Carl Lewis sets sights on world record long jump
(Page 2 of 2)
Carl would be the first to tell you that nobody picks a date on which to break a record. On the other hand, he knows he's on the verge of a breakthrough, and he half expected it here.Skip to next paragraph
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Very early in the year Lewis picked this meet as the one in which he would really reach for the stars. ''No question, I came in here looking for the world record,'' he said. ''It's hard to get a facility like this, and this was my chance to do it. The competition was good and the atmosphere was right. I did very well, but I'm still disappointed in a way.''
Though many world class athletes are off in Europe this time of year, Carl had no problems in deciding to compete here. His mother, Evelyn, and father, Bill, served as co-head coaches of the women's East track team. Normally they coach at rival high schools in Willingboro, then join forces in the summer in directing that city's track club. Also in Indianapolis to make the festival a real family affair was Carl's 18-year-old sister, Carol, a long jumper for her parent's squad and the holder of the American junior record in that event.
The only family members missing were Carl's older brothers Cleve, a former top draft choice of pro soccer's New York Cosmos and now a financial analyst, and Mack, who is working toward a geology degree in Houston, where all the Lewis children live.
Though admittedly a homebody who has never enjoyed overseas travel, Carl will spend part of next month in Europe. He believes it is important to compete there in order to maintain his No. 1 world ranking in both the long jump and 100 meters, as well as to meet the top international athletes.
Here at the Sports Festival, a multi-sport event organized by the US Olympic Committee, he bypassed the 100 meters, yet ran for the South's 4 x 100 meter relay team that came within an eyelash of the world record. It was the quartet's first time running together, and the group had only 40 minutes to practice.
When asked if Lewis & Co. (Stanley Floyd, Calvin Smith, and Mike Miller) would be getting back together again, Carl replied, ''Are they going to run it tomorrow?''
The response, which brought a laugh from a large gathering of reporters, is typical of the natural rapport he enjoys with the press. He can be elusive, but once corralled, he's an engaging, articulate interviewee, a genuinely happy and easy-going person who doesn't take his athletic participation too seriously.
Carl is perhaps most serious when he discusses his strained relationship with the University of Houston. He still considers the Cougars' Tom Tellez his coach, but will not be running for the college any more. He talks of being disenchanted by what he says the athletic department came to expect of him in polishing the school image, both on and off the track. Actually, this past spring he wasn't even scholastically eligible to compete, having flunked a history course. A radio and TV major with a respectable grade average, he claims his final examination paper was lost.
His new independence, he believes, has given him time to make an important change in his long jump approach run. He now starts even farther from the takeoff board - almost 170 ft. away instead of the more typical 140 - so as to achieve maximum speed.
In taking charge of his career, he also has avoided overtaxing his abilities. ''Last year I was in 38 meets and competed in both the long jump and the 100 meters in most of them,'' he pointed out. ''This year I've competed in both events only twice, and won't enter more than 26 meets.''
Having grown tired of running the 100 this year (''I've run it umpteen times and long jumped just four times''), Carl is looking forward to getting back to what he really considers his event, the long jump.
''I keep doing both,'' he explained, ''because I feel I have the talent to be the best in both. But I consider the 100 my second event although a very close second. The long jump is a little less intense. You have six jumps, and even with three bad ones you have time to come back and win. But in the sprint, you don't have time to settle into the event.''
Based on his latest effort, it seems just a matter of time before he settles into something else - the title of the world's longest jumping human.