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Carl Lewis looks back on LA ’84 and forward to 2028

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Summer 2019 will mark 35 years since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Carl Lewis, a man who spent much of his career racing the clock for world records, is still unable to believe how quickly time passes.

“It’s insane that it’s gone by that quick,” he says, chuckling. “I’m 57 and I don’t know when this happened.”

Lewis won four gold medals in Los Angeles, matching the feat Jesse Owens accomplished in 1936. For Lewis, it was the start of an exquisite Olympic career that included 10 medals (nine gold) and spanned four Games. Asked what he remembers most about L.A., Lewis reflected in a phone interview this week, “Honestly, this sounds weird, [but] I don’t remember a lot. The stress level was so high…There was no time to even stop and think about it.”

With four events on his program in L.A., a then-23-year-old Lewis started the Games with four straight days of competition, competing in the prelims and final of the 100m and long jump. On his first day off, he got a haircut. Then came the 200m final, one more day off, and two days of relay competition. At the end of it, Lewis had gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump.

Lewis thought then that he’d retire in his 20s. But he continued to run with the Santa Monica track club, and after winning two more gold medals at his second Olympics in 1988, and then another two in 1992, “there [were] all these guys younger than me. I finished ’92 and said, ‘I’m still running with them, still as fast as them, so let’s just keep running until I can’t anymore. Without them, there’s absolutely no way it could’ve happened.”

At age 35, he won a final gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in his signature event, the long jump.

“I’m the luckiest Olympian ever,” Lewis says. “My first Games were in L.A., my hometown… And my last were in my home country.”

When he looks back at his Olympic accomplishments, Lewis says the first and the last medals he won are particularly memorable.

“To come back and do that [win long jump gold in Atlanta] at that age, that one really means a lot,” he says. “The reality is if I didn’t win the 100m in L.A., it all would’ve stopped…The most endearing one was the last one but the most important one without question was the first one.”

Lewis’ last competitive season was 1997. Before the Texas Relays that year, he was waiting at home for a floral delivery and told his teammates to leave for Austin without him. He’d catch up. “I ended up waiting for my plants…and then I thought, it’s time to retire if your plants are more important,” he says.

Lewis remains involved in track and field, now as a coach. After moving back to Texas in 2013, he started working as an assistant coach at the University of Houston, his alma mater.

Lewis never thought he would coach – he had too many other things he wanted to do outside of track. But after Leroy Burrell – a longtime friend, 1992 Olympic teammate and the head coach at Houston – approached him about it, he quickly saw an opportunity to grow sprinting talent at the collegiate level to help athletes reach their full potential.

Lewis says he sometimes feels even more emotionally invested watching his athletes than he did during his own competitions. “One thing was joy, this is pride,” he says. “I really feel happy that I’m helping someone else have that experience… I’ve had more emotions, high and low, coaching than I did [as an athlete].”

Lewis no longer runs – he was never much of a jogger, he says. Instead, he rides his bike around the neighborhood and even takes trapeze and aerial silks classes. When he isn’t coaching, he is a leader of the Perfect Method, a program designed to help athletes and coaches maximize performance. He’s also plenty busy keeping up with his granddaughter, Sapphire McKinley, who is two.

When Los Angeles hosts the Olympics for the third time in 2028, Lewis could be back at the Coliseum as a coach in the same place his Olympic story began 44 years earlier.

“That’s the interesting thing,” he says. “Back in that same stadium, trying to help someone do what I did.”

Lewis will be appearing on “Undeniable with Dan Patrick” on Wednesday night.

Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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