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
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