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Running movement in India reminds of US in 1970s: Carl Lewis

Saturday, 17 May 2014 - 6:15am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: dna

American athletics legend Carl Lewis says in 10-15 years there will millions of runners here

There is something special about this man. The more you write, the more there is left. If one says you need all the adjectives in the dictionary to describe this legendary athlete's achievements, it is not without a reason. With a distinguished career, spanning close to 17 years, Carl Lewis speaks more like a philosopher now. Athletics, he says, is a way of life for him.

Jumping and running will always remain part and parcel of his life. There may be complaints that he remained inaccessible to many but no one would dare question his commitment to the sport he loves. With unparalleled skills in long jump and sprints, he touched the acme of success which no other athlete could ever do.

Like any other kid, born in a middle class family, Lewis had a quiet upbringing. He gets nostalgic when asked about his childhood days. "I owe it all to my parents Bill and Evelyn Lewis. My mother, in particular, wanted to see me as an athlete and I think it is this push that put me in the right direction."

That he did not lose in long jump for close to a decade is part of history now. He won 65 consecutive events on the trot. He won four golds at the 1984 Olympics, equaling the 1936 record held by Jesse Owens.

Happy to be the event ambassador for the TCS World 10K to be held in city on Sunday, the 61-year-old American says, "The running movement India is remarkable. To see the progress that is taking place reminds me of the seventies in the US when we had all those great runners. I can experience the same energy here.

"An event like this is so important because when you have a race with 25,000 runners, it is not just about the sport, it is about the community. It means people in India are running."

Amazed at the manner in which the running movement has caught on in India, the legend says, "15 to 20 years from now, India will look back at its running heritage and say wow, today there are millions and millions of runners all around the country."

The winner of 10 Olympic medals and innumerable track and field events, Lewis had no one to challenge his authority when he was at his peak. No sooner he got his break at the age of 16, there was no stopping him.

"I was a very good sprinter and long jumper on the East Coast but at that particular meet in Memphis, I ran my personal best. I also jumped 25.9 for the first time. When I made that step, everything changed and I realised what I wanted to do," he reveals.

Lewis stresses on the fact that running has the potential to transform one's body and the fact that it is it something anyone can do at his or her own pace. "It's something that's great not just for people but for families because everyone can do it together."

In his 17-year long career, the dominant sprinter and long jumper often topped the world rankings in the 100-metre, 200-metre and long jump events beginning 1981 until the early 90s but still feels that the long jump was the engine of his international career and something that took him to the next level.

Lewis says of the 10 Olympic golds, the last one (long jump gold in 1996 Atlanta Olympics) close to his heart.

"I knew it was my last Olympic chance. It took a huge blessing and tremendous focus. I had a great coach, probably the greatest of the 20th century. It took all of that… every single person and every single ounce of energy to get that last one."

"I want to be remembered for what I stood for and not for what I ran," says Lewis.

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