Carl Lewis is generally considered one of the world’s greatest athletes ever.
Lewis, who collected nine Olympic gold medals, stood out from the competition for many reasons. He dominated in multiple events: the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the long jump. And he dominated these events for significant durations, winning four consecutive gold medals in the long jump.
The IAAF, which is the international track and field sanctioning body, honored Lewis as the World Athlete of the Century. The International Olympic Committee selected him Sportsman of the Century. Sports Illustrated named him Olympian of the Century.
The accolades, much as the success during Lewis’s remarkable career, are seemingly endless.
The son of two track and field coaches, Lewis established himself as an elite athlete at a young age. He set the national high school long jump record and as a freshman at the University of Houston, qualified in the long jump and 4×100-meter relay for the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games.
Because of the American boycott, Lewis had to wait four more years to make his Olympic debut, but did he ever make a splash at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, matching Jesse Owens’ remarkable haul of four gold medals at the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games. Lewis took gold in the 100- and 200-meter races, the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay. The only disappointment from the American crowd came in the long jump, where Lewis established his winning mark of 28 feet on his first attempt, fouled on his second attempt and passed on his other attempts in order to rest for his upcoming races instead of taking a run at Bob Beamon’s longstanding world record.
At the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, Lewis initially finished second in the 100-meter dash to Ben Johnson, but the Canadian days later tested positive for a banned substance and Lewis was presented the gold. He also took gold in the long jump and silver in the 200 meters, but never ran in the 4×100-meter relay after his teammates botched a handoff earlier in the race and dropped out.
Lewis failed to qualify in the 100- and 200-meter races for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, but still proved he was gold medal material, winning the long jump and then anchoring the 4×100-meter relay to a world record that would stand for 16 years.
At the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Lewis again took gold in the long jump.