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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lewis to Make Fifth Olympic Appearance After All

ATLANTA -- With Michael Johnson having sapped the suspense out of the 400-meter final in the U.S. track and field Olympic trials with history's third-fastest time, the crowd of 16,735 at the Centennial Olympic Stadium had to depend on the long jumpers to provide the dramatics. They did not disappoint.


When the competition began Wednesday, the question on everyone's mind was whether Carl Lewis could make his fifth Olympic team. By the time it had reached its sixth and final round, the question was whether the world-record holder, Mike Powell, could make his third.


Both came through, but not without experiencing more than a few nervous moments. That was particularly true for Powell, who was in sixth place until his final jump. Only three men can represent the United States in the event in the July 19-Aug. 4 Summer Games here.


"I was scared," said Powell, the two-time world champion. "I hate that."


With the ensuing adrenaline rush, however, he not only jumped far enough to earn a berth on the team -- 27 feet 6 inches (8.38 meters) -- but won the competition. He also dropped Lewis from second place to third at 27-2 (8.28 meters).


At least two jumpers remaining in the competition seemed capable of beating that, which meant Lewis had to sweat. That was hardly a chore on a hot, humid night that began with a 56-minute rain delay and was punctuated throughout with thunder and lightning.


Erick Walder went first and jumped 26-11 (8.20 meters), finishing sixth. Mike Conley, the defending Olympic triple jump champion who already made this year's team in that event, lined up next. But within two steps of starting his approach, he began hobbling with a strained hamstring. He ran through the pit without jumping, finishing fourth at 27-1 (8.26 meters).


"I thought that Mike had the ability and the opportunity to go out there and jump farther," Lewis said. "I thought I'd be in fourth and have to go out there and win it on my last jump, like Mike Powell did."


That was not necessary. By 1 inch, Lewis made history. He became the first U.S. male track and field athlete to make five Olympic teams, starting, in the long jump, with the 1980 Games that the United States boycotted. Among women, sprinter Willye White was on five U.S. teams between 1956-72.


"This is a big relief," said Lewis, who will turn 35 on July 1. "Now, no matter what, I'm on the Olympic team -- again."


Lewis has a chance to join discus thrower Al Oerter as the only track and field athletes to win four gold medals in the same event after long-jump victories in 1984, '88 and '92. If he accomplishes that, he will tie Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi, Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina and U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz in the all-time individual gold medal count with nine.


But Lewis, Powell and Joe Greene, who finished second Wednesday night at 27-4 (8.33 meters), probably will have to jump farther than they did in this meet to win any medals, especially if they intend to duplicate their 1-2-3 finish from the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.


All three said it was their experience that allowed them to jump as far as they did in the swirling wind.


"It was ugly," Powell said.


In contrast, Johnson's run was almost a masterpiece. Until the last 20 meters, when he looked like he was carrying one of the hammer throwers on his back, he appeared to be threatening the world record. He finished in 43.44, his second-fastest ever after a 43.39 last summer and the fastest ever in the United States. It was his 53rd consecutive victory in a 400-meter final.


On Friday, he starts the 200 as he moves closer to his goal of becoming the first man to win those two events in the Olympics.


Butch Reynolds was second in the 400 in 43.91, his fastest time since he set the world record of 43.29 in 1988.