Lewis On Track For Relay? Signs Seem To Point Toward Him Getting Shot At 10th Gold

SATURDAY, AUG. 3, 1996

See Carl run.

We probably will.

The U.S. men’s 400-meter relay team remained without Carl Lewis on Friday night, but the door was still open for him to close his Olympic career today with a record 10th gold medal.

The roster for the finals, scheduled for 7:40 p.m. EST, doesn’t have to be submitted until an hour before the race. That could provide a perfect ending for Lewis, who has thrived in the spotlight his entire career.

“It’s very, very possible” Lewis will run, said Tim Montgomery, who ran the second leg for the United States in the semifinals. “He was working out with us tonight.”

Jeff Williams, the odd man out on the relay squad, did not run in the heats and almost certainly won’t run in the finals. He said Lewis’ entry was a foregone conclusion.

“Will the sun come up tomorrow?” he said when asked what the chances were Lewis would run.

But the relay team captain, Dennis Mitchell, said Lewis was only one possible choice. “There are three scenarios and Carl is part of one of them,” he said.

Mitchell said Mike Marsh, who has yet to run in the relay, would be in the finals.

Leroy Burrell was scheduled to run the finals, but his status was unclear. Burrell, Lewis’ close friend and longtime training partner, created the original opening for Lewis by withdrawing Thursday with a sore right Achilles tendon. But then men’s track coach Erv Hunt and others said Friday he was feeling better and might run.

“The only thing that’s changed today is we’ve actually told Carl personally that if Burrell could not go tomorrow, or one of the others for that matter, he’s certainly one of the people we would strongly consider,” Hunt said.

If Burrell, Jon Drummond, Marsh and Mitchell are all healthy, “those four will run,” Hunt said.

Burrell was able to run some Friday, but Hunt decided to keep him out of the semifinals. Hunt said Lewis would work out with the team this afternoon.

Hunt said he wasn’t disturbed by the way the Lewis controversy had grown since his gold medal in the long jump.

“Personally, I don’t blame Carl for campaigning to get another medal,” Hunt said. “Like I’ve always said, if there’s a way to do it without messing something up, I will have no problem with it.”

The runners planned to meet with Hunt on Friday night to discuss the finals.

About an hour before the semifinals, Lewis was on the practice track outside Olympic Stadium, running half-speed sprints with Marsh, then faster 100 sprints by himself. He did no baton work, but shook each team member’s hand before they left for Olympic Stadium.

Lewis won the long jump Monday and immediately began campaigning to get on the relay team. That would give him a chance to break the record of nine Olympic gold medals he shares with Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi, Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina and American swimmer Mark Spitz.

Lewis has anchored six 400 relay teams to world records.If Lewis joins the team, it’s only logical he run anchor, said Mitchell, who has handed the baton to anchorman Lewis on many relay teams.

“Carl hasn’t worked one stick with us,” Mitchell said. “It would be the most comfortable for the team for me to step down (to third) and work with Carl on the anchor leg and leave the team the way it’s always been for the last couple of years.

“I’m not saying I’m happy about it. I’ve worked very hard for this anchor leg and I hate to see it go away on a whim like that. But I am team captain, and that requires an awful lot of responsibility, and my first responsibility is toward this team …”

Mitchell wasn’t the only relay member angry at Lewis, who cramped up and finished last in the 100 at the U.S. Trials, then refused an invitation to work with the relay team in July at a training camp.

“King Carl says he wants to run and he knew the rules beforehand,” Tim Harden said. “It’s not like he didn’t know he had to come to camp and train.”

Montgomery said Lewis’ time had past.

“Carl Lewis is done,” he said. “We’re the future.”

Johnson pulls out

Michael Johnson is human after all.

The first man to win the Olympic 200 and 400 said he won’t run in the 1,600 relay because of a hamstring injury. Johnson said he felt tightness in the lower right hamstring at the end of Thursday’s 200 finals, when he set a stunning world record of 19.32. He felt a twinge 5 meters from the tape.

“It’s not a pull, there’s no damage, just a little swelling,” Johnson said.

The 200 final was Johnson’s eighth race in seven days - all run in hot, steamy weather on the extremely hard track.

Click here to comment on this story »

Back to Spokesman Mobile