Athletics: Lewis to miss the 100m at Olympics

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The Independent Online
Carl Lewis's comeback attempt suffered a setback at the weekend as the eight-time gold medallist finished last in the 100m final at the US Olympic trials in Atlanta. Lewis, who has experienced a dramatic return to form this year, said he was hit by leg cramps just prior to the final, which was won by Dennis Mitchell. The 100m world record holder, Leroy Burrell, also failed to qualify, finishing sixth.

Lewis said he still feels good about his chances to compete in his fourth consecutive Olympics, with the long jump and 200m still to be contested at the trials.

"I don't feel down or anything. I'm frustrated because I know that I'm ready to run fast," said Lewis, the Olympic 100m champion in 1984 and 1988. "I'm still in good shape, and I'm expecting to jump well and I still have the 200 to run.

"This is, maybe, just giving me a message: I need to focus on the long jump. All I know is I can either sit here and mope about it, or I can just say I've got two more events and I can run well and I can make this team," he said.

Mitchell, bronze medallist behind Linford Christie in Barcelona four years ago, equalled the fastest time in the world this year when he won the 100m in 9.92sec. The Olympic 200m champion, Michael Marsh, was second in 10.00 and Jon Drummond took third in 10.01.

In the women's 100m final, Gwen Torrence, the Olympic 200m gold medallist, overtook the 1992 Olympic 100m champion, Gail Devers, to win in 10.82. Torrence came off the blocks behind Devers but at the 30m mark was challenging for the lead and was in front by half-way. Her time equalled her lifetime best. Devers claimed second in 10.91 and recent collegiate champion D'Andre Hill was third in 10.92.

"Now the show has begun I can get ready for the party," Torrence said. "I hope to dance in July."

In a major surprise, the world record holder, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, lost the heptathlon, finishing second to Kelly Blair by three points. It was the first time since 1983 that Joyner-Kersee had lost to an American in a heptathlon that she had completed.

Blair earned 6,406 points to beat Joyner-Kersee, who still qualified for the US Olympic team. The top three finishers in each final earn a place in the team for the centennial Games.

Despite failing to make the US Olympic team in the 100m for a second consecutive time, Lewis - as well as his rivals - do not believe the world has seen the last of the great sprinter. Lewis said his right calf began cramping during his semi-final race and was cramping again even before he settled into the blocks for the final. "There are about 100 good things about today and one bad thing. But today my body didn't give me the opportunity," said Lewis, who is still eligible to run the 4x100m relay at the Games.

Lewis, 34, insisted his age was not a factor in his poor showing in the final. "I don't think it's really necessarily an age thing because I think, to be honest, that's been completely overblown."

Jon Drummond, 27, who claimed the third and final 100m berth on the team, agreed that Lewis is not finished. "Everyone in that final competed to their best, and Carl not being on the team does not signify that he's finished in the sport nor that we're any better.

"It's just that we've had some gruelling races this whole weekend and naturally I would say anybody could have won that race."

Dennis Mitchell also had praise for the great Olympian. "Carl to me is a legend," he said. "When Carl is in a race with me, whether Carl beats me or whether he doesn't beat me, Carl always tends to motivate me to be a better athlete than I actually think that I am. To beat Carl on his best day or his worst day is an honour."

Results, Digest, page 23