Nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis believes athletics can be transformed into the sport of the future.
And the track and field star, now part of the coaching staff at the University of Houston, is taking a personal interest.
“I recruit, and every single athlete (I speak to) says I want to go to the Olympics. I want to be a professional track athlete. So it’s part of my obligation to make sure that there is a sport there for them to do it.” – Carl Lewis to Olympic Channel.
Lewis told the Olympic Channel that Usain Bolt’s dominance may have hindered the growth of the sport.
“Now that he’s retired, people are saying, ‘What are we going to do?’
“And I say we need to build the sport again.”
Best of the best
Over his long competitive career, Lewis dominated both the sprints and the long jump.
From 1979 to 1996, he won nine Olympic gold medals and one Olympic silver.
Lewis broke world records in the 100m, 4x100m, 2x200m, and the long jump.
He was, simply, one of the all-time greats.
The 56-year-old was recruited to work by USA team-mate and former 100m world record holder Leroy Burrell.
Burrell’s son, Cameron, is currently training in Houston and broke the 10s barrier three times in 2017.
But Lewis is determined not to have the sport concentrate on one sprint star like the past.
“We need a clear vision of what we are going to do so that everyone benefits.”
And that means attracting more people to track and field meetings.
“We accept the fact that people don’t come to track meets. And, because of that, they are empty and boring. So instead (we have to) make it entertaining.”
He thinks better planning could make events more enjoyable for crowds in the stadium and for television audiences at home.
“We should schedule down to the minute,” Lewis said.
“Why don’t we have the 100m at 10.05pm? Then, long jumper number one at 10.07pm and, then, a high jumper at 10.08pm. Then back to the 200m at 10.09pm.
“So the whole stadium moves with the event.
“You have (fewer) people… but everyone gets featured.”
Carl Lewis also wants to take inspiration from other sports and apply what works to athletics.
“Like (ice) hockey, a few years ago, they were tracking the puck to make it more exciting.
“(American) football now has the line so you know where the first down is.
“So, maybe (we can) have a tracker (on-screen) that shows the world record pace. Or the meet record pace?”
It’s a cause he’s fighting for because, for Carl Lewis, nothing compares to the feeling of being Olympic champion.
“(To be) a Super Bowl champion, it’s amazing… And there’s money. I get it.
“But every four years there is one Olympic champion in the 100 metres. That’s it. You are etched in history forever.
“We have to create our own compelling story instead of complaining about theirs.”
Carl Lewis was this week’s exclusive guest on the Olympic Channel Podcast. Each Wednesday we take a topic and find someone Olympic to talk about it. We want you to think like an Olympian.