Carl Lewis finished his track and field career Tuesday night in typical fashion - with a victory and a smile.
Running his final competitive race in the same stadium where his idol Jesse Owens won Olympic glory 61 years ago, Lewis anchored a star-studded, multi-national team to victory in the 400-meter relay to cap the ISTAF Grand Prix meet.
“It was a fantastic farewell,” said Lewis, the winner of nine Olympic gold medals and - some say - the greatest track athlete ever.
The crowd of nearly 60,000 fans gave Lewis a standing ovation, and a group of fans lifted a big sign that read: “Thank you for all the great moments, Carl.”
With teammates that included Olympic 100-meter champion Donovan Bailey, former world record-holder Leroy Burrell and Namibian sprint champion Frankie Fredericks, the outcome of Lewis’ last race was never in doubt.
But the crowd still got quite a show. Bailey, who set the world 100 record in Atlanta last summer, ran the first leg, handing off to Burrell, who gave the baton to Fredericks. And on the final handoff, Fredericks gave Lewis a slight push in the back to send him along to victory in 38.24 seconds.
“We are all going to be gone from the track some day. I’ll miss you all,” Lewis told the crowd. “I just want to say I love you and I’ll never forget you… . The thrill of competing never goes away, but the need to be first across the finish line is gone.
“How do you say goodbye? This huge crowd and running a relay with four of the fastest guys in history, that was just perfect.”
Lewis will run an exhibition race with Santa Monica Track Club teammates at halftime of a college football game in Texas next month.
Earlier, Fredericks powered past Bailey to win the 100 in 9.99 seconds.
Marion Jones of the United States, the world champion, won the women’s 100 in 10.81.
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