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National Outdoor Track and Field Meet : Carl Lewis Will Compete in Three Events

June 25, 1987|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

SAN JOSE — Most athletes would be satisfied to win one event in the USA-Mobil national outdoor track and field meet beginning today at San Jose City College.

Carl Lewis has a more active agenda.

He is entered in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the long jump in the qualifying meet for the World Championships Aug. 29-Sept. 6 at Rome.

The long jump and the 200-meter finals were originally scheduled at the same time Friday night, but officials of The Athletics Congress, the U.S. track and field federation, readily agreed to change the format to accommodate Lewis and other multi-event performers.

So the long jump has been moved to 1 p.m. Friday in a time switch with triple jump qualifying.

Even so, Lewis has a hectic schedule. He will compete in three events today--long jump qualifying and trials of the 100 and 200. Then he has the long jump final and the semifinal and final races of the 200 Friday. He will ease up Saturday with semifinal and final races in the 100 meters.

Still, Lewis says he is ready. "I'm in great shape and looking forward to finishing off a great season," he said.

His recent performances, however, have not been comparable to his standards during and right after the 1984 Olympic Games, in which he won four gold medals. He has been bothered by leg injuries in the last two seasons and wasn't as focused on his sport while pursuing commercial interests.

Now, at 25, he seems eager to re-establish himself as the dominant figure in track and field.

He is dedicating his career and especially this season to the memory of his father, Bill Lewis, who died of cancer May 5.

"This is going to be my best year, and my father is going to be there watching it," Lewis said. "He's not gone, just watching from another place. I believe I'm ready to explode with some big performances."

Lewis lost his No. 1 world ranking in the 100 to Canada's Ben Johnson in 1986 after having been top-ranked for a record five consecutive years. He was ranked only sixth in the 200, and even though he has a 49-meet winning streak in the long jump, the No. 1 ranking in that event went to the Soviet Union's Robert Emmiyan.

For all of Lewis' accomplishments, he has yet to set a world record. He has come tantalizingly close to Bob Beamon's long jump mark of 29 feet 2 1/2 inches, which has endured since 1968.

For example, he had an unprecedented six jumps past 28 feet in the Mt. San Antonio Relays last April.

Yet Emmiyan, not Lewis, became the first long jumper since Beamon to surpass 29 feet with a 29-1 effort last month at high altitude of Albania.

Beamon's long-standing mark was also set at high altitude in Mexico City, but Lewis continues his record assaults at sea level.

Why doesn't he go to a high altitude site to try for the record he has been chasing for so long?

"I'm really against going for the long jump record at high altitude, but I wouldn't mind doing it in the sprints if there was competition," he said.

There is, perhaps, a pride factor involved. Even though high altitude records that exist in the 100, 200, 400 and long jump are officially recognized, Lewis apparently doesn't want any long jump record to be tainted.

"I just feel I've missed opportunities where I could have set the record at sea level," Lewis said. "I don't feel the need to run to altitude. I know I can do it, I just have to do it."

It isn't likely to happen here, though, because of his busy schedule.

"This meet is geared to other events," he said. "But I'll compete only in the long jump in the Pan American Games next month in Indianapolis. That's a good facility."

It's the facility where Lewis recorded his best jump, 28-10, in 1983, and where Willie Banks set a triple jump record of 58-11 1/2 in 1985.

As for Emmiyan's 29-foot jump, Lewis, if not skeptical, doesn't regard the Soviet athlete as a strong threat to either himself, or veteran Larry Myricks.

"I can't say he didn't do it, although the Soviets have some questionable marks," Lewis said. "Anyone can jump far once . Beamon proved that."

Lewis will undoubtedly jump against Emmiyan in the World Championships. A prediction?

"I think he'll curl up and die," Lewis said.

Lewis will not be without competition here.

Now that the schedule permits him to go in the 200, he'll have to be at his best to beat Texas A&M's Floyd Heard, who was top-ranked in the event last year and is the defending champion.

"The 200 is probably America's best event now, and I think we can sweep it at the World Championships," Lewis said.

Lewis and Heard have the best times in the world this year in the 200 at 19.92 and 19.95, respectively. North Carolina's Danny Peebles, UCLA's Henry Thomas, Mark Witherspoon, Kirk Baptiste and Calvin Smith are other strong 200-meter sprinters.

It's arguable that the 400 has just as formidable a field as the 200, and the 400-meter intermediate hurdles will have the first rematch of Edwin Moses and Danny Harris. Moses' 107-race winning streak in that event was ended by Harris early this month in Madrid.

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