Carl Lewis becomes ‘World’s Fastest Human’
The big news
Track sensation Carl Lewis gave spectators in the Coliseum the show they had come to see. Establishing himself as the “World’s Fastest Human,” Lewis won gold in the 100-meter final. Not only did he win, but he ran the distance in 9.99 seconds, beating silver medalist Sam Graddy of the U.S. by eight feet, translating to 0.2 of a second. The margin of victory was an Olympic record, pushing aside Bob Hayes’ 1964 victory in which he ran the distance in 10.0 and beat his nearest competitor by 0.19 of a second. “One down and three to go,” Lewis said, referring to his goal of winning four gold medals -- which he did -- and matching the feat accomplished by Jesse Owens in 1936.
The big surprise
This was a big day for the Joyner family. Al Joyner jumped his personal best in the men’s triple jump, 56 feet 7 1/2 inches on his first try, and knew that he had won the gold medal. He then rushed toward the final event of the women’s heptathlon, in which his sister Jackie was competing.
Cheering Jackie on, Al wondered whether the Joyner siblings would bring home two gold medals. It was not to be. Jackie’s time in the 800-meter run was .06 of a second slower than she needed to beat Australia’s Glynis Nunn for the heptathlon title.
But Jackie took the silver medal, and Al received his gold. The Joyners went down in history for winning medals on the same day. The L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee said they were the first brother-sister team to win Olympic medals in track and field on the same day.
Walking up to the Coliseum for the first time in 25 years and trying not to cry as he thought about one of the moments that changed his life, Al Joyner remains inspired by the experience. He is part of the U.S. Olympic Committee and works with triple jumpers at the Olympic training center in Chula Vista, Calif.
After winning his gold medal and believing that dreams do come true, Joyner confidently tells kids that “whatever your dreams are or whatever your goals in life, keep working hard at them” because the work will pay off. Winning a medal with his sister was one of the highlights of his success, something that was never in his Olympic dream but only made it better. “Every time I hear the national anthem, I go back to standing on that podium,” he said at the anniversary dinner. “Every national anthem I’ve heard over the past 25 years brings me right back here.”
From the archives
“OK, Madison Avenue, everybody out of the pool! Cancel all three-martini lunches, forget the cocktail party at the yacht club, put away the Madras jacket, get out your three-piece pinstripes and grab the 8:04 for Grand Central. Eat at your desk, hold all calls, get on a conference hookup with all the account execs. This is top priority. Bring in all the Carl Lewis workups. See if Detroit is interested. Or do we sell Toyotas with him? . . . They have run the Carl Lewis flag up the pole, and everybody stands at attention and salutes. It flies. . . . Carl Lewis is now a commodity.” -- Jim Murray, writing in the Aug. 4 Los Angeles Times
After the Romanians had won five consecutive women’s rowing events, that country’s national anthem became pretty familiar to the 10,000 spectators at Lake Casitas, as did the colors of the Romanian flag (blue, red and yellow). However, during the last race, the red, white and blue made an appearance. In an upset, the Americans defeated the Romanians by a quarter of a length in the women’s eight oars with coxswain. It was the first gold medal for the U.S. women since female Olympic rowing began in 1976. It was also the first gold medal in rowing for any American since 1964.
-- Lauren Goldman