Carl Lewis, who was often cricized at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles for not being a good winner, was a perfect gentleman in defeat Saturday after losing to Canadian Ben Johnson in their 100-meter final in Olympic Stadium.
After running 9.92 to Johnson's world-record 9.79, making this the fastest race at 100 meters in recorded history, Lewis gave a virtual clinic in being a gracious loser. His first action after pulling up at the finish was to jog ahead and shake Johnson's hand and offer his congratulations.In the press conference afterward, Lewis again praised Johnson, and also himself.
"I'm not disappointed," he said. "He ran a great race. I didn't have my best start ever, but other than that I had a pretty good race. I was able to set the American record, and I feel good about it."
When asked if placing second would tarnish the American record, Lewis said, "I don't agree that you have to be disappointed with second place. What the Olympics is all about is to come in and do your best. That's what I did."
Johnson said he knew he had the race won "after the first 30 yards." The Canadian by way of Jamaica exploded out of the starting blocks, leaving Lewis and the other six sprinters in the final well behind.
The start was no surprise. Both Johnson and Lewis had predicted just such a race.
"I'll just see if anyone can catch me," said Johnson.
"I'll have to get him in the last 30 or 40 yards," Lewis had said. "The question will be if I can decelerate slower than Johnson or any of the others."
The 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium was virtually filled for the much-anticipated race. Reporters were standing in every available corner of the press box, where the seats were all taken two hours before the race.
The loss doused Lewis' chance of again winning four Olympic gold medals, as he did in Los Angeles. He can still win three, in the long jump, 200 meters and 4X100 meter relay.
"That's what I need to look at now," said Lewis. "I'm pleased with how I feel. I'm going to take that and move to the long jump tomorrow."