He had won the 100 in 9.99 on the first weekend of track and field. On Aug. 6 he put that speed to use in the first two (of four) rounds of the 200, winning his heats in 21.02 and 20.48, and then presented himself at the long jump runway.
Somehow a common feeling had developed, partly out of wishful thinking, partly because Lewis's mastery at times can unhinge even the most skeptical observers, a feeling that he was going to break Bob Beamon's Olympic and world long jump record of 29'2�" in these Games. Beamon set that astounding mark in the thin air of 7,349 feet in the 1968 Mexico City Games. He hadn't run the 100 meters. He hadn't run a pair of 200 heats that morning. He'd had a following wind of exactly the maximum allowable, 2.00 meters per second.
Lewis didn't have any of that. Lewis had a rapidly cooling night in L.A.'s dense, sea-level air. He had a swirling, tricky wind. He had to wait for a lengthy hammer throw competition to end before the long jump could get going.
On his first jump, Lewis went 28'�". That settled the competition. He would win by nearly a foot. His second leap was a foul. "I got a little sore after that," he said. "I decided I didn't want to take any chances." He passed his last four jumps.
This caused a sound that had never before been heard in the land, a smattering of boos for Carl Lewis.
"I was shocked at first," said Lewis, coming up with an answer worthy of a studio head. "But after I thought about it, I realized that they were booing because they wanted to see more of Carl Lewis. I guess that's flattering."
There was more to see. After a day off, Lewis returned to win his 200 semi in 20.27. Teammate and training partner Kirk Baptiste won the other in 20.29. They were joined in the final by Thomas Jefferson, and all three Americans knelt for a moment, asking a blessing that they might sweep the final 2� hours later.
Jefferson had the best start. Lewis had the best curve, coming off with a clear lead. And Baptiste had the best finish, gaining on Lewis in the last half of the stretch. "I tried too hard early and paid a little price at the end," Lewis said, but he hung on to win in 19.80, clipping .03 from Tommie Smith's 1968 Olympic record. Baptiste broke 20 seconds for the first time with a 19.96 in second, and Jefferson held off Joao Batista Silva of Brazil to complete the sweep with 20.26. This was the fifth time the U.S. has swept an Olympic 200.
Lewis's last gold was to come for anchoring the U.S. 4 X 100-meter relay team. By now, the less faithful were imagining every screwy thing that could preserve Owens in his niche. "What if you drop the baton?" asked one.
"I pick it up and we win anyway," replied Lewis.