Olympic legend Lewis to share memories at Dubai conference

DUBAI — Carl Lewis, one of the most celebrated athletes in Olympic history, will be the headline act at next week's International Sports Innovation Conference alongside other prominent sports champions and champions of tolerance from around the world.

Organized by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award, which is a Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiative, the first International Sports Innovation Conference will be held on Nov. 18 at the Hilton Al Habtoor under the theme “Tolerance and Peace in Sport”.

Lewis — winner of nine Olympic gold medals and a silver in a storied track and field career — will be sharing his “Champion Experience” in the final session of the conference.

The General Secretariat of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Award had earlier announced the participation ofKirsty Coventry, Africa’s most decorated Olympian and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation; Dr. Sonia Ben Cheikh, Tunisia's Minister of Youth and Sports; Ms. Daniela Bas, director of the Division For Inclusive Social Development at the United Nation's Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and former Egyptian judoka Mohamed Ali Rashwan, winner of a silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games, and the 1985 and 1987 World Judo Championships.

Rashwan and Bas will be sharing the dais in the opening session of the Conference, which is titled “Sports — Language of Tolerance”, while Ben Cheikh and Coventry will take centerstage in the second session, titled “Sports Diplomacy”.

The organizers, however, have saved the best for last with American track and field legend Carl Lewis sharing his memories that include winning 10 World Championship medals as well, eight of which were gold, and setting world records in the 100m, 4×100m, 4×200m relays and the indoor long jump, which has stood since 1984.

The only man to successfully defend an Olympic long jump title, Lewis is one of only three Olympic athletes to win a gold medal in the same individual event — long jump in his case — in four consecutive Olympic Games.

The others on that elite list are Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm, discus thrower Al Oerter of the US and his compatriot, swimmer Michael Phelps.

Besides the four long jump gold medals at the Olympic Games, Lewis won the 100, 200m and 4x100m relay gold on his Olympic debut at home in Los Angeles in 1984 to match Jesse Owens' feat of winning four gold medals in the same events at a single Olympic Games (1936 Berlin).

Four years later in 1988 Seoul, Lewis defended his 100m crown and bagged a silver in the 200m, and in 1992 Barcelona, he added another 4x100m relay gold to his collection.

Lewis’ haul of nine Olympic gold medals puts him in second place — alongside Paavo Nurmi, Larisa Latynina, and Mark Spitz — on the list of most Olympic gold medals won by an individual, behind Phelps’s astounding aggregate of 23 golds. His 65 consecutive victories in the long jump, achieved over a span of 10 years, is one of the sport's longest undefeated streaks.

Lewis’ success has earned him many accolades and he was voted “World Athlete of the Century” by the International Association of Athletics Federations and “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee in 1999.

His success, perhaps, was destined as Lewis was born into a family of athletes. His mother, Evelyn, was a hurdler who represented USA at the 1951 Pan-Am Games.

His elder brother, Cleveland, played professional football for the Memphis Rogues, and sister Carol was an elite long jumper who won bronze at the 1983 World Championships, while his father, William was coach at a local athletics club run by parents.

Outside of track and field, Lewis was a surprise draft by the Chicago Bulls in the 1984 NBA Draft as the 208th overall pick, although he had played neither high school nor college basketball. Since his retirement, he has appeared in numerous films and television productions as well.

Lewis presence at the conference will be a great boon for budding young athletes of the country and region, especially the six young MBR Sports Creativity Ambassadors who will take the stage in the third session.

They are: UAE’s Omar Al Marzooqi, winner of an individual showjumping silver medal at last year’s Youth Olympic Games in Argentina; Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Al Assiri, winner of a karate gold medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games; Ahmed Elgendy of Egypt, who confirmed his status as one of the best young pentathlete in the world by winning gold at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games; Tunisia's Ines Boubakri, who became the first Tunisian fencer ever to win an Olympic medal when she won bronze at the 2016 Games; Moroccan Fatima Zahra Abou Fares, who entered the record books last year when she became the first Arab to win a taekwondo gold at the Youth Olympic Games; and Ahmad Abughaush of Jordan, who won the 68kg taekwondo gold at the 2016 Olympic Games, becoming Jordan's first Olympic medal winner. — SG