Every Olympics needs its own old-school-versus-new-school controversy, and at the 2012 Games we’ve already seen feuds between Hope Solo and Brandi Chastain and the new Dream Team versus Old Dream Team. Now, it seems Usain Bolt is going for the trifecta, and he has Olympic legend Carl Lewis in his sights.
“Everybody’s forgotten about him,” says Bolt, on the back of becoming the only back-to-back 100m and 200m champion in Olympic history.
Two decades ago, Lewis was a track and field star of the highest order, winning nine gold medals and 10 overall. Regularly topping the world rankings in the 100 meter, 200 meter and long jump, he still holds many world records including the indoor long jump. Sports Illustrated named him “Olympian of the Century,” and many see him as a trailblazer who took track and field from amateur to professional status and enabled those who’d follow in his footsteps to have lucrative, longer-lasting careers.
But now, the man who is perhaps the most notable athlete to sprint in Lewis’ footsteps is revealing some bad blood between the two.
“I’ve lost all respect, all respect,” he tells USA Today. “I’m going to say something controversial right now. Carl Lewis, I have no respect for him. The things he says about the track athletes is really downgrading for another athlete to say something like that. I think he’s just looking for attention, really, because nobody really talks much about him.”
Bolt is referring to comments Lewis made starting as far back as 2008, when he spoke with SI and cast suspicion on how Bolt attained his speed: “I think there are some issues. No one is accusing anyone. But don’t live by a different rule and expect the same kind of respect.”
Lewis further said that Olympics fans would be crazy to not suspect steroids were in play. “For someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don’t question that … you’re a fool. Period.”
Now, the 25-year-old Bolt is wrapping up an Olympics that seems to have put him above the ranks of Lewis and Jesse Owens and into the rarefied ranks of the greatest athletes in their respective sports. Indeed, when he answered another question, he said that he is to sprinting what Michael Jordan is to basketball and Muhammad Ali is to boxing.
“I’m guessing I’m in that category,” he says.