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Biofile: Carl Lewis Interview

By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Former track & field champion was one of the top American Sportsman of the Century. Winner of 10 Olympic medals including nine gold, Winner of 10 World Championships medals, including eight gold.

DOB: July 1, 1961 In: Birmingham, AL

Track Heroes/Inspirations: “I looked up to Jesse Owens. My parents – very influential in my life. My father knew Jesse and I met him at a track meet in Philadelphia when I was nine. I have a picture from that day. After that, I studied about the history of, not only track, but of all sports. I became interested in the history of sports in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s as a ten-year-old. That helped me as an athlete later on – for my history and also my drive.”

Nicknames: “The only thing that people ever did, and that was at the end, was The King thing. And I never really knew where that came from [laughs], but that was it. As a kid I was unrecognizable, any nickname was like, Who is he? I don’t know.”

Hobbies/Interests: “Outside of music, I’m into acting. I love to design. I have two dogs I enjoy. Other than that, I read. My hobby I enjoy the most is my quiet time, my privacy. Because I don’t have a lot. The only place I have a private life is in my gates at my home. That’s a big hobby of mine, doing whatever I want to do, whether it be listening to music or watching television. Go for a run with the dogs.”

Favorite Movies: “Dark comedies, Ed Wood.”

Musical Tastes: “The old standards – I was raised with The Sound of Philadelphia. My parents played a lot of jazz. My favorite singers are two old standards – Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra.”

First Job: “McDonalds [laughs]. Cooked. I did that in high school. Enterprising guy. In Willingboro, N.J.”

First Car: “1976 Mercury Cougar (green).”

Pre-Competition Feeling: “Mine was pure focus. Because I always realized, if you displayed an air of confidence, then you’re already one step ahead. And then I was the only one that could control a race. Obviously, in a race, there is no contact. So if you do the best job down that lane, then you’re the best. So I was very focused.”

Favorite Meal: “I am a vegetarian. So anything vegetable will do for me.”

Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “Shredded wheat. That’s what we eat [laughs].”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “I’d have to say butter pecan.”

Early Track Memory: “I didn’t excel very young. So my best memories – just the relationship to my parents, (they) were coaches at the age-group program. My sister was one of the best athletes for her age at a young age. My best memories were just going to the meets. A lot of times getting 7th or 8th place, but I could watch my sister Lynn. We were all a family together on the road, going places, doing things. That was my best memories. Very mediocre at first. Just started happening. Got to high school, got a little better, grew a lot. By my senior year I was the best in the country. I was a late bloomer, just came around.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “I guess moment overall would be the Atlanta Olympics (1996) because of the situation of being at the end of my career, having it be in the United States, having the crowd and everything. The long jump gold medal in Atlanta.”

Most Painful Moment: “Gosh, it’s hard to say. Athletically…gosh, it’s hard to say. Everybody has a lot of those [laughs]. I would say, well, I know in 1988 at the, initially in the Olympics at the 100 meters when, you know, Ben (Johnson) crossed the line first. Before he was suspended, of course. I’d say that was the most painful. Not really for me but for some things. I set a goal to win that for my father (William) who had just passed away. And I was really disappointed in myself because I didn’t win it for him.”

Funny Track Memory: “‘84 Olympic Trials, I went to the starting line to run a race (100 meters, first heat). And when I put on my uniform, I was so excited I didn’t put on my shorts. I just put on my sweat pants. So I started to take my sweat pants off and…I didn’t have my shorts on. That was pretty damn funny. So my manager ran shorts to me and I got them at the last second right at the starting line. I ran to the bathroom and changed, came back and, On your mark! Ready to go. I ended up winning that heat and I won the race the next day.”‘

Favorite Athletes To Watch: “The Eagles. Rockets. University of Houston – ’cause I went to school there. Roy Jones. Andre Agassi. Monica Seles. Tiger Woods – Nike buddy [laughs]. Eric Lindros – big guy, real physical, I like that. And Wayne Gretzky. I mean, come on. I’m a big fan of his as well.”

Toughest Competitors Encountered: “Mike Powell, long jumper. And Leroy Burrell, sprinter. No question.”

Childhood Ambition: “My parents were both teachers. They provided everything that we needed. And struggled to get what we wanted. So one of my things was to be very successful financially. Wanted to be an athlete. Didn’t think I’d be a great athlete but I wanted to be. And I wanted to be in the public eye – whether it be on television, acting or sports. Being in the public eye was a real big goal of mine.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “I like to see a strong, independent-natured person. I like people like Martin Luther King because he went a way he believed in. Ghandi. The strongest thing is a self-independent. Being very strong in what you believe in – whether it’s right or wrong. It’s what you believe in.”

Career Accomplishments: Four-time U.S. Olympian 1984-96; Won 100 meter gold at 1984 and 1988 Olympics; Won long jump gold at the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics; Personal Best in 100 was 9.86 in 1991, in 200 – 19.75 in 1983, in long jump – 8.87 m in 1991.

Carl Lewis winning 1984 Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters

(Note: The only time I ever encountered the American track and field icon was at a Wheaties cereal press conference in New York City in the late 90s. We did the Biofile that afternoon. Mark Spitz, Mary Lou Retton were also there that day. – SM)

About Mark Malinowski

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