Lewis relays the word he'd like to run, too American lobbies for spot after record-tying 9th gold

Atlanta Olympics

July 31, 1996|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Less than 24 hours after winning his ninth Olympic gold medal, Carl Lewis was out campaigning for the opportunity to get a record 10th as a member of the U.S. 4 x 100-meter relay team.

Lewis gained a share of the record books with his fourth straight long jump victory in the Olympics on Monday night, tying the nine gold medals of Finnish distance legend Paavo Nurmi for the most by a single track athlete.

Now he'd like a place on a team that might not want him as a member.

After cramping up and finishing last in the 100-meter finals here at last month's Olympic trials, Lewis was offered a spot among the seven being considered for the relay team. But he declined, saying he wanted to concentrate on the long jump.

Now he wants U.S. coach Erv Hunt to reconsider.

"As of now, I don't think that will be the case," said Lewis, 35. "But I'd love to get that chance. . . . I've run as well as anybody else. Is there anybody else more qualified?"

Things could change, as they did four years ago in Barcelona, Spain. Lewis had finished sixth in the trials back then, but was named to the team when Mark Witherspoon ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the 100 meters. As he did in 1984, Lewis ran the anchor on a team that won the gold medal in world-record time.

But unless one of the top four U.S. sprinters -- Jon Drummond, Mike Marsh, Leroy Burrell and likely anchor Dennis Mitchell -- gets hurt, it seems doubtful Lewis would be added to the team.

"I don't think I've pushed," said Lewis, who pleaded his case on the "Today Show" yesterday. "The objective is to put the top team out there, the best four people on the track. I was led to believe that if I made it to the [100 trials] finals I would be on the team, but that didn't happen. Whatever happens, I'm going to root for them to win."

When told that an Internet poll favored him being on the team by a resounding 65 percent, Lewis smiled. "I bet Erv was in the other 35 percent," he said.

Hunt was with the team at an unnamed site in Atlanta yesterday and was unavailable to comment.

Despite his performance Monday, Lewis doesn't plan on competing at the next Olympics in Sydney, Australia. "I'll be there, but I'll be there working next to you guys," Lewis told reporters at a packed news conference.

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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