After he won the 60-yard dash at the Philadelphia Track Classic in January, Carl Lewis was asked whether he considered himself a sprinter or a long jumper.
"I'm a long jumper; I'm just running sprints to help my approach and conditioning," Lewis replied.
Five months later, Lewis is the world's best long jumper and he also may be the best sprinter on earth. After his double victory Saturday night in the 93rd U.S. Track and Field Championships, once again matching Jesse Owens' 1936 feat after a similar accomplishment in the NCAA meet, Lewis certainly considers himself a sprinter as well as a jumper.
"I'm going to alternate the events this summer in Europe," said Lewis, whose 20th birthday is July 1."I may do both in the World Cup, because there's enough time between them, but in most meets they come too close together.
"I wasn't sure I would even be able to compete in both events here when they changed the schedule, but everything worked out okay. I wanted to get off a good first jump and then be rested for the 100 meters. I had a lot of jump trials, but only one 100 meters."
Lewis was a close second to Ron Brown in his 100-meter semifinal at 5:30. Then, at 6:30, following an off-key trumpet rendition of the National Anthem, Lewis was the first competitor in the long-jump final. With the 10,000 fans and numerous photographers zeroed in on him, Lewis managed the second-best legal jump of all time, 28 feet 3 1/2 inches.
The wind reading was a modest 1.61 miles per hour, well under the allowable 4.47 mph. It had been a gusting 10.21 Friday night when Lewis soared 28-7 3/4 in qualifying.
"The wind was kind of dead and it was near legal or less most of the day, so I wasn't worried about it," Lewis said. "I've had 9.9s and 28s and everything else called wind-aided, so I don't care any more.
"I wanted to jump far early and tell everybody to come for me. Once I hit the board, I knew it was going to be a good one. I had set my marks back six inches to be sure I didn't foul, but it was still an aggressive jump."
At 7:15, Lewis was across Hughes Stadium for the 100-meter final. He got off slowly behind Mel Lattany, accelerated in midrace and scored a decisive victory in 10.13 seconds, running into a headwind of .98 mph. Strung out behind him were Stanley Floyd, Lattany and James Sanford, all ranked in the top five of the world. Another of that elite group, Cuba's Silvio Leonard, failed to survive the semifinals.
"I got a good start, accelerated very well and at 60 meters I started to move," Lewis said."At 80 it was all over. When I took the lead at 80 meters, I smiled, I know that much, but it goes so quick I don't know what happened after that."
What happened was that Lewis raised his arms in joy, then pranced around the track before approaching the stands to accept congratulations from his parents. His mother Evelyn was the women's hurdles champion in this meet in 1950 and coached both Carl and his sister Carol in high school at Willingboro, N.J.
In posting his double, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Lewis was terminating a pair of annoying streaks. He was beating two-time defending champion Larry Myricks for the first time in nine long-jump meetings and he was whipping Floyd for the first time in nine sprint duels.
Myricks, although needing treatment for a spike cut on his right hand after his second attempt, had three of his six jumps over 27 feet, with a best of 27-8 3/4. Lewis jumped only once but he kept warm, just in case.
"I stayed warmed up because I knew Larry was hot and he could pop a 28 any time," Lewis said. "I was ready, just in case, but if he'd jumped 28-5 or something and won, I wouldn't have felt too bad."
Floyd did not feel bad about his inability to defend his 100-meter title. He is a teammate of Lewis at the University of Houston and is aware of the great potential of the man who a month ago won the Southwest Conference 100 in a legal 10.00, fastest ever at low altitude.
"Right now I'd say Carl is the No. 1 sprinter in the world," Floyd said. "The top six in the world were out here today. I work out with Carl and I know what he's capable of. He could win the 200 just as easy."
Enough is enough, Lewis replied, vowing to restrict himself to the 100 and long jump. He won't place any restrictions on possible achievements in those events, however. That goes for both world records set in the thin air at Mexico City in 1968, Jimmy Hines' 9.95 for 100 meters and Bob Beamon's 29-2 1/2 in the long jump.
"I don't know if I'll ever get the opportunity to break those records at altitude," Lewis said, "so I'll concentrate on beating them at sea level. I think it can be done."