Lewis extends streak on his last jump

June 16, 1991|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Correspondent

NEW YORK -- The line was drawn in the sand. And then redrawn. Mike Powell put it there and then dared Carl Lewis to cross. A 10-year, 64-meet winning streak was in jeopardy, threatening to melt away on a hot, humid afternoon.

But there was one jump left for Lewis at the USA/Mobil Championships, one last chance for him to display his talent and reveal his heart. As he stood on the long jump runway yesterday in front of 11,289 fans at Downing Stadium, Lewis said he felt the presence of his father and his first coach, Bill, who died in 1987.

"I'm so thankful I had the opportunity to feel him at times, and talk to him at times," Lewis said. "I feel very special. He was the difference."

Lewis sprinted and soared. He went one-half inch past the line and landed at 28 feet, 4 1/4 inches. The streak was alive. Sixty-five straight long jump victories.

"I knew he would do it," said Powell, who finished second at 28-3 3/4 . "He is tough. He has been doing it for 10 years."

The Lewis-Powell confrontation dominated the final day of the national championships. American track was still trying to shake off the hangover after Leroy Burrell's 100-meter world record Friday.

Michael Johnson and Burrell went through the paces of their 200-meter duel. But a funny thing happened on the way to another world record. Johnson won, but hit a head wind and finished with the relatively tame time of 20.31 seconds. After running Friday's 100 in 9.90, Burrell settled for second in 20.42.

"His world record meant nothing to me," Johnson said. "This race was twice as long as the 100."

Burrell admitted he was tired after his record-breaking day. He had a victory dinner of Chinese food and then talked for two hours with his mother before heading back to his hotel. He had no trouble going to sleep.

"It was very difficult to put what happened last night [Friday] out of my mind," Burrell said. "Everyone said, 'Great race, congratulations.' I said, 'Please, I want to put it out of my mind.' When I got to the start, even an official said, 'Great race.' "

No hype was needed for Lewis against Powell in the long jump. When Lewis' winning streak began at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March 1981, Powell was a senior at Edgewood High School in West Covina, Calif.

"Carl and [third-place finisher] Larry Myricks were my idols," Powell said. "In 1984 and 1985, it was hard for me to even conceive of beating those guys. It was hard for me to look at them as mere mortals."

But at 29, Lewis often appears mortal, and beatable. Entering this meet, there were slight doubts about his ability to compete ++ in the 100-meter --. He answered all critics with a 9.93 second-place finish to Burrell. Then, he answered even more critics in the long jump. Say what you will about Lewis the showman, the athlete who tints his hair amber and prances around a track in a double-breasted black tuxedo warm-up. As a competitor, Lewis has no peer in the modern track age.

"This is my so-called second career," he said. "After 1984, peoplwanted to write me off as dead and gone. And this year, people came up to me and asked what would it be like if I didn't make the World Championship team. I couldn't understand that."

Lewis was forced to win one of the great long jump competitions in history. At the 1988 Olympics Trials in Indianapolis, he sprinted through a rainstorm to pass Myricks. That was a one-jump drama. This was a mini-series. Lewis, jumping one spot ahead of Powell, chased for the lead through five rounds after Powell put up an opening jump of 28-1 3/4 .

"You can't think about a streak, and I don't think Mike thinks about breaking it," Lewis would say later.

Powell heard the comment, rolled his eyes and said: "The streak is important to me. I'm looking to get the respect and to be the No. 1 jumper in the world."

But it didn't happen at the nationals. Lewis flew on the last jump. Powell watched, pumped his arms after falling behind, and prepared for his final jump, "ready to set a world record." A stutter step and a brief flight left Powell short of the line, behind the legend.

"Is Carl a mere mortal now?" Powell said. "Well, he's a greaathlete. I say yes, he is mortal. He drinks water like I do."

) Lewis the mortal laughed.

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