vexing in the long-jump final. A swirling wind made it a matter of luck whether
a jumper's step pattern would result in his jumping foot coming anywhere near
the takeoff board.
Larry Myricks got
off a first jump of 27'�". No one else was close to that. Until Lewis.
Sprinting with his hands as flat as knives, his fingertips coming just to eye
level, he took a little step of adjustment near the end, hit the board well and
landed far out. He looked at the crater he had made in the sand with wide-eyed
shock, as if this might have been the one, the jump to surpass Bob Beamon's
29'2�" of 16 years ago.
It wasn't, quite.
It was 28'7", 3� inches short of the best Lewis has ever done. "But it
was so easy," said Tellez. So easy that even though he had surely made the
team, he took another jump, this one with grim purpose. If a record was in the
air, he was going to give it a chance to materialize. But the wind threw him
off, he missed his steps and ran through the pit. Thereafter, he passed all his
jumps, pacing the infield in stocking feet, orange flight suit and black and
orange Lycra tights that created a kind of voodoo-court jester effect.
Call it corporate
punk. A variety of these suits had been created by Nike for its top
Lewis had taken
one look and said, "Wow, I want those, a different one every day."
sprinter," said Tom Dederian of Nike's clothing division. "He wants to
look special. I call this dealing with the psycho-technical. The colors aren't
functional. But athletes are frequently a lot more psycho than they are
A fine example
came on the last jump of the competition. Lewis had won. Myricks held second
place; he would be a three-time Olympian. The man on the bubble for the third
spot was Jason Grimes, who was the silver medalist in last year's world
championships. He had reached 26'7�".
Enter Mike McRae,
28, a full-time production supervisor for a microfilm company in Emeryville,
Calif. "I said to myself, 'What a perfect ending this would make,' " he
would say later. Bearded, beatific, McRae speaks with a mildness that suggests
he's attuned to what has been ordained. He was in fifth, at 26'3�". "I
heard the people clapping. I didn't want to wait four more years."
He ran and jumped,
and those in the stands who hadn't gone into the chilly night roared. "I
looked at their faces," said McRae. "I knew that I'd made it." He
had, with 26'9".
In the 200-meter
final, Lewis was in Lane 5, and after his 19.84 in the second round, the
Coliseum was humming with the giddy certainty of seeing a world record. Missing
was Calvin Smith, the Helsinki world champion ( Lewis didn't run the 200 in
Helsinki). He hadn't recovered enough from a hamstring strain to train for the
furlong, and finished fifth in his semi, in 20.65. His Olympics will be the 400