Lewis sees bright future for Burke, Evelyn
If everything goes according to Carl Lewis’ plans, Mario Burke and Tristan Evelyn will soon be standing on the Olympic podium.
That’s because Lewis, one of the greatest sprinters of all time, believes the island’s two young and upcoming athletes have the potential to become two of the world’s best sprinters.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY while conducting the Springer Memorial Power Play Sprint/Jump Clinic at the National Stadium this morning, the nine-time Olympic and eight-time World Championship gold medallist and current coach at the University of Houston, said he was eagerly looking forward to working with both Burke and Evelyn when they join the university next semester.
Lewis along with associate head coach at the University of Houston, Will Blackburn, conducted the one-day clinic.
“My objective is that we came here and brought them to Houston because we want them to be Olympic champions. We believe they have that potential,” Lewis stated.
“We are really excited about them. As you know Mario is coming to the University of Houston and I’ll be his coach so I’m really excited about him. Tristan is coming to Houston as well and she’s going to be coached by Debbie Fergusson, who is an Olympic champion from the Bahamas, so we are really excited about their potential.”
Lewis added: “We are in it to win it. Mario told me what he wants and we are going to accomplish it. He is going to work hard and he is going to have many days where he is going to say: ‘I can’t stand that coach’. But the advantage I have is that I was an Olympic champion and I trained in that hot Houston summer and my coach asked me what I want and I said to be an Olympic champion and he held me to it. So it’s the same thing. Mario told me that and I am going to hold him to it. I am not going to be this mean, crazy person but I am just going to hold you to what you want because I know exactly what it takes.”
Lewis explained that many athletes these days wanted to reach the top but were not willing to put in the extra time and patience required. “He [Mario] is going to be very successful and there are other kids here that can be successful,” Lewis said confidently.
The former world 100 metres record holder and still the holder of the indoor long jump world record, said he saw this as a perfect opportunity to put Barbados on the map.
“We hope that for more than one reason it will be great for us and the school, but the biggest thing I think is what it could do for this country and for this island and how it could inspire people.
“From when I ran track back in the 80s and 90s people still tell me ‘I ran because of you,’ I hear it everyday. I want people to say that to Mario and I want people to say that to Tristan or some of the other athletes that we are working with,” said Lewis, who was voted World Athlete of the Century by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
Despite dealing with a small sample size of around 25 athletes this morning, the former U.N. Ambassador said from what he had seen so far, the talent in Barbados was comparable to anywhere in the world.
“You know it’s interesting, because there are great athletes everywhere in the world…but they just need the inspiration,” Lewis acknowledged.
“I compare the athletes here favourable to everyone else, but I think there are favourable athletes everywhere. There are Mario Burke’s everywhere, but the countries have to understand that and see that, so that the little children growing up will say ‘I wanna be like him or be like Tristan.’
“So our job is to go in there and not necessarily find the greatest person ever, but to inspire a nation if we can because we want everyone to have success,” Lewis added.
He explained that in addition to former Springer Memorial student Sade Mariah-Greenidge who is based at Houston and newcomers Burke and Evelyn, he hoped to see many more Barbadian athletes attending the university.
“I would hope that we have a kid all the time from Barbados. I definitely will be back. Coach Blackburn has been here before and we will come back because we want to engage in this community which has been good to us and in return we want to help,” he said.
Before leaving the island tomorrow, Lewis is scheduled to deliver a motivational speech at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex at 9 a.m.
(Photograph by Morissa Lindsay)