Athletics legend holding court in Bim
Barbadian athletes, elite or otherwise, will get a once in a lifetime opportunity to interact with former Olympian Carl Lewis over the next two days.
The United States-born legend touched down at the Grantley Adams International Airport this afternoon around 1.45 p.m. along with fellow University of Houston coach William Blackburn who was greeted by Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Sports Ruth Blackman and chief executive officer of the National Sports Council and Gymnasium Limited, Jerry Blenman.
Both Lewis and Blackburn are scheduled to conduct the annual Springer Memorial Power Play Sprint and Jump Clinic which starts tomorrow at the National Stadium and continues into Thursday at the Wildey Gymnasium where many sporting groups and individuals will hear Lewis speak for an hour.
Speaking to the media, Lewis said the most important attribute in becoming a good athlete was listening.
“Track and field is a sport where you are dealing ninety-eight percent of your best or better all the time, so one mistake you lose. And so there are a lot of layers to being successful. There may be a hundred things you need to learn just to run 100 meters and if you don’t learn one through forty-five, then the rest of it doesn’t work,” he explained.
He added: “All of you can see athletes that look like they have a little more pep to their step or move better. But ultimately there are a lot of them. So who is going to be the winning fix, who wants to focus, who wants to get up earlier and who really wants to internalize what you are trying to explain to them so they can actually learn.”
Lewis has been rated as one of the greatest athletes of all times with ten Olympic medals, inclusive of nine gold, as well as ten World Championships medals with eight of those being gold. Outside of Usain Bolt he is the only athlete of his era to have won three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay at the same games, as well as copping the long jump, in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Lewis said the aim tomorrow would be to show the athletes the meaning of simplicity when they attended the clinic at the Stadium.
“Oftentimes we have to make sure we create a programme instead of just create simplicity and that is what we are going to teach the kids. It is not going to be this grand thing with machines, because that is not what it is all about. It is about being simple so they can understand and remember for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Principal of Springer Memorial Pauline Benjamin who was present at the airport where a few athletes were on hand to greet the champion, noted that after two years of trying they had finally got Lewis to come to the island.
Benjamin said that Springer Memorial School which is considered the matriarchs of track and field in Barbados after capturing their 16 consecutive title at the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletic Championship was always about excellence and wanted to share the experience not just with the Government Hill family but everyone who might be interested.
“At Springer Memorial when we have these opportunities we do not limit it to Springer Memorial. We open it up to other athletes who have talent and so on this occasion once we had the agreement that these guys were going to come we thought we needed to open it up to [other] athletes,” said Benjamin, who also mentioned the fact that it was through one of their own –– Sade Mariah Greenidge –– who went to Houston a few years ago that they met with coach Blackburn who came to Barbados and they established a relationship.
Lewis received a token of appreciation from Benjamin and Minister Lashley who lauded the initiative, which he said was great and hoped it would not be a one-off occasion. “I believe that every person who is interested in athletics should not allow this opportunity to pass,” the minister said.
Athletes, parents and sporting groups have been encouraged to come out to the Gymnasium on Thursday and hear Lewis’ inspirational speech which will be free of cost and scheduled for 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
(Photographs by Morissa Lindsay)