Tag Archives: track and field

Carl Lewis, the jumper

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.

Best ever ~2200 long jumps, focus on Carl Lewis.

Best ever ~2200 long jumps, focus on Carl Lewis.

Best ever ~180 long jumps, focus on Carl Lewis.

Best ever ~180 long jumps, focus on Carl Lewis.

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 ;-).

Edit [28/08/2015]

(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:

 

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Santa Monica Track Club

To some of you the initials SMTC or the name Santa Monica Track Club won’t ring any bell. Some others will immediately recognize the name of the athletics or “track and field” club in which some of the all time best athletes ran, such as Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell, Michael Marsh, and many others.

When preparing the planning of our honeymoon, and since I was going to be running some days throughout it due to the preparation for San Diego marathon, I thought it would be nice to go and check SMTC and see where did they train and do a training session there myself.

I checked the website of the club but it did not help much. However, searching in different forums in the web, I found out that the club is not going through the best of the times struggling to find sponsors. The coach, Joe Douglas, is still the same one who prepared Carl Lewis. They normally trained in either in the Santa Monica College track (in the “Corsair Stadium”) and in Ocean Avenue, at a park by the beach, and they seemed to keep training in those places.

Then, I contacted the Santa Monica College faculty members in charge of the sports installations to see if I could use the track for training. Given the hours in which I planned to train (between 6 and 8 am) I obtained permission.

On May 15, Luca and I set out early in the morning for the track, where I did a 10 kilometre training surrounded by several other people running, walking or warming up to practice other sports.

Training session at SMC.

Training session at SMC.

It was a good experience and I am happy to have checked it out. However, it was a bit disappointing to see no memory, no sign, no trace of what glory that place lived not so long ago (ok, between 25 to 30 years ago). When I think of the legend that Carl Lewis is in athletics, I am puzzled that they do not show any pride of him.

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Another thing that I missed was finding a t-shirt of the SMTC. I searched in various local shops but I didn’t find any. I learnt in some of them that Nike is selling a cotton replica (not a technical t-shirt) to commemorate it, however I didn’t find it in the stores, only in the online shop. I may buy it at some point as my personal and private homage to the SMTC of the ’80s.

Carl Lewis with SMTC t'shirt.

Carl Lewis with SMTC t-shirt.

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Filed under Sports, Travelling