King Carl begins his reign
A once-in-a-generation athlete announced his arrival on the world stage in the first World Championships in Helsinki.
A once-in-a-generation athlete announced his arrival on the world stage in the first World Championships in Helsinki in 1983, beginning a journey that never ceased to amaze.
Frederick Carlton Lewis, or simply Carl Lewis as he would come to be known, had earned a name back home but at the Finnish capital, the fans got a sneak preview of what the American would achieve a year later at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Lewis, 22 at the time, blazed to victories in the 100M and long jump before anchoring the American 4x100M relay team to gold in a world record time. At a competition which witnessed some outstanding athletes of that era vying with each other, a young Lewis dazzled.
“I’m not afraid of anybody. The only thing I’m afraid of is that I’m not going to be the perfect athlete one day,” Lewis had said on arrival in Helsinki.
At the Olympic Stadium track and in front of passionate fans, Lewis conquered long jump with ease. His 8.55M leap was a whopping 26cm more than his compatriot Jason Grimes’ effort that fetched silver.
Another American, Calvin Smith, was expected to challenge Lewis closely in the 100M, having set a world record of 9.93sec earlier in the year. But Lewis proved a class apart, even though the race wasn’t super quick. He timed 10.07sec to leave Smith (10.21) behind.
With Smith joining the team for the 4x100M relay, the Americans were a formidable force. Emmit King and Willie Gault ran the first two legs before Smith and then Lewis took over to demolish the opposition, crossing the finish line in 37.86sec. A star had well and truly arrived, one that would shed its light over track and field for the next decade and more.