When Carl Lewis took the "Sportsman of the Century" path

Carl Lewis of the USA in action during the 100m at the 1984 Olympic Games (Photo by Tony Duffy / Getty Images )
Carl Lewis of the USA in action during the 100m at the 1984 Olympic Games (Photo by Tony Duffy / Getty Images )

The history of the Olympic Games is full of dramatic, emotional and beautiful moments that took place in finals. Every week, relive the most incredible finals you can remember on video. This week, we look at the Los Angeles 1984 100m final. 

The deets

  • Men's 100m final. Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games
  • Memorial Coliseum, 4 August 1984

The background

At the age of 23, American athlete Carl Lewis had the chance to make history on home soil, during the 100m final at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984.

Four years before, the kid from Pennsylvania had qualified for the Moscow 1980 Games for the 4x100m relay and long jump but a United States led boycott saw him stay home.

In 1983, Lewis became the first ever 100m and long jump World Champion at the first edition of World Athletics Championships.

A year later in Los Angeles, Lewis was hailed to succeed fellow countryman Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the Olympic Games 1936 Berlin in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump.

Lewis himself was not ignoring those expectations, in fact his goal was to emulate Owens.

Key moment

On 4 August, Lewis was about to run into the history books. Set in lane 7, he focusses on tying the rope of his shorts when the camera points at him just before the race.

Out of the blocks, Lewis didn’t take the best start...it doesn't matter. He is best known for keeping his pace when he reaches top speed.

However, around the mid-race point, he found an extra gear the other competitors could not and finally took the lead to finish a few metres ahead everyone.

His time? 9.99 seconds.

The outcome

When watching the race, you can see that even before crossing the finish line, he already knows he's made it.

“I got to about the 60m mark and I was drawing very close," Lewis recalled after the race.

“So right when I drew even at about 75m, a great big relief of joy just came over me. The only thing left was just to finish the race, so that smile and that relief just broke open and that was my celebration early.”

That was his first Olympic gold medal. During the nine days of the athletic competition, Lewis competed for seven and won four gold medals in each event he competed in (100m, 200m, 4x100m and long jump).

With that, he had emulated his childhood idol Owens, who had done the same 48 years before him.

Lewis turned out to win nine gold medals in four Olympics. He kept his long jump title from 1984 until 1996.

In 1999, the International Olympic Committee named him as the "Sportsman of the Century".

Los Angeles 1984 - Lewis wins the 100m final
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