(UB-Day marks the birthdays of people born between 1955 and 1964. If you want to know more, please read this post.)
Carl Lewis (7/1/1961)
Celebrity can be cruel, as just doing these UB-Day posts has shown me from time to time. But I’m not sure there’s any part of it quite so poignant (and, in a way, natural) as the ephemeral nature of the star athlete.
Walk into a middle-school basketball practice, for example, and ask about favorite players. I’m thinking the name Michael Jordan doesn’t come up very often. I could be wrong.
So, for the youngins — Carl Lewis was, simply, the predominant track athlete in the world for the better part of 15 years as a sprinter and long jumper.
There are too many accomplishments to list here. I’ll note that he won 10 Olympic medals, 9 of them gold, and 10 World Championship medals, 8 gold. He was Track and Field News‘s Athlete of the Year three years running, Over the years, he set multiple world records in the 100 m and 4 x 100 m and 4 x 200 m relays, and he won 65 consecutive long jump competitions, finally losing in what would be one of the most amazing contests in the sport’s (and maybe any sport’s) history, the 1991 World Championships in which Mike Powell ultimately broke Bob Beamon’s 23-year-old world record, and Carl Lewis’s heart.
Lewis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but grew up in the quiet town of Willingboro, New Jersey, away from the chaos of the racially charged 1960s in the deep South. His sister, Carol, was also a world-ranked track and field athlete, and his mother competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki in the 80 m hurdles.
Trivia: Lewis was voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and named “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated (it should be noted that the century included Jim Thorpe and Jesse Owens, among others).
Age Today: 46.
Shares Birthday With: Liv Tyler (30), Pamela Anderson (40), Dan Aykroyd (55), Deborah Harry (62), Genevieve Bujold (65), Twyla Tharp (66), Karen Black (68), Sydney Pollack (73), Jamie Farr (73), Leslie Caron (76), and Olivia de Haviland (91).