CARL LEWIS (2ND AWARD)
1991 World Championships: Lewis's Greatest Performances
Tokyo was the venue for the 1991 World Championships. In the 100 m final, Lewis faced the two men who ranked number one in the world the past two years: Burrell and Jamaican Raymond Stewart. In what would be the deepest 100 meters race ever to that time, with six men finishing in under ten seconds, Lewis not only defeated his opponents, he reclaimed the world record with a clocking of 9.86 s. Though previously a world-record holder in this event, this was the first time he had crossed the line with "WR" beside his name on the giant television screens, and the first time he could savor his achievement at the moment it occurred. He could be seen with tears in his eyes afterwards. "The best race of my life," Lewis said. "The best technique, the fastest. And I did it at thirty." Lewis's world record would stand for nearly three years. Lewis additionally anchored the 4 × 100 m relay team to another world record, 37.50 s, the third time that year he had anchored a 4 × 100 m squad to a world record.
Long Jump Showdown Versus Mike Powell
The 1991 World Championships are perhaps best remembered for the long jump final, considered by some to have been one of greatest competitions ever in any sport. Lewis was up against his main rival of the last few years, Mike Powell, the silver medalist in the event from the 1988 Olympics and the top-ranked long jumper of 1990.
Lewis had at that point not lost a long jump competition in a decade, winning the 65 consecutive meets in which he competed. Powell had been unable to defeat Lewis, despite sometimes putting in jumps near world-record territory, only to see them ruled fouls. Or, as with other competitors such as Larry Myricks, putting in leaps which Lewis himself had only rarely surpassed, only to see Lewis surpass them on his next or final attempt.
Lewis's first jump was 8.68 m (28 ft 51⁄2 in), a World Championship record, and a mark bested by only three others beside Lewis all-time. Powell, jumping first, had faltered in the first round, but jumped 8.54 m (28 ft 0 in) to claim second place in the second round. Lewis jumped 8.83 m (28 ft 111⁄2 in), a wind-aided leap, in the third round, a mark which would have won every long jump competition in history except two. Powell responded with a long foul, estimated to be around 8.80 m (28 ft 101⁄4 in). Lewis's next jump made history: the first leap ever beyond Bob Beamon's record. The wind gauge indicated the jump was wind-aided, so it could not be considered a record, but it would still count in the competition. 8.91 m (29 ft 23⁄4 in) was the greatest leap ever under any condition.
In the next round, Powell responded. His jump was measured as 8.95 m (29 ft 41⁄4 in); this time, his jump was not a foul, and with a wind gauge measurement of 0.3 m/s, well within the legal allowable for a record. Powell had not only jumped 4 cm further than Lewis, he had eclipsed the 23-year-old mark set by Bob Beamon and done so at low altitude. Lewis still had two jumps left, though he was now no longer chasing Beamon, but Powell. He leaped 8.87 m (29 ft 1 in), which was a new personal best under legal wind conditions, then a final jump of 8.84 m (29 ft 0 in). He thus lost his first long jump competition in a decade. Powell's 8.95 m (29 ft 41⁄4 in) and Lewis's final two jumps still stand as of July 2017 as the top three low altitude jumps ever. The farthest anyone has jumped since under legal conditions is 8.74 m (28 ft 8 in).
Lewis' reaction to what was one of the greatest competitions ever in the sport was to offer acknowledgment of the achievement of Powell. "He just did it," Lewis said of Powell's winning jump. "It was that close, and it was the best of his life." Powell did jump as far or farther on two subsequent occasions, though both were wind-aided jumps at altitude: 8.99 m (29 ft 53⁄4 in) in 1992 and 8.95 m (29 ft 41⁄4 in) in 1994. Lewis's best subsequent results were two wind-aided leaps at 8.72 m (28 ft 71⁄4 in), and an 8.68 m (28 ft 51⁄2 in) under legal conditions while in the qualifying rounds at the Barcelona Olympics.
In reference to his efforts at the 1991 World Championships, Lewis said, "This has been the greatest meet that I've ever had." Track and Field News was prepared to go even further than that, suggesting that after these Championships, "It had become hard to argue that he is not the greatest athlete ever to set foot on track or field."