Carl Lewis minces no words and is scathing in his opinion on giving all attention to recently-retired Usain Bolt
The last decade in world athletics was owned by Usain Bolt but the legendary Carl Lewis is not happy with the singular focus on the Jamaican showman.
Considered the greatest athlete of all time, Bolt drew curtains on his illustrious career after a disappointing performance at the World Championship in London, where won only a bronze in the 100m event.
"The sport is not just about one person. Nobody is irreplaceable. Track and field survived many civilizations… Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, and now Usain Bolt.
Men will all come and go but the sport will always remain," Lewis, who has won nine Olympic gold medals, told PTI in an exclusive interview.
With Bolt's retirement, Lewis feels that it's time to build on the sport now that people will get over their obsession with the Jamaican.
"We need to do more to build on the sport. We don't need to follow that trend that we have been in the last eight years, which was just about following one person (Bolt)," Lewis didn't mince words as he spoke on the sidelines of the 29th Summer Universiade in Taipei City.
"Our job is to fill the void. In the last 10 years, the sport has not grown as the focus was just on one man. The point is we need to build competition. We now have a unique chance to rebuild and grow our sport. Now we have a chance to make a difference, grow our sport and not just grow yourself," said Lewis, clearly hinting at Bolt's cult status.
Lewis, who won Long Jump gold in four successive Olympic Games (1984, 88, 92 and 96), is not at all amused that 'Brand Bolt' became bigger than the sport.
"We were just so caught up trying to make one person all about the whole sport and now we have a unique opportunity to spread it across the board and really allow it grow," said
Lewis termed World Championship 100m silver medallist Christian Coleman and Rio bronze medallist Canadian Andre de Grasse are the ones to watch out for in the coming years.
"Christian Coleman was second (in World Championships) behind Justin Gatlin and he had the fastest time this year. Gatlin is 35 years old and that was probably his last major championship. I think De Grasse and Coleman are both great athletes and I am really excited about them," said Lewis.
Lewis is in Taiwan as the assistant coach of the US track and field University team and named young Cameron Burrell as the next big thing among American track and field.
Young Cameron competes both in 100m and long jump like Lewis and is the son of Lewis's former teammate Leroy Burrell (a 1991 World Championship 100m bronze medallist) and Olympic relay champion.
Lewis and Burrell Sr also competed together for the famous Santa Monica Track Club.
"I was a long jumper who ran sprints. And now Cameron is trying to do that. I would love to see that. He is a great kid and he has the potential to become an Olympic champion," Lewis opined.
With Cameron's reference, Lewis took another dig at Bolt.
"That's the great thing about our sport and I think Cameron is going to be an Olympics champion one day and Coleman is also going to be an Olympic champion.
"Everyone just wants to talk about the garden centre instead of lumber area or the clothing area. We have a great sport that we need to spread it across and talk about the unique relationships. Don't let people get into the box where it is about just one person."
Lewis however did not like termed the booing of Gatlin after winning the 100m dash at the recent World Championships ahead of Bolt as "childish".
"It was unfair. I am not saying what he has done is right. But it was childish," he said.