The goal was simple in its definition, nearly impossible in its execution: win four Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4x100 relay just like Jesse Owens had done 48 years earlier.
That no one had done it before or since Owens didn't temper the expectation that in the 1984 Olympic Games Carl Lewis could, no would be the second to pull it off. After all, everything Lewis did on a track – the high knees, the powerful pumping of his arms – resembled a locomotive running downhill. All Lewis had to do was show up and he'd win, some said.
Not really. There was the pressure of running in front of his home country, these games being held in Los Angeles, and the potential for a mistake, especially in the relay when a dropped baton could halt a gold-medal run in its tracks. More than anything, though, there was the fatigue factor of competing in four events, including heat races, in eight days.
Lewis started his quest by coming from behind to win the 100, needed just two attempts to roll through the long jump with ease, set an Olympic record in the 200 and was the anchor on a relay that set a new world record.
If winning one Olympic gold is an achievement of a lifetime – and it is – four in one Games makes a legend. In the world of track and field, there are only two such immortals: Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis.
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