Winning 10 Olympic medals (nine of them gold) and 10 World Championship medals (eight of which were gold), it’s difficult to dispute Carl Lewis being one of the top track and field athletes of the modern era.
Dominating the track from 1979 to 1997, Lewis played a heavy hand in transforming the sport from its amateur status to professional status, allowing other athletes to have longer-lasting careers after their Olympic days were over.
Lewis was a masterful sprinter and long jumper, frequently competing in the 100-meter, 200-meter and long jump. Born in 1961 in Alabama, Lewis began setting records as early as 1979, when he set a high school record in the long jump. But be became a household name in 1981, when he became the fastest 100-meter sprinter in the world. He set a personal best, running the 100m in 10 seconds flat at the Southwest Conference Championships in Dallas. At the time, it was the third-fastest time in the world. He was also ranked No. 1 in the world in 1981.
Lewis also excelled in sports outside of track and field. In 1984, he was drafted in two other sports – by the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. But he opted to focus on track.
Because it was rare for an athlete to run both a track and a field event, Lewis was often compared to Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Not only did Lewis equal Owens – he went on to win medals in four separate Olympic Games. He won four gold medals in the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, two golds and one silver in the ’88 Games in Seoul, two golds in the ’92 games in Barcelona and one gold in ’96 in Atlanta, his final Games.
Lewis’ accomplishments spanned beyond track and field. He was Track and Field News’ Male Athlete of the Year three times, was voted Sportsman of the Century by the International Olympic Committee was named Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated, and graced the cover of a Wheaties box!