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It helped, too, that Burrell's father, Leroy Brown, who had undergone open-heart surgery earlier in the week in suburban Philadelphia, was released from the intensive care unit in Bryn Mawr Hospital on Saturday. "Once I heard his voice on the phone, my spirits began to rise," said Burrell.
The 100 semifinals on Sunday afternoon showed that a great event was building. In the first, Lewis lost ground to two faster starters, Bruny Surin of Canada and Frank Fredericks of Namibia and BYU, but he reached the front with 20 meters to go, displayed startling lift, and won in 9.93. "After that, I knew there would be a world record," he said.
What he didn't know was who the winner would be. In his semi, Burrell strained visibly near the finish, but won in 9.94, ahead of the 9.99's of teammate Dennis Mitchell and Christie. The final, two hours away, now promised the perfect Lewis-Burrell match.
The Emperor and Empress of Japan arrived at the stadium, perhaps sensing glory. A huge, portentous full moon rose beside the roiling flame. Tellez took Lewis aside and made no effort to keep the anger out of his voice. "You ran your best race in the semis in the L.A. Olympics," he said. "You ran your best race in the Rome World Championships in the semis. You ran your best race in the Seoul Olympics in the semis." Lewis saw his career flying before his eyes. "I will not," said Tellez, "have you run your best race in the damn semis here."
Chastened, Lewis went to the start. He was in Lane 5, with Mitchell to his right in Lane 6. To Lewis's left was Christie, separating him from Burrell, who was in Lane 3. Then, for Lewis, there did come a hunger for what had been denied him.
"I thought, the last time [in the Seoul Olympics 100], drugs beat me," he said later. "This time if someone beats me, he beats me fairly. But this time I'm going to focus on my own lane, run my own...."
Lewis was the more solemn in the blocks. At the gun Mitchell was the fastest out of them. "A step and a half out, I stumbled a little," recalled Mitchell. "That made me wake up. I gathered myself and went through the early phases of my race faster than I ever have." He looked only at the bare track ahead. He would be aware of no other runner until the race was over.
Although Burrell lurched to the right of his lane, he felt himself accelerating as well as he had in his world-record race on June 14 at the national championships in New York City. At 15 meters Burrell, Mitchell, Ray Stewart of Jamaica and Christie were clear of Lewis. Almost abreast, they stayed ahead of him.
"I had a good start," said Lewis. "The others had incredible starts. I'll bet four people broke the world record for 50 meters. I felt great at 60, and I still was about fifth."
The fact that he knew this meant he wasn't perfectly intent on his own lane, but it wouldn't be Lewis not to be aware. "At 60, I said to myself, I have a shot," he would recall. "At 80, I said, I have a great shot."