Lewis Turns Up the Pressure for Relay Spot
Jul. 31, 1996
ATLANTA (AP) _ The debate over whether Carl Lewis should become a late substitute on the U.S. 400-meter relay team intensified today, with coach Erv Hunt standing his ground and a relay runner opposing Lewis' addition.
Lewis, who rejected an offer last month to become part of the pool of relay runners at a U.S. training camp in North Carolina, wants to run in the relay to have a chance for a record 10th Olympic gold medal.
Hunt repeated today that Lewis is not on the relay squad, but could be added if one of the runners get injured. Hunt also said he understood Lewis' desire to be on the team.
``If there was a way to do it without actually disrespecting the guys who put in all this work, I would do it,'' Hunt said.
Jon Drummond, scheduled to run the first leg of the relay, said the flap is putting the entire relay squad in a bad position.
``It has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy to run on a relay team with Carl Lewis, but it's also been a dream of mine to run on a relay team that's going to win an Olympic gold,'' Drummond said. ``It's time for other people to have that opportunity.''
One of the few people not talking about Lewis' campaign for a relay spot was Jeff Williams, an alternate on the squad.
``I've got a gag order placed on me by my manager, by my coach, by my people,'' Williams said after running in a qualifying heat of the 200 meters this morning.
The decision on whether Lewis should be added to the team could be made as late as 6:20 p.m. Saturday, an hour before the relay final.
Each nation must declare its intention to enter a team in the relay between 7:30 a.m. and noon on Thursday, roughly 24 hours before the first round. At that time, a nation must enter a list of six runners, four of whom must run in the first round.
After that opening round, a nation must submit a list of its four runners an hour before each subsequent round _ including the final.
The relay team, as it now stands, is Drummond to Leroy Burrell to Mike Marsh to Dennis Mitchell. Hunt said Tuesday that alternate Tim Montgomery will run the first round Friday in place of Marsh, who will be recovering from the 200 semifinals and final on Thursday.
Lewis, who planned to end his Olympic career in Monday's long jump, decided he wasn't ready to finish just yet. He went on the talk-show circuit Tuesday to make his case for going for a record 10th gold on the relay.
After winning the long jump to become just the fourth person with nine Olympic golds, Lewis pointed to an ESPN Internet poll in which 65 percent of respondents said he should be added to the relay team _ an overwhelming favorite for gold.
``People want me to run the relay and they think I have the right to run,'' said Lewis, who has anchored six 400-meter relay teams to world records. ``That's where the pressure is coming from, it's not coming from me.''
Appearing on CNN's Talkback Live, he was asked what fans could do to get him on the relay team.
``What you can do is go to the stadium and talk to people and call the Olympic people,'' he responded. ``You should make your voice heard, because we're out there competing for you.''
Hunt said he was happy with the current lineup, but he refused to rule out the possibility that Lewis will end up on the relay.
Three of the relay runners practiced handoffs for 75 minutes Tuesday at Henry Grady High School in midtown Atlanta, with Marsh absent to prepare for today's qualifying rounds of the 200.
Mitchell said he has nothing against Lewis, unless he tries to take someone's spot on the relay.
``Carl's had his moment,'' said Mitchell, set to fill the anchor leg on the U.S. 400-meter relay team that Lewis traditionally has run. ``Let me have mine.
``Let me just say one thing: The U.S.A. 400-meter relay team is going out to get their job done,'' Mitchell said. ``And if anybody has a problem with that, they can get out of the way. To put Carl on, you've got to take somebody off. And that's not cool, man.''
Mitchell, who finished fourth in the 100 on Saturday, added: ``I think the best thing Carl can do for us right now is to give us his undying support.''
Lewis cramped up in the 100 final at the U.S. Olympic trials in June and finished, in Drummond's words, ``butt-naked last.'' He was one of seven relay candidates invited to the North Carolina camp, but declined to attend.
If one of the four current members gets hurt, Hunt said, Lewis could be added to the squad _ even though he's not even an alternate and refused to attend the training camp.
``We have our team. The people that showed up and practiced, that's the team. If something drastic happens, then we'll take a look at it,'' Hunt said. ``I would give Carl Lewis strong consideration because of his experience, even though he didn't show up for practice and hasn't been a very good team member.''
The relay alternates are Montgomery, Tim Harden and Jeff Williams.
John Smith, Drummond's coach and an assistant coach at UCLA, said he can understand why fans want to see Lewis in the relay.
``He's one of the greatest athletes of all time, and when he won the long jump it just changed everything,'' Smith said. ``They want to see their hero. They're enamored, they want to see more.''