He Ran, He Jumped, He Ruled: Happy 56th Birthday King Carl

Some call him ‘World Athlete of the century’, others say ‘Olympian of the century’ – Gaurav Kalra tells you why.  

Updated01 Jul 2017, 08:45 AM IST
3 min read

Carl Lewis laughs easily. It is an unrestrained, twinkle-eyed, laughter that spreads infectiously through a room.

This is a man whose feats earned him accolades such as “World Athlete of the century”, “Sportsman of the century” and “Olympian of the century.” But in a roomful of people, he is one among them. There is no obsession with the past, no effort to be the centerpiece of the conversation.

I met Lewis in Bangalore in 2014. He was in town as brand ambassador for an athletics event. Before we began our interview, I reminded Lewis that I anchored analysis shows he appeared on during the London Olympics in 2012 over a satellite link.

“I remember the voiceman,” he chuckled heartily. “And you asked me some tough questions.”

Legendary Olympian Carl Lewis in action . (Photo Courtesy:<a href="http://yunga-youth.weebly.com/carl-lewis.html"> Youth &amp; United Nations</a>)
Legendary Olympian Carl Lewis in action . (Photo Courtesy: Youth & United Nations)

“King Carl” as they calledhim in his pomp turned 56 on Saturday. He has aged well. It’s been two decades since he retired from running and jumping. In the time he did it, he won a small matter of nine Olympic and eight world championship gold medals. Beyond this dazzling record, at the core, he insists, was a boy having a good time.

In the United States, most kids stop sports because it’s not fun. Our objective should be that those young people, who get involved in sports, stay in it long enough to find out if they are any good at it. I think sometimes we over-emphasise the future.
Carl Lewis, 10-time Olympic medallist

While Lewis ran faster than most of his peers over 100 and 200 metres, it was while jumping that his overpowering aura as an athlete came to the fore. Watch him win the second of his four consecutive Long Jump Olympic gold medals at Seoul in 1988.

The first few strides are gradual, considered, almost a jog. Then with the jumping line approaching, he explodes into an avalanche of speed. And then comes the hurl – that gravity-defying leap before he thuds into the sand. It is a captivating sight, a man in such complete command of his body and its limits.

It is no surprise he described the event as “my baby.”

Carl Lewis with his son who joined the armed forces in the United States. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter.com/<a href="https://twitter.com/Carl_Lewis">@Carl_Lewis</a>)
Carl Lewis with his son who joined the armed forces in the United States. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter.com/@Carl_Lewis)

Those days of top-flight, intense competitions may be long gone but Lewis remains an intrepid voice on the sport. His public sparring with the reigning king of the track Usain Bolt hasn’t made him popular with the Jamaican superstar or his legion of fans, but Lewis isn’t one to take a backward step.

“What I love about our sport is that legendary status is earned over time and it’s not something that is given,” he said when I asked about Bolt’s description of himself as a legend. Almost inevitably, a toothy grin lit up his face as the sentence ended.

Happy Birthday, King Carl!

(This piece has been republished from The Quint’s archives for Carl Lewis’ 56th birthday. This story was originally published on 1 July 2015.)

(This admission season, The Quint got experts from CollegeDekho.com on board to answer all your college-related queries. Send us your questions at eduqueries@thequint.com .)

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.

Published: 01 Jul 2015, 02:40 AM IST

Never Miss Out

Stay tuned with our weekly recap of what’s hot & cool by The Quint.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!