What does it mean to be a champion? Is it defined by the number of races won, the medals earned, the times left in the record books? Or is it something else entirely?
Carl Lewis is a 10-time Olympic medalist, eight-time World Champion, and one of the best to ever compete. But he’s also more than that. He’s an icon who professionalized track & field and a mentor who works tirelessly with the next generation of athletes to ensure the sport’s advancement. His extraordinary impact on track & field is the true mark of a champion. For Carl Lewis, the future is his legacy.
Lewis began competing in track through AAU during the late 1960s, and his family played a major role. With many relatives who were Olympic and collegiate-level athletes, his parents became his first coaches and older siblings became his role models.
“Looking back on it,” Lewis said, “I think the best thing about my career when I was growing up is that we were always together. All my friends ran track and my parents were coaches of the team, and other parents were volunteers. AAU Track & Field is a family affair. It gives a tremendous opportunity that no other country in the world has. Part of the reason we’re so good is because our AAU system gives kids the opportunity to compete at every age level.”
Lewis took full advantage of that opportunity. For him, track was more than a hobby. It was his passion. His life. His dream. And as his jumps got longer and his race times grew faster, the world started to take notice.
“There were layers to it,” Lewis explained. “I went from, ‘hey, I could make the Olympic team,’ to, ‘I’m the best in the world,’ to, ‘I could change everything.’”