Athletics: Lewis says a barbed farewell

Click to follow
Carl Lewis, who makes his final appearance on the track here tonight, has launched a fierce broadside at the man who succeeded him as the world's greatest athlete, claiming Michael Johnson was on an "ego-fest".

The nine-times Olympic champion hit out as he prepared to compete in the climax to the Golden Four Grand Prix series in Berlin.

Lewis attacked the reasoning behind Johnson's head-to-head with the Olympic 100 metres champion, Donovan Bailey, which the 200m world record holder lost after pulling up injured. "The only reason why Michael wanted that meeting was to say `hey, look I'm the fastest in the world'," said Lewis of the pounds 1m challenge in the Toronto Sky Dome in June.

"It was an ego-fest. He was just trying his hardest to bring all the attention on to him. But when you try to do that you are never successful. The meeting was a disaster and the people saw through it."

Johnson, who successfully defended his 400m title at the World Championships in Athens earlier this month, courted more controversy in Crystal Palace last week when he collected pounds 60,000 after only finishing fifth in the 200m and pulling out of the relay. That meeting was poorly attended with only around 8,000 turning up and Lewis believes radical action has to be taken to attract fans back to the track.

Lewis, who has taken part in a series of junior races to mark his farewell to the Grand Prix circuit, said promoters needed to follow the lead of sports like American basketball.

The 36-year-old has borrowed from basketball terminology by bringing together a sprint "dream team" of four of the fastest men in history for an attack on the 4x100m relay world record.

Lewis will be joined by fellow former world 100m record holder Leroy Burrell, Namibian Frankie Fredericks and Bailey - the current holder of the mark - though any record would not be ratified even if it is broken as they are a composite team.

But that matters little to Lewis who said: "This is what spectators want, our promoters have to realise that. You have to give the fans fireworks and music and things like that to send them home happy."