Four Years Later, Lewis Resumes Olympic Quest
ATLANTA (AP) _ Carl Lewis is calm as he approaches the event that four years ago seemed to signal the end of his glorious Olympic sprinting career.
Seventeen days shy of his 35th birthday, Lewis wants to prove he’s still the fastest man in the world by winning the 100 meters at the Atlanta Olympics.
To do that he first must qualify in the U.S. trials that begin Friday. That’s something he couldn’t manage in 1992.
``This is my job, it’s a job I love to do,″ he said. ``I did this at 6 years old and now I’m doing it at 35. I love being in shape. I love running.″
Lewis will be trying to make his fifth Olympic team, something no American male track and field performer has accomplished. He made the 1980 team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics, and won the 100 in 1984 and 1988.
Then came the 1992 Olympic trials in New Orleans. His strength sapped by a virus, he failed to place in the top three in the 100 or 200 and could not qualify for the Olympics in those events.
He made the U.S. squad as a long jumper, and won that event along with a relay title in Barcelona to give him eight gold medals overall. But his reign as the sprint king was over.
The last few years have been difficult, as the next generation of sprinters tries to push Lewis aside. After showing flashes of his old speed this spring, though, he’s again a top contender in the 100 and 200 _ as well as the long jump.
``I’ve run well this spring and I know I can run well enough to make the team. I go into this meet pretty relaxed,″ he said. ``The whole season is set up for this meet.″
Among his top opponents will be world-record holder Leroy Burrell, who is coming off two seasons of injury; 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Dennis Mitchell; 1992 Olympic 200-meter champion Mike Marsh, and the brash Jon Drummond, who ranked above all his American peers last year.
Drummond, who once ran a race with a comb in his hair and wears just one sock, said he’s not sure if he’ll be able to compete in the 200 meters next weekend.
``It depends on how much celebrating I do after the 100 final, if I can walk to the starting line,″ he said with a smirk.
Some of those speedsters won’t even make the U.S. team. Only the top three in each event at the trials get an Olympic spot.
When the male sprinters compete in the first two rounds of the 100 meters Friday evening, Jackie Joyner-Kersee already should be more than halfway toward a spot on her fourth and final Olympic team.
Joyner-Kersee, who has won the past two Olympic heptathlons, is again the favorite this summer. Despite nagging injuries the past two years, she is clearly the best American in the event and should have little trouble qualifying.
``My ultimate goal,″ said Joyner-Kersee, who also has a gold medal in the long jump, ``is to make the 1996 Olympic team and to finish my career on American soil.″
The first four events of the heptathlon are Friday, with the remaining three on Saturday.
Friday’s highlights also will include the first two rounds of the women’s 100, which should evolve into a duel between world champion Gwen Torrence and 1992 Olympic champion Gail Devers, if Devers can overcome a series of injuries that have restricted her in recent months.
Lawrence Johnson, who set the American record in the pole vault last month while competing for Tennessee and then easily won the NCAA title, is the favorite as qualifying begins Friday in the pole vault.