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Los Angeles 1984

Carl Lewis: A legend in the making

The Los Angeles Games belonged to one man: Carl Lewis. After a total of 2 minutes and 26 seconds of competition in the Coliseum, the American athlete became a sporting and Olympic legend.

In doing so, the 23-year-old Lewis equaled the impressive record set by his illustrious compatriot, Jesse Owens, in 1936 in Berlin -- winning four gold medals in the same events during a single Olympiad: 100 and 200 meters, 4x100 relay and the long jump.

Lewis' conquest began with an event in which he was not even considered the favorite -- the 100 meters.

Having competed in the qualifying round, the quarterfinal and the semifinal, Lewis took his first gold medal with a time of 9.99 seconds, ahead of compatriot Sam Graddy.


The second of his events was the long jump. And he gave his adversaries something to reflect upon when he registered the first of his jumps in the first heat (8.30 meters). His first jump of the two permitted in the final was good, an improved 8.54 meters, the second being illegal. That was enough, however, to give Lewis his second gold medal, with Gary Honey trailing behind. Overall, he spent about 18 seconds in action.

Next up was the 200. Three half-laps of the track were enough to give Lewis his third gold medal: 21.20 seconds in the first heat, 20.48 seconds in the semifinal and 19.80 seconds in the final to stave off the challenge from his closest opponent, Kirk Baptiste. This time, Lewis spent the "record time" of over one minute on the track: 61.30 seconds exactly.

Eventual emotion

The American sprinter finally won his historic fourth gold medal in the 4x100 relay, alongside teammates Graddy, Ron Brown and Calvin Smith. Throughout his three runs, Lewis was in possession of the baton for around 26.40 seconds, an average of 8.80 seconds in each of his relay legs.

During this contest on the final day of the Games, Lewis finally displayed his emotion when he threw himself into the congratulatory huddle of his teammates, who were not only Olympic champions but the men who set the only track world record at the Games, and were as happy as Lewis to have gained such a spectacular result.

To become a legend, you would therefore have to better Lewis' 2 minutes 26 seconds on the track -- during which time he won a total of four gold medals. In doing so Lewis lit up Los Angeles and the track in the Coliseum which, henceforth, would be remembered by some as the "Carl Lewiseum."

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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