In this social media age, I’m aware of almost anything and everything that’s ever said about athletics, or even as me as an individual. So of course I am aware of the comments by a certain Carl Lewis.
My overriding feeling is that it’s a shame.
What a pity that Carl appears to be feeling so strangely insecure about himself and his achievements that he is compelled to spout derogatory comments about the sport as a whole, and even individual athletes. He did exactly the same with Usain Bolt – trying to take the focus away from the fact Usain transformed track and field forever, in a way Carl could not.
The whole charade is very, very odd. Carl doesn’t need to worry; he achieved enough in his time on the track. If I were Carl, I would feel happy and secure with my career’s achievements, and be happy to give supportive and constructive commentary on the current sport when asked. His comments portray a man craving attention, and somehow unaccepting of the fact he is no longer competing – even with all his incredible achievements. I admired the way Michael Johnson approached Usain Bolt breaking his ‘unbreakable’ world record, with an honest disbelief, but with admiration. I guess it comes down to class.
Former U.S. Olympic athlete Carl Lewis attends a media conference before the North, Central America and Caribbean Senior Championships inauguration
Image credit: Reuters
Carl Lewis: 'The long jump is the worst event in the world right now. Awful.'
I haven’t seen the scientific evidence behind this statement, and I suspect nor has Carl. However, even if it were the case, it’s irrelevant. I believe a focus purely on times/distance as a priority is actually harming the sport. It’s the true spirit of competition, winning or losing, that really showcases what is exciting about athletics.
Take Jess Ennis and Mo Farah: their events focus on who wins first and times/points are secondary. As I have said previously it is competition that drives the sport. If I had finished second at London 2012, but with a bigger jump, would the public have cared more than me winning with a lesser distance? Of course not. All we can do as competitors is try to achieve our best performance on the day, and hopefully that nets a victory.
Carl Lewis: 'Jesse Owens’ PB from 80 years ago would have been good enough to get him a medal in London. (Owens’ PB was 8.13m, set in 1935)'
Jesse is widely regarded as one of, if not the, greatest natural athlete the world has ever known. He was not afforded the opportunities of a professional athlete, he jumped on cinder tracks with spikes that modern day athletes wouldn’t touch and all this under the shadow of racial oppression. He is, and always will be, an idol for every athlete, myself included. So in actual fact, I think it’s wonderful that Carl Lewis thinks I could actually be mentioned in the same breath as Owens at all. That’s a massive compliment.
Athlete Greg Rutherford holds his long jump gold medal during a parade as it passes St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London
Image credit: Reuters
Carl Lewis: 'They don't know how to jump and they're not trying to because they're winning medals anyway.'
This is by far the stupidest comment of all. Firstly, we do know how to jump. Secondly, the idea of not trying is an utterly bizarre statement. Athletes can only beat what’s in front of them – and every single sportsperson, bar none, competes at a sport to do their best. It’s not as if I’m saying to myself, 'Well, I could jump a world record, but I don’t need to for the gold so I won’t bother.' If I don’t jump as far as others have in history, that’s fine.
Carl Lewis: 'This generation? Rutherford? I'm sorry, but it's pathetic to me. He's won everything. Are you kidding me?'
I think Carl was having a bad day when he did this interview! Ultimately, people are going to look back in 30 years and note that I won an Olympic title – hopefully two Olympics titles. I can pretty much guarantee that top of their minds will not be the question, 'Whose performances did Carl Lewis admire?' as a barometer of success.
I don't need validation from Carl Lewis and I don’t compete to please ex-athletes. My aims in life are simple; to be the best possible athlete I can be, cleanly, and to be a great father. Luckily for me, fishing for compliments from a retired athlete is not on my bucket list.
There is however one lesson I’ve learnt from Carl, and that’s to never attempt to sing our national anthem to a packed stadium!