I read earlier today an article claiming that Usain Bolt might be the best athlete ever (here, in Spanish). I do not want to dispute that with this post; by the number of olympic and world championship medals he has won and the records he has set, he might be so. However, in that article the author compared Usain Bolt (the runner) with Carl Lewis the runner. However, it happens that Carl Lewis was much more than a runner, he was a long jumper. In this blog post I just want to put into perspective the size of Carl Lewis as a jumper.
I will again base the analysis on the following terrific website with all time best performances in track and field (maintained by Peter Larsson (1)). In the following two graphics you can see the best ~2200 and the best ~180 long jumps *ever*. The red dots correspond to Carl Lewis’ jumps.
Carl Lewis retired in 1997. His last great competition was the Olympic Games of Atlanta in 1996 (where, by the way, he collected a gold medal with a 8.50m jump at age 35).
Now, in 2015, 18 years later, of the best 184 long jumps ever (all those at or above 8.50m), 55 of those jumps (a 30%) correspond to Carl Lewis. I let you to qualify the feat.
The runs (100m and 200m) Carl Lewis did in the 80s would probably not win him any gold medal today; his jumps would still win him almost every gold medal today.
That was Carl Lewis the jumper.
Finally, after having highlighted the talent of Carl Lewis as a jumper, I wanted to recall that several times along the past years we have read news indicating that Usain Bolt was going to venture into either long jump (here) or 400m (here), he hasn’t done so far (not in big events, at least). This is not a criticism. Without a doubt, he is the best sprinter ever. However, athletics is much more than sprinting… (2)
(1) I already used this magnificent source when I analyzed Rotterdam marathon times, here.
(2) Personally, I would always pick a marathoner ;-).
(3) I believe it would be interesting to share the World Championship long jump competition of 1991, when Mike Powell managed to set a new long jump world record (8.95m), 22 years after Bob Beamon had set the previous one in Mexico DF (8.90). Find the explanation from the Wikipedia here. Despite of losing it, Carl Lewis managed the following four jumps in that competition: 8.91 (wind aided, therefore it doesn’t count for world record and best ever jumps), 8.87, 8.84, 8.68 and 8.56. The first 3 jumps would have won *any* competition in history except 3, including the two world records referred. Unluckily for Lewis, these jumps got him only a silver medal.
(4) Better still, see it here: