He actually could have, because Sam Graddy ran a 10.29 around the first turn to get the lead; Ron Brown, his sore leg healed, burned a 9.19 down the back-stretch; 100 world-record holder Calvin Smith, running in his only event of the Games, flew through the second turn in 9.41, and Lewis got the baton meters in front. He powered down the stretch and leaned at the line to shave off a last hundredth, and was glad he had, because the time was 37.83, a world record, .03 better than the one Lewis anchored in Helsinki last year and the only WR in the L.A. Olympic track and field competition. Lewis's split was 8.94 seconds.
"Hey," he said later, when grilled about his chances of replacing Owens in U.S. hearts. "My job is just to compete as an athlete and be a nice guy. Jesse Owens is still the same to me, a legend. I'm just a person with some God-given talent. I thought I'd feel relieved now, but that's not it. I'm excited. I'm really happy."
Hey, Carl, you want to see happy, look at Valerie Brisco-Hooks. This vibrant, tight-muscled long sprinter from Los Angeles put on her own equaling act. She won the 400 in an American and Olympic record 48.83. She won the 200 in an A and O record 21.81. She ran the third leg on the 4 X 400 relay team that set an A and O record of 3:18.29. And those three gold medals matched the most ever by a U.S. woman on the track, a feat achieved only by Wilma Rudolph, in 1960.
In the 400, she wasn't even favored. Chandra Cheeseborough had set an American record of 49.28 in beating Brisco-Hooks in the U.S. trials. "But now that I know how she runs, with a hard last 200," said Brisco-Hooks, "I can do something about it."
Could and did. She sprinted into the stretch with a five-yard lead, and Cheeseborough ran at her all the way to the finish, but Brisco-Hooks kept her form and won. After a few gulps of air (while Cheese-borough uttered a lovely Berra-like sentence: "Losing the American record is kind of bad, but I'm glad I lost it to an American"), Brisco-Hooks ran to her husband, erstwhile NFL wide receiver Alvin Hooks, and was hugging him sweetly when her coach, Bob Kersee of UCLA, landed on her with congratulatory moves that would have gotten him arrested in a less brightly lit arena. They ended up mauling each other at the base of the steps behind the victory podium.
"That's just the way he shows his emotion," B-H said later. There were other ways. When she won the 200 a few days later, Kersee tore open his hand going over a fence to get to her again.
Still later, as Brisco-Hooks and Cheeseborough were increasing the lead that Sherri Howard's 48.83 second leg had given the U.S. in the 4 X 400, one felt that by their excellence they had made the women's long sprints, for years the property of the Eastern Europeans, truly competitive. Theirs were victories well deserved, yet tinged with regret, for they can't be fully appreciated until validated against Marita Koch of East Germany and Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia.
The men's 400 field, though, had just about everybody of consequence in it, including Bert Cameron of Jamaica, the 1983 world champion. In one semi, Cameron started well and then in the back-stretch grabbed his left hamstring and slowed for a few steps, losing a great chunk of yardage. Then the cramp eased and Cameron took off, caught the field off the turn and drove himself to a qualifying fourth in 45.10. It had been one of the most amazing 400s in history. Without that little hop and rest in there, it seemed he would have threatened the world record.
But he had gone so hard on unwilling muscle that he couldn't take his place in the final. It was still loaded. It had Darren Clark, 18, of Australia, and Gabriel Tiacoh of the Ivory Coast and Washington State, who had run 44.64 in the semis. It had Antonio McKay of Georgia Tech, and Sunder Nix of Indiana University. And, as the burly Clark shot out to a quick lead, it could be seen that it had Alonzo Babers, a year out of the Air Force Academy, who was letting himself be pulled along in the lane next to Clark.
Babers came on with 150 left. Clark tied up—he would be fourth—and Babers simply ran away, finishing in 44.27, making him the fourth-fastest in history. Then he collected a second gold in the 4 X 400 relay, his split of 43.75 breaking the race open for the U.S. The time was 2:57.91, the second-fastest ever.