Carl Lewis Biography

Carl Lewis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, US on 1st July 1961. He became one of the greatest track and field stars of all time. His career spanned from 1979 to 1996 and included nine Olympic gold medals.

His performance at the 1984 Olympics earned him four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, Long Jump and 4*100 metre relay – an achievement equalling that of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics.

He has been voted Sportsman of the Century by the International Olympic Committee IOC.

Carl Lewis Early Career

Carl Lewis After graduating from high school in 1979, Carl Lewis dedicated himself to track and field; even though the sport was nominally amateur, he intended to make a living from it. During his career, he played a role in pushing athletics from an amateur sport to purely professional.

By 1980, he had qualified for the US Olympic team but, the US boycott over the Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan meant he didn’t get the chance to compete in that Olympics.

Throughout the early 1980s, he made considerable progress in both the long jump and the 100 metres. He broke 10 seconds for 100 metres and jumped over 8.50m on a few occasions; in doing so, he started to get close to the colossal record of Bob Beamon from the 1968 Olympics (8.9 metres)

In the inaugural world championships of 1983, Carl Lewis won gold in the 100m, 200m and long jump cementing himself as the world’s number one sprinter and long jumper.

1984 Olympics Four Gold Medals

More success followed in the 1984 Olympics, where he became famous even in the US – where athletics is a minority sport outside the Olympics.

He sought to equal Jesse Owens historic four gold medals from the 1936 Olympics. He succeeded in gaining gold in the 100m, 200m, long jump and 4*100m relay.

It was a remarkable achievement, though to Carl’s disappointment it didn’t lead to the endorsements and popularity he might have hoped for. There was some criticism for this decision to forego his last four long jump attempts to focus on other events. (Many hoped he might seek to break Bob Beamon’s record as well as winning gold.)

After the Los Angeles Olympics, the Canadian Ben Johnson emerged as a competitor and rival to Carl Lewis. The media fuelled the rivalry between the two. Carl Lewis suggested that Ben’s rapid rise may be due to drug use, something the Johnson camp dismissed.

1988 Seoul Olympics

The 100m final of the Seoul Olympics was one of the most eagerly anticipated races, and the race itself was a sensation with Ben Johnson storming ahead to win in a world record time of 9.79 s. Carl Lewis set a new American record of 9.92 s. Three days later Ben Johnson was disqualified for testing positive for steroids. It was one of the great shocks for the Olympic movement; Carl Lewis was given gold. Ben Johnson later admitted to long-term steroid use in a 1989 enquiry.

In the 1991 World Championships, Carl Lewis was involved in a titanic long jump duel with Mike Powell. Both were in great shape and set personal bests. Carl Lewis jumped 8.83m, coming very close to Bob Beamon’s record. Then Mike Powell jumped 8.95m in a non-wind assisted jump. Someone had finally beaten Bob Beamon’s 1968 record. Later talking about the  1991 World Championships, Lewis said, “This has been the greatest meet that I’ve ever had.”

Since 1990, Carl Lewis adopted a vegan diet and argued this helped him to attain peak fitness even in the evening of his career.

In the 1992 Olympics, Carl Lewis achieved silver in the long jump but did not qualify for the 100m.

In his final Olympics of 1996, aged 35, Carl Lewis won a record 9th Olympic gold in the long jump. There was some controversy with Carl Lewis omitted from the 4*100 m relay team which could have seen him won a record 10th Olympic gold.

After retiring from competition after the 1996 Olympic, Carl Lewis has taken part in a number of films and has also developed his own brand of fitness trainers and equipment.

Carl Lewis Personal bests

# 100 m: 9.86 s (1991)
# 200 m: 19.75 s (1983)
# Long jump: 8.87 m (29 ft 1¼ in) 1991, w 8.91 m (29 ft 2¾ in) 1991

He won four consecutive Olympic long jump Gold medals.

Carl Lewis is active in charities such as Ronald McDonalds House Charities.

On October 16, 2009, Lewis was nominated a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

He has often acted as a spokesperson for the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run (link).

Inside Track: Autobiography of Carl Lewis

Book Cover


Inside Track: Autobiography of Carl Lewis at Amazon

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Biography of Carl Lewis”, Oxford, UK – Last updated 5th August 2014.

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