Hall of Fame: Brad Lewis (Corona del Mar)

Richard Dunn

One day in the quad at Corona del Mar High, Brad Lewis noticed a

sign inviting athletes to try out for the new rowing team.

"The key was that it said no experience necessary. It allowed a lot of

athletes a fresh start, and there was great enthusiasm," Lewis said,

referring to the inaugural CdM rowing team under Coach Mark Sandusky in

1971, long before the Newport Aquatic Center was built and introduced

junior rowing and paddling.

"(Sandusky) was a student teacher, and, when we first gathered

together, we were a rather eclectic group of athletes, with tennis

players, cross country runners and football players," added Lewis, a

6-foot-4, 200-pound specimen, an ideal rowing frame. "I had been a tennis

player and was one of those typical basketball players who was tall, but

had no vertical jump."

For Lewis, a 1972 CdM graduate who continued his rowing career at UC

Irvine, it was a golden transition.

Following an outstanding collegiate career under legendary former UCI

rowing coach Bob Ernst, Lewis set his sights on the Olympic Games.

After taking a year off and attending the 1976 Montreal Games as a

visitor, Lewis made the 1980 U.S. Olympic rowing team, but former

President Jimmy Carter forced America to boycott the Moscow Games that


Four years later, however, Lewis was in prime form and captured the

gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games in double sculling with Paul


No American rower has won Olympic gold since, part of the reason why

Lewis, now a filmmaker and writer, decided to follow the 2000 U.S.

Olympic eight-man rowing team, a three-time world champion (1997-99)

which was expected to take home gold at the Sydney Games.

Although the team failed at the Games and finished fifth, Lewis still

produced a documentary film on the crew called "A Fine Balance."

"I tell people it's like Shakespeare -- everybody dies at the end,"

Lewis said with a laugh.

Lewis, who made his debut as an independent filmmaker at the 2002

Newport Beach Film Festival, said he's "still enjoying" the feeling of

winning an Olympic gold medal.

"That is about the greatest thing ever," he said. "(To win the gold)

is just pure pleasure. Nothing can compare to it, and it was especially

nice for me because I was in my hometown. I never had a race in LA until

the Olympics, and it was within driving distance for my family.

"I don't think about (the gold medal) all that often, but it is

something that has always been a great thrill, especially coming from a

small town. I wasn't an Ivy League guy, or didn't come from one of the

traditional rowing centers. It was nice to come from a small school like

UCI and achieve success. It makes it all the more sweet."

Lewis, who has worked on several HBO movie projects and has been on

his own since September 1999, funded his documentary film by writing a

couple of books, including ghostwriting the story of the television show


Lewis, who enjoys traveling, has attended every Summer Olympics since


"I like to see different places and eat different foods and see

different cultures," said Lewis, who loves the "pomp and circumstance" of

the Olympics.

Lewis, who lives in Corona del Mar, is the latest honoree in the Daily

Pilot Sports Hall of Fame. He's single, never been married and "kind of a

free spirit."

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