Carl Lewis is one of the greatest U.S. track and field athletes of all time. His name is on the shortlist of Americans who’ve dominated the Olympics. This list includes other icons of the sport like Jesse Owens, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Michael Johnson, and Allyson Felix.
When Lewis comments on the current state of U.S. track and field, with his resume, you have to listen. Unfortunately for the 2021 U.S. men’s 4×100-meter relay team, what they heard was Lewis viciously bashing them on social media.
Carl Lewis is a track and field legend
Frederick Carlton Lewis grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey, in the 60s and 70s. When he was seven, American long jumper Bob Beamon set a long jump world record of 29 feet, 2½ inches, at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. After that, Lewis was hooked, according to ESPN.
By the time he was a high school, Lewis was setting prep long jump records himself. He received a track and field scholarship to the University of Houston for his talent. In addition to long jumping, Lewis added sprinting to the mix. By 1981, he’d become one of the top 100-meter and 200-meter dash runners in the world as well.
Lewis qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but the U.S. didn’t send a team. The 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, California, is where he truly burst onto the world stage, though. He won four gold medals at the Games in the long jump, 100-meters, 200-meters, and 4×100-meter relay. Winning these four gold medals matched another one of his idols, Jesse Owens, at the 1938 Games in Munich, Germany.
Four years later, Lewis won gold in Seoul, South Korea, in the long jump and 100-meters and sliver in the 200-meters. In Barcelona, Spain, at the ’92 Games, he won two more gold medals in the long jump and the 4×100-meter relay.
Finally, at the age of 35, he turned in his longest jump in four years at the Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and won his ninth gold (and 10th overall) medal.
Lewis crushed the U.S. men’s 4×100 relay team
Lewis obviously knows his way around a 4×100-meter Olympic relay, which is what makes his criticism of the 2021 group of sprinters so damning.
In the qualifying heat for the 2021 4×100 race in Tokyo, American sprinters Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker botched the baton handoff, and the U.S. team did not even make the event’s finals.
This is just the latest in a string of gaffes by the U.S. men’s 4×100 team in recent Olympics. The Americans won the gold in 2000 and the silver in 2004 but haven’t medaled since. In 2008, the team lost due to a dropped baton. Four years later, the team finished second behind Jamaica but was DQ’d because of Tyson Gay using performance-enhancing drugs. In 2016, the team finished in the bronze spot but was again DQ’d, this time because of a baton-passing violation.
When Kerley and Baker messed up this time, it was too much for Lewis to bear, and he took to Twitter to call out the team:
The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay. The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I sawCarl Lewis on the U.S. men’s 4×100 rely team via Twitter
It was a harsh assessment but likely an accurate one, although we can’t be truly sure if the AUU kids actually were better.
Allyson Felix just overtook Lewis as the most decorated athlete in U.S. track history
Until the women’s 4×400-meter relay final at the Tokyo Olympics, Carl Lewis’s 10 medals were the most by and U.S. track and field athlete in history. That changed when Athing Mu crossed the finish line during a dominating 4×400 gold medal performance by the U.S. team.
Mu ran the final leg for a relay quad that included Sydney McLaughlin, Allyson Felix, and Dalilah Muhammad. The gold medal was Felix’s 11th Olympic medal, giving her one more than Lewis.
A few hours after the race, Lewis had yet to send Felix a note of congratulations for her accomplishment publically, but one is likely coming. After she tied his record with a bronze in the individual 400-meters, Lewis tweeted:
Congratulations @allysonfelix. 35 never looked so good. What an amazing career and inspiration. Now on to the relay.Carl Lewis on Allyson Felix via Twitter
Lewis may no longer be the most decorated American track star, but he still is one of the greatest athletes the sport has ever seen. He also might be just the person the men’s relay team needs to coach them up for Paris 2024.