When the teams were led into the stadium, someone called to Lewis, "It's windy. Watch the wind."
Shoot, Lewis thought. There goes any chance for a record.
Lewis had convinced himself—in order to be prepared for it—that he would be behind when he received the baton. But at the gun Marsh executed a superb start, and he had a slight lead as he reached Burrell. Their pass was slick, safe and swift.
Lewis watched with transparent joy. "Waiting to anchor, you have time to think, to talk," he said. So his competitors were privy to his thoughts. "Seeing Mike start well and seeing the good exchange, I could feel the energy dying out in the other anchors. I said, "Look at that, the gods are with us today.' It was obvious we were going to win, and that everybody around me didn't appreciate that."
Burrell passed cleanly to Mitchell. "'Watching the guys was unbelievably moving," said Lewis. "I love relays. I love depending on other people and being depended upon." His affection for relays flows from a desire to be a part of a larger effort, to take a great team home.
But to do that, he needed the baton. He accelerated and thrust his left hand back. Mitchell drew near, leading by a meter, and stretched out the stick. ""The baton hit my lingers," says Lewis. "But Dennis hadn't let go of it. He held it there for that dramatic tenth of a second while my fingers wrapped around it and rolled it into my palm. I switched it to my right hand and thought, It's over. It's done."
By then Mitchell was shouting at Lewis to get going, the pack was coming. It wasn't. Great Britain's Olympic 100-meter champion, Lin-ford Christie, had taken off too soon and had to brake and turn to get the stick. Britain dropped to fourth.
"Dennis's yelling snapped me back into focus," says Lewis. He took five fast steps, looked up the track and screamed out "Yes!" and then "Yes!" again as he felt the power within him.
"At 50 meters, my mind was slamming a steel door shut," says Lewis. "We wanted this to be a clinic."
It was exactly that. The crowd had been absorbed in a close race. Now it was jerked to its feet by the sheer Platonic form of a sprinter, the archetype of slashing human speed that is Carl Lewis in full flight.