A moment of the event ’AIPS Sport Media Awards meet Carl Lewis’. Photo by Maria Pia Beltran/AIPS Media
A moment of the event ’AIPS Sport Media Awards meet Carl Lewis’. Photo by Maria Pia Beltran/AIPS Media

Athletics legend Carl Lewis had a very insightful, engaging and fun chat with over 100 journalists covering the IAAF World Athletics Championships” on Monday, inside the Aspire Ballroom of the stunning Torch tower in Doha, Qatar.

In an event organised by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) in collaboration with the Qatar Sports Press Committee, the IOC’s “Sportsman of the Century”, who boasts ten Olympic medals — nine of them gold — over four Summer Games during a legendary seventeen-year career, reminisced about his incredible successes and gave his thoughts on how he currently sees his favourite sport.

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In a very special conference that lasted over an hour, Lewis, the only man to successfully defend both a 100m and long jump Olympic title, responded to questions, alongside compatriot Leroy Burrell, who twice set the world record for the 100m sprint.

Also on the panel, which was moderated by AIPS President Gianni Merlo, was Fillipo Tortu, the Italian finalist that brought back his nation to the top 8 at this year’s Worlds in 100 meters. Tortu carries his country’s hopes in the short sprint as he is the national record holder in the 100 meters with the time of 9.99 – the first ever Italian to dip below 10 seconds for the distance.

Tortu, who won the 100m gold medal at the 2017 European U20 Championships and silver medal at the 2016 World U20 Championships, finished in 7th place at his first ever world championships. He got an invaluable piece of advice from Lewis.

ADVICE TO TORTU “Focus your goal having it clear and without being afraid to tell it loud. This is your objective and you work with it always in your mind. Think of yourself as a business for your long term career and your training for your short term career so figure out how you are going to maximise this time. In anything you are going to have to make sacrifices. So now you are in professional track and field you have to think like a professional. Think of what you can do and what you and your manager can do to maximise this moment because you are going to build a brand.”

Tortu was glad to be with the legend: “I am studying Economics and would like to work in advertising, but in this moment the sport is my life. Why do I run? Because all my family lived in athletics and I got used to track and field as part of my life. But now I run because this makes me happy more than anything else, even the pressure that you can feel being part of the best in the world is less important than the joy that I feel doing what I love.”

IAAF NEEDS TO IMPROVE According to Lewis, athletics has not evolved like many other sports. “If you look at the way every single popular sport is run, it’s different.; the stadium looks spectacular the presentation is spectacular, they take care of every little detail. Even things like… why are we still putting numbers on our chests? They put numbers with pins? If we were thinking of television, we would take that off so that you will see the uniform on TV. We are just not progressing, we are just doing the same thing over and over. If you go to other sports, every little detail is taken care of and there is entertainment. These sports they become television shows they strived to get better and better.”

He also commented on the prize money the athletes are getting from the world championships. “My issue is that they pay 60,000 for the winner. We were paid 60,000 for the winner in 1997. So if you look at it in US Dollars – a cost of living increase – it should be 93,000 this year. So they are paying the same prize money and every year the athletes get less. So 30,000 is the value of gold medal now.”

TODAY’S SPRINT “It’s obviously very, very competitive but I don’t think it’s any more competitive at the championship level than it was back when we were competing . I think it’s just competitive throughout the season. So with all the technology and all the high performance tracks and everything else, we could have had second and third 30 years later.”

HUMAN SPORT What Leroy Burrell added gives us the chance to think about the future legacy of athletics: “Well, having been competing thirty years ago with timings that are still among the top three of the world means that athletics is still a human sport. What it’s important to think about, more than focusing on past years mistake is that we leave the sport better than it was and everybody can do this part for this.”

Source: AIPS Media

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