Matters of centimeters
Mike Powell raised his right arm and imitated playing the piano, remembering his music lessons from when he was a child, dialling on some concertation. Focus was vital. Round one…..The rivalry between the American born athletes Mike Powell and Carl Lewis is an example of one of the greatest competitions ever in any sport. Rivalries make sport what it is. Undoubtedly, the 1991 World Championships are best remembered for the long jump final between the two. Lewis at that point had not lost in a decade, conquering 65 consecutive meets. Round after round putting in leaps that surpassed those of Powell. Constant defeats, however, were unable to bring Powell down. To make things serious, Powell brought himself to Lewis’ attention by winning the silver medal at the 1988 Olympics. The rivalry continued as Powell endured loses in hopes to defeat Lewis one day.Conquering Lewis became an obsession for Mike. “Beating Carl was the ultimate ambition. An obsession of sorts. He was the best all-around athlete of all time and was the benchmark that I had to achieve and be better,” said Powell.Powell’s resilience in the face of these hardships brought him face to face once again with Carl in Tokyo at the World Championships in 1991. What the world witnessed next was nothing short of a miracle......Powell sprinted ferociously toward the board to make his first jump; this was it. A leap of faith intertwined with hard work. He stretched at the last second just behind the line and ended with a poor first attempt. He immediately knew it. He got up from the pit ireful and clapped his hands together. There was no place for faltered attempts.
Following this wasted attempt by Powell, Lewis began his run with sheer concentration in hopes to continue his winning streak. A commendable effort this time, but it was still not enough to reach the heights that Mike had already achieved. A final jump of 8.84m by Lewis concluded the competition in favour of Mike Powell. By refusing to succumb to his circumstances of consistent defeats Powell was finally able to end the long winning streak of 15 – 0.
Lewis' reaction to the greatest competitions ever in the sport was to acknowledge Powell’s achievement. 'He just did it,' Lewis said of Powell's leap to immortality. 'It was that CLOSE, AND it was the best of his life.'
It was the indispensable need TO overcome Lewis that brought OUT the best of Powell. “I knew IN my heart Carl Lewis wasn’t invincible AND I had TO prove it TO the world. I don’t remember what I was saying TO myself, but I DO remember saying Carl isn’t safe yet. I couldn’t let him win again AND make it 16 IN a row. FOR my confidence AND my esteem AS an athlete, I had TO beat him. CALL it vanity, CALL it ego, it had TO happen.”
A perfect sprint WITH the world watching, most importantly Lewis. Powell “smelt roses AND blew candles” AS he neared the board AND jumped TO infinity. “The moment I was IN the air, I realised it was big. How big I had NO idea, but ON landing I was fairly confident I was CLOSE,” remembers Powell.
Lewis, the man who was supposed TO break Beamon’s record, retired without quenching his thirst of setting a NEW world record. Nonetheless, the LAST three jumps made BY BOTH contenders still stand AS world records AT low altitude TO this day. They are still considered the best of athletes of ALL time. Mike Powell AND Carl Lewis – ONE of the most incredible rivalries the world has ever seen.