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  • 28 Mar
    HOUSTON -- Standing prominently inside the University of Houston athletic departments Hall of Honor is a life-size bronze statue of Carl Lewis, the figure dressed in a USA track uniform with four Olympic medals draped around the neck. Given Lewis glorious achievements -- One of the greatest athletes of the 20th century and of all time, reads a nearby description -- perhaps the bronze should be gold-plated.Standing inside the track named in his honor and wearing red UH shorts, polo shirt and baseball cap on a spring day, the real-life gold-medal man is carefully watching athletes and handing out instructions. Among them, he tells the sprinters to take longer, more powerful strides, the way you would if you were pushing a car that had run out of gas -- that sprinting isnt about getting out of the blocks faster than everyone else but about starting off with power and then accelerating down the track so you pass everyone.Hes taught me a lot. He made me see different things in track I didnt see before, senior sprinter LeShon Collins says. ... Hes a great coach. Hes like a mentor. Shoot, I even call him a second father to me.Lewis is coaching these young athletes how to follow his remarkable footsteps -- though those powerful footsteps are a challenge to follow.If someone questions him or comes at him wrong, hell just say, Hey, it worked for me and you know who I am, so it will work for you, freshman John Lewis III (no relation) says with a laugh, adding, Hes like, Hey, Im one of the biggest, one of the greatest and if you dont want to listen to me, then thats on you. It has been 32 years since Lewis matched Jesse Owens by winning gold in the 100, 200, long jump and 4x100-meter relay at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and 20 years since he won his ninth and final gold medal (and 10th medal overall) at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He might have won even more had the U.S. not boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. He was also named the Sportsman of the Century by the IOC and Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated. Known as King Carl, he was one of the biggest names in sports back then -- so globally known that there was a Japanese TV series during the mid-80s in which a large mannequin in Lewis image raced against others. The mannequin would come out of the blocks behind, then powerfully accelerate and pass everyone to win.Times have changed in track and field since Lewis days, however, with the sport getting caught, passed and left far behind.I think Carl brought a lot of people along, he brought the sport along, Houston head coach and former 100-meter world-record holder Leroy Burrell says. And I think its really telling where the sport is now and when that decline started. It pretty much coincided with Carl retiring. And ever since then, track and field has been in a slow, downward spiral.Or, as Lewis says, The sport is dying.Which is why Lewis is back at Houston now, as an assistant coach, to revive track so it can be powerful enough to accelerate and get back in the lead.Im not looking for the next Carl Lewis, Lewis says. Is there a nine-time gold medalist that Im going to coach? Ninety-nine times out of 100, no. Is there an Olympian of the Century? I wont know because Ill be dead. Do I need these kids to get fame and fortune? Absolutely not.I tell these kids, I come out here all the time, so I need you to give the effort. There is not really much you can give me except for the satisfaction of winning. ... What I want to see one day is what my parents went through. I want to be sitting there, like [my coach] was for me, while their child is running in the Olympics and winning, and theyre sitting there, crying. Thats what I want to do. Thats what I can get out of this. Thats why I get up and go every day.Dont get mad, get evenLewis parents, Bill and Evelyn, were excellent athletes; his mother ran hurdles for the United States at the 1951 Pan Am Games, and both later coached track and field in New Jersey. Lewis also had the fortune of being coached at Houston by Tom Tellez, one of the greats in U.S. track history. Tellez convinced him to attend Houston by showing a film of long-jumping techniques during a recruiting visit, and their coach-athlete relationship continued for 18 years until Lewis retired in 1997.If it wasnt for him, you wouldnt know me, Lewis says.Despite that background, before joining Burrells staff first as a volunteer, and then an assistant two years ago, coaching was something Lewis had never considered. Not until the 2012 Olympics.The reason why Im coaching here ultimately is because, when I was at London 2012, I was just appalled at how bad we were, Lewis says. The Americans mens team did not win a gold medal in the 100, the 200, the 400, the 4x100, the 4x400 and the long jump. And no one said a word. It was, Oh, OK, we got third in the long jump, and Oh, OK, we got a second in ... And I was like, Wait a minute, people. The American men did not win a gold medal in any of those events. That had never happened in Olympic history.Lewis matched Owens, won four consecutive long jump gold medals and a then-record tying nine golds, but he never accomplished his first goal: breaking Bob Beamons long jump record of 29 feet, 2? inches. He came close -- his best remains the third-longest jump on record at 29-1? at the 1991 World Championships. That same day, Mike Powell broke Beamons record with a leap of 29-4?, while Lewis leaped 29 feet three times. Before that, Lewis went undefeated in the long jump for a decade, winning 65 consecutive events.Since then, the long jump has become the shorter jump. Britains Greg Rutherford won gold at the 2012 Olympics with a leap of 27-3, more than a foot short of Lewis winning mark in 1988. Rutherford is winning, but hes not really winning, Lewis says. Its just that everyone else is losing. I told him to his face, Congratulations. Youre jumping well for you, but youll never get respect until you jump farther. Team USAs Will Claye, meanwhile, took bronze in London with a leap of 26-7?, or about an inch short of Owens world-record mark in 1935.There is no sport where some person from 80 years ago could consistently be competitive now. That makes us the worst event in the world, Lewis says. The reason I say its the worst event in the world is take the 1936 NFL champion, the best basketball team in the world then, the best baseball team, the best tennis player from 1936 -- none of them would even be remotely competitive now.Lewis isnt alone in criticizing the long-jump field.There were a lot of competitors that saw Carl Lewis jump 28 feet every week and they would say, I have to figure out what to do to jump that far. And now there is just no Carl Lewis left in the long jump, says Leroy Burrells son, Cameron, a sophomore sprinter and jumper at Houston. You would think more people would be paying more attention to the long jump, but, in actuality, theyre not because when people arent breaking world records or setting world records or jumping far, it gets boring after a while. So not many people are paying attention anymore.Fans have lost interest and were trying to get it back.Not everyone agrees with Lewis, though. Claye says Lewis might have been the greatest athlete to ever walk the earth, but if I was on the phone with Carl now, I would tell him, If youre saying these things about track and field and not trying to help, you should keep your mouth shut. While Lewis is helping athletes at Houston, Claye says he sat next to him at the Mt. SAC Relays last year, said hello and received just a half-hello back. Other than that, he hasnt heard from Lewis but says Olympians and medalists in the triple jump do reach out to him.I get calls from Willie Banks, Kenny Harrison, Jonathan Edwards, says Claye, who was the first athlete in 76 years to medal in both the long jump and the triple jump at the 2012 Olympics. They praise us and they want us to do better. I get the feeling Carl Lewis doesnt want us to be better than he was.Dwight Phillips, the last American to win gold in the long jump at Athens in 2004 with a leap of 28-2?, says he always wanted to emulate Lewis but that the track legend also is unique.He was a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, so by his measure [current long jump], performances probably arent very good, says Phillips, who is coaching long-jump star and Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. But I think that we have to share the right information if they arent good. I think I do a great job of helping athletes whether theyre my athlete or not. I just want them to defy the human limitations. I think Carl doesnt help as much. Hes a very caring person if he knows you. But if he doesnt know you, hes not going to say very much to you.Lewis insists the criticisms of the long jump and track arent personal. I tell people all the time that my dad used to always say, Dont get mad, get even. I never got mad. I got even.Thus, he is coaching the Houston jumpers, instructing them on how to position their arms, kick their legs and whether to have their hands open or closed so they jump farther.With me, its just little things, like my arms or how Im standing at the back of the runway. He focuses on every single little thing so you have a perfect jump, freshman Felicienne Axel says. I know that Im getting taught the right things. At times it can be frustrating because hes on a higher level and you need to reach that higher level. But its an honor.Lewis had something to sayWhether track and field is truly dying, it is less popular than it was in Lewis day. What then, would the sport be like for Lewis today if he were in his 20s and winning all the time? Or as Lewis ponders: Can you imagine what my career would have been like with Twitter?Imagine perhaps millions of worldwide followers, plus a wide range of nasty comments from non-fans, haters and trolls. Lewis success did not mean he was popular with everyone. He was so known for his ego that there was an Eddie Murphy-Joe Piscopo 1984 TV skit in which Murphy portrays Lewis and says, Im Carl Lewis! 14 times and brags he can out-race an airplane. The great hurdler Edwin Moses once said Lewis lacked humility.Even when he was trying to match Owens four gold medals during the 1984 Olympics, Lewis was booed at the Los Angeles Coliseum because fans thought he didnt try hard enough to break Beamons record by passing on his final four jumps. He passed because his first jump of 28 feet assured him of gold and Tellez had told him that trying more jumps would harm his upcoming heats and finals in the 200 and 4x100 relay.It wasnt what the press wanted to hear, Tellez says. They never asked me why he didnt jump twice. It was me, not Carl, that made that decision.There was a lot of criticism. People wanted to see him break the world record. But you dont go into that competition with that much pressure to win that many events and try to break the world record. You just dont break word records when you want to.Sports Illustrated didnt name him its 1984 Sportsman of the Year, instead bestowing the title on Mary Lou Retton and Moses, who each took home a single gold medal.Lewis had hoped for massive sponsorship deals after matching Owens, but he did not receive many in the States, though he did get lucrative deals abroad. He says he received just $300 when he was first paid to compete at a meet but that figure later soared to $100,000. He was constantly marketing himself. That benefited Lewis, and others as well. And he wants to see athletes at Houston follow that same path by spreading their brand globally just as he did.I think a person of his stature, he provided a lot of opportunities for athletes of today, Phillips says. Because of him, athletes are being paid appearance fees. Before him, that was unheard of. I can understand how he feels the sport has declined because he was making more money, more appearance fees than the athletes today.Says Burrell: I think Carl never shied away from saying what was on his mind. And I think the narrative at the time and in the media was, Thats arrogant. Now it would be, Thats expressive. He had something to say. He had the ability to utilize his talent for a platform, and he used it. ... He had to say what he had to say and he backed it up with good performances. Now, we would call that swag.Saying that some regarded him as an ass during his competitive career, Lewis counters that he was young and also working hard to build his own brand -- and tracks brand, as well.Someone has to be that ass---- to build that brand, because they have to take it for the team, he says. It wasnt a matter of, Ill put the sport on my shoulder, it was, I want to get paid. I want this and Ill do what I have to do. And then fortunately I was able to build a brand to bring the sport along that other players understood it -- Edwin Moses, Michael Johnson, they understood and we all went along together. But I took the brunt of it so no one else did.Burrell and Tellez say that Lewis was always a good, very generous teammate who helped and encouraged fellow athletes.Carl is extremely, extremely loyal to his friends. Almost to a fault, Burrell says. If youre in his corner, hell ride with you or die with you. A lot of people dont know that. But if youre an enemy, youre truly an enemy. You certainly dont want that.We need to get to the root of the issuesOf all his many victories, Lewis arguably most famous race was the 100 meters at the 1988 Olympics. Canadas Ben Johnson beat Lewis with a record time of 9.79, but Johnson later tested positive for steroids with the record erased and the gold medal handed to Lewis.In the years since, doping has become tracks dominating issue. Justin Gatlin won the gold medal in the 100 at the 2004 Olympics, two years after receiving a one-year ban for doping. He subsequently received a four-year ban in 2006 after testing positive again, yet he still won bronze in the 100 at the 2012 Games. He also ran a personal best 9.74 last year at age 33. Despite being 34 now and with his two doping bans, Gatlin is still the favorite to win at the U.S. Olympic trials, which begin Friday in Eugene, Oregon, and possibly beat Usain Bolt in Rio.Gatlin is by no means alone when it comes to doping controversy. Russia will not be allowed to compete in track and field at Rio following an investigation of widespread PED usage by athletes there. Several Kenyans might also be banned.But doping in track gets more headlines and attention than the actual events or winners.We in the sport have done damage to ourselves, Burrell says. The cheaters have done some damage to the sport, probably irreparable damage. But, you know, there are dopers in football, dopers in baseball, there are dopers in all sports. But it hasnt killed those sports or caused them to suffer as much as it has in track. Because I dont think America cares if a football player is using drugs or a baseball player is using drugs.But it seems to be that track athletes are so much that they keep talking about it, they keep accusing everyone who does well, and that causes damage to the sport.Lewis has long been an outspoken critic of doping and cheating. Although he tested for stimulants at the U.S. trials in 1988, he was cleared for inadvertent use and those 1988 levels would be considered acceptable under current International Olympic Committee rules. He estimates 10-15 percent of athletes dope but that the percentage could be much higher among those who win.How many people run the 100 meters? Thousands each year. And there may be 25 or 30 on drugs, he says. But that 25-30 maybe 50 percent of the finalists. ...I believe every athlete that tests positive should be immediately suspended indefinitely. Then there should be an investigation. Because right now they say, You get one year or youre gone. There are issues, whether its Maria Sharapova or any athlete, Where did you get it? What did you do? Whats the reason? Investigate. We need to get to the root of the issues.And one of the roots, once again, is how track and field handles the issue.Doping is an issue because track doesnt own its narrative, Lewis says. The NFL controls its narrative. The NBA controls their narrative. They have their own network, they have their own radio and theyre willing to protect their brand. Track? They have this little USATF TV. They dont have their own magazine, their own XM radio station. Theyre not thinking about marketing.Were in a culture of mediocrityFrederick Carlton Lewis says he is really two people. There is Carl, his athletic, public side; then, there is Frederick, the business side, the driving force behind his business, the one who runs the show. Lewis says that he, as Carl, would look in the mirror and get instructions from Frederick, who would tell him, Get it together, shave and get your ass out there.Another man in Lewis current mirror is Burrell. Lewis helped recruit Burrell to Houston -- they watched the 1985 Georgetown-Villanova Final Four title game on TV during the recruiting visit -- while Burrell helped Lewis come back to Houston as a coach.Lewis says he and Burrell, along with assistant coach Will Blackburn, decided they would run Houston track and field as an Olympic-based program. When Lewis recruits athletes, he says he isnt thinking short term but how they will compete five years and into the future. We wanted athletes who wanted to look me in the eye right in front of their parents and say, I want to be in the Olympics someday, and I want to be the best I can be.Not trying to be the best, Lewis says, is one factor in the decline of track and field: Were in a culture of mediocrity in America. You dont have to win to get anything now. He and Phillips also believe coaching is not as good as it was when Tellez was guiding them in biomechanics.Tellez says another factor is that kids are specializing in single sports these days.We used to get our high jumpers off the basketball court, which is where the highest jumpers were, but we dont get them anymore, Tellez says. Same with fast players in football. Theyre playing football all year. That, I think, is critical. They dont let kids go and try other sports.Part of that reason, Phillips says, is that kids see how basketball and football have become commercialized.They know that LeBron James signs a $100 million contract, he says. They know that Steph Curry signs a $200 million-plus contract. It becomes a dream. I want to make a lot of money. I want to be famous. I want to be on TV all the time. And we need to create that same type of culture [in track].Many see Lewis as a person who can help.Maybe he will get some people to the Olympic Games, Tellez says. Hes motivated enough to get kids to the Olympics and make them good. Hes on the right track. Hell find out how to do it. Hell figure out ways to get kids and make them better. It takes time to do that, but hes doing good.In addition to coaching, Lewis paid to have Houstons track resurfaced. But he still has a long way to go. Houston did not have a long jumper qualify for this years NCAA championships though it did finish second in the mens 4x100. It was a very young team, though, and Lewis is looking well down the track where he so often passed opponents. He says he is developing athletes for the 2020 and 2024 Games.The kids look at me differently because of my past success, Lewis says. I can talk to them in a way that maybe someone else my age cannot talk to them. I can be more honest with them. Another thing is I was actually there. I did it. There are so many little things that I can bring to the table that many other coaches cant. Cheap Atlanta Falcons Jerseys . Once again Jordan Cieciwa (@FitCityJordan) and I (@LynchOnSports) go head to head in our picks. Last weekend at UFC Fight Night 32 my #TeamLynch got the best of #TeamJC by a score of 9-6. Let us know which side youre on for UFC 167 use the hashtag #TeamLynch or #TeamJC on Twitter. Falcons Jerseys China . -- Arizona raced out to a big lead and did not back off, hitting the accelerator instead. http://www.cheapfalconsjerseysauthentic.com/ . Q: Team Canada announces their Olympic roster three weeks from today. Who is general manager Steve Yzerman watching? 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PITTSBURGH -- Matt Murrays breakout performance in last years Stanley Cup playoffs earned the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender a hefty raise.The 22-year-old and the team agreed to a three-year extension beginning next season that will pay Murray $3.75 million per season.Murray helped the Penguins to the franchises fourth championship last spring after taking over for injured Marc-Andre Fleury then held onto the job once Fleury returned from a concussion. Murray went 15-6 with a 2.08 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in the postseason. He would have been a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The new deal will keep him in the fold through 2020.Anybody in their right mind would want to be here, Murray said. Its awesome and Im really thrilled.The team approached Murray about a month ago and wasted little time ironing out the details. General manager Jim Rutherford called it a good deal for both sides. Murray will receive a significant bump from the $600,000 hell make this year but also doesnt leave the club cash strapped should things not pan out.Its why you do the bridge contracts, Rutherford said. Sometimes youre right and sometimes youre not. We have a young goalie thats had a very good career, hes won a Stanley Cup, played extremely well and we feel has a bright future ahead and a long future ahead.Murrray has yet to play this season while recovering from a broken hand suffered while playing for Team North America in the World Cup of Hockey.dddddddddddd While theres no timetable for his return, he practiced for a second consecutive day on Thursday. He called the fact he woke up on Thursday without any lingering pain from Wednesday a good sign.Im just trying to push myself in practice and see how it feels, Murray said.The extension will likely push the Penguins to make a decision at some point on who exactly is their franchise goaltender. Fleury, 31, is the winningest goalie in franchise history and is in the second year of a four-year extension he signed in 2014 that has an average annual value of $5.75 million. Rutherford, however, is in no hurry to reach a crossroads.Lets let this play itself out first, Rutherford said. Lets not just presume that Marc is automatically out. Hes been the franchise goalie here. Hes a terrific person. Hes a terrific player. That assumption (that hell be moved), were getting ahead ourself.Fleury will start on Thursday night when Pittsburgh hosts San Jose in a rematch of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Fleury is 2-1-1 with a 2.94 goals against average so far this season. ' ' '