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On This Date in Sports August 11, 1984

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Carl Lewis follows in the footsteps of Jesse Owens, winning four Track and Field Gold Medals at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Lewis wins the medals in the same events that Owens won in the 1936 games in Berlin. Carl Lewis won the 100 meters, set an Olympic record while winning the 200 meters, won the long jump and world record run in the 4×100 meter relay.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 1, 1961, Carl Lewis was raised in Willingboro Township, New Jersey. Both his mother and father had a background in Track and Field, with his mother Evelyn Lawler Lewis completing a hurdler in the 1951 Pan-Am Games. His father William Lewis was an elite track coach who helped shape both him and his sister Carol into elite athletes. While at Willingboro High School, Lewis set the national scholastic record in the long jump and was heavily recruited by many schools, before choosing to attend the University of Houston.

As a freshman at Houston, Carl Lewis already was hearing the comparisons to Jesse Owens as he was in line to qualify for the Olympics, but the 1980 boycott forced him to put his dreams on hold like many other athletes that had hoped to compete in Moscow. Lewis would participate in the Liberty Bell Classic an event organized as an alternative for countries boycotting the 1980 games in Moscow, where he took a Bronze Medal in the Long Jump.

The tables were turned four years later in Los Angeles, as many Eastern Bloc nations led by the Soviet Union boycotted the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. This would open the door for Carl Lewis to become the star of the Track and Field events and repeat the great showing of Jesse Owens from 1936.

Carl Lewis’ gold rush started in the 100 meter on August 4th, as easily won in a time of 9.99, beating fellow American Sam Graddy by 0.20 seconds, while Ben Johnson of Canada prevented a United States medal sweep edging out Ron Brown for the Bronze in a time of 10.22 seconds.

Two days later Carl Lewis won his second Gold Medal in the Long Jump. Lewis was able to conserve energy in the event by making just one jump to set an early standard at 8.54 meters. Gary Honey of Australia finished second with a jump of 8.24 meters, while Giovanni Evangelisti of Italy took the Bronze Medal with a jump of 8.24 meters, losing a tiebreaker with Honey for the Silver Medal.

After winning the Long Jump gold, Carl Lewis competed in the qualifying rounds for the 200 meter and was thankful that his early jump gave him a wide enough margin to conserve energy. In the finals of the 200 meters on August 8th, Lewis again set the track on fire, with a new Olympic record of 19.80 seconds to win his third Gold Medal. The Americans would end up sweeping the event as Kirk Baptiste won the Silver Medal with a time of 19.96 seconds, while Thomas Jefferson won the Bronze Medal with a time of 20.26.

Without their main rivals, the United States only needed to avoid dropping the baton to continue their dominance of the 4×100 meter relay. Since the event made its debut in 1912 at the Stockholm Olympics, the American men had won a Gold Medal nearly ever Olympic they had competed in, with the exception of the inaugural event 1912 and 1960 in Rome. As expected the American team of Sam Graddy, Rob Brown, Calvin Smith and Carl Lewis and the anchor leg easily captured a Gold Medal, with a new World Record set at 37.83 seconds. The Jamaican relay team finished second with a time of 38.62 seconds, while Canada won the Bronze with a time of 38.70.

The four Gold Medals in Los Angeles was just the start of a legendary Olympic career for Carl Lewis, who would win a total of nine career golds as he won the Long Jump in 1988, 1992 and 1996. Won the 100 meter in 1988 after Ben Johnson was disqualified for using steroids and was part of the 1992 relay team that won a Gold Medal. However, I am sure Carl Lewis still wishes he could erase that music video he did from people’s memories.