyan, who had withdrawn due to injury. The trio all won medals, the first time since 1904 that the competition had been swept by one county. Lewis' 28 feet 7 1/4 inches on his third attempt carried the competition and earned him his second gold. In the 200 meter sprint, Lewis took silver, losing to Joe Deloach who set the record at 19.75 seconds. The United States 4 x 100 meter relay team was disqualified for a fumbled exchange in an early heat.
Johnson's admission of steroid use led to Lewis' time in the 1987 World Championship being recognized as the standing record. He did not hold it for long, though, as Leroy Burrell clocked a 9.90 second finish in June 1991.
 1991 World Championships
In 1991 the 30 year old Lewis faced Burrell and Jamaican Raymond Stewart in the 100 meter final of the 1991 World Championship in Tokyo. Lewis won that race and set a new world record of 9.86 seconds. He called this race the best of his life. He also helped the relay team set yet another world record in winning the 4 x 100 at 37.50 seconds.
In the long jump, Lewis' main rival was Mike Powell, who had claimed the world's top ranking in 1990. After a first round falter by Powell, Lewis set the bar for the competition with a jump of 28 feet 5 3/4 inches. In the third round, Lewis, aided by the wind, raised the bar to 29 feet 11 1/2 inches. Powell committed another foul in nearly matching that mark. Lewis responded with another wind-aided jump, this time surpassing Beamon's record with an unprecedented 29 foot 2 3/4" leap. Powell proved up to the challenge, however, following Lewis' mark with a dazzling 29 foot 4 1/4" jump in minimal wind. Lewis' last two jumps, without the aid of the wind, ranked among Lewis' all-time longest, but did not surpass Powell's performance. He had finally broken Beamon's record in a legal jump, only to finish behind Powell, whose record still stands.
After the competition, Lewis only grudgingly acknowledged the achievement of Powell. "He just did it," Lewis said of Powell's winning jump. "It was that close, and it was the best of his life, and he may never do it again." About his own efforts, Lewis said, “This has been the greatest meet that I’ve ever had.” He attributed at least some of his resurgence to his adoption, a year earlier, of a vegan diet.
 1992 Olympics
Lewis did not qualify for the U. S. team in either of the sprint events, finishing fourth in the Olympic trials behind Michael Johnson's 19.79 seconds in the 200 meters. He did qualify in the long jump, finishing second behind Powell, and was qualified to keep his position on the relay team.
At the 1992 games in Barcelona, Lewis made a gold-medal winning jump of 28 feet 5 1/4 inches in the first round. He also helped continue the American's record-setting relay tradition, anchoring the team's 37.40 second finish which remains a record.
 1993 World Championships
Lewis finished fourth in the 100 meter sprint in the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart, and did not compete in the long jump. He did, however, earn his first World Championship medal in the 200 m, a bronze with his 19.99 second performance. That medal would prove to be his final Olympic or World Championship medal in a running event. Injuries kept Lewis largely sidelined until he mounted a comeback for the 1996 season.
 1996 Olympics
At the Olympic trials, Lewis qualified for an unprecedented fifth time in the long jump event. Powell and Iván Pedroso were out of competition and Lewis' third-round leap of 27 feet 10 1/2 inches was good enough to win gold in Atlanta over James Beckford of Jamaica. His fourth gold in the same event placed him in the company of only three other Olympians, while his 9 gold medals in track and field competition tied him with Finland's Paavo Nurmi for second behind Ray Ewry, who collected 10 medals at the turn of the century (including the 1906 games, which is not recognized by the International Olympic Committee).
With the prospect of matching Ewry's achivement, Lewis began campaigning in the media for the anchor spot on the 4 x 100 relay team. Coach Erv Hunt made the decision not to add him to the team, which ended up finishing second to Canada, which was anchored by 100 meter record-holder Donovan Bailey. Lewis retired from competition in 1997.
 Later life and legacy
Lewis currently lives in Los Angeles and is pursuing an acting career.
In 1999, Lewis was voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee, "World Athlete of the Century" by the International Association of Athletics Federations, and named "Olympian of the Century" by Sports Illustrated.
In 2003, Dr Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee's director of drug control administration from 1991 to 2000, gave copies of documents to Sports Illustrated which revealed that some 100 American athletes who failed drug tests and should have been prevented from competing in the Olympics were nevertheless cleared to compete. Among those athletes was Carl Lewis.
It was revealed that Lewis tested positive three times before the 1988 Olympics for pseudoephedrine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine, banned stimulants also found in cold medication. The use of these substances would have resulted in a 6 month ban from international competition, including the 1988 Summer games in Seoul.
Though detractors claim that the substances could have been used to mask the use of steroids, Lewis claimed that the substances were ingested without his knowledge in an herbal remedy he was taking. The USOC accepted Lewis' defense claim of inadvertent use and overturned the decision. Fellow Santa Monica Track Club teammates Joe DeLoach and Floyd Heard were also found to have the same banned stimulants in their systems, and were cleared to compete on the same defense.
 Personal bests
- 100 meter sprint: 9.86 seconds (1991)
- 200 meter sprint: 19.75 seconds (1983)
- Long jump: 28 feet 1 inch (8.87 m) without wind, 29 feet 2 3/4 inches with wind
- 4x100 m relay: 37.40 seconds (1992, current world record)
- 4x200 m relay: 1 minute 18.68 seconds (1994, current world record)
- "Carl Lewis." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 30 Aug 2006, 18:47 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 Sep 2006 .
- Mackay, Duncan (April 24, 2003) "Lewis: 'Who cares I failed drug test?". Guardian Unlimited.