- 04 Aug 1984
- Los Angeles 1984
Golden boy Lewis leads Americans to relay triumph
The men’s sprint relay is generally the preserve of the United States, and so it proved in spectacular fashion at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Only in the boycott year of 1980 had the Americans failed to sweep to gold in the event dating to the inaugural running when they were disqualified to hand Great Britain the title in 1912.
Though a quartet would win glory at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the race was all about one man: Carl Lewis. The flowing American sprinter had captured three gold medals already in the Games and was on target to emulate the feat of the great Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and claim four.
Unusually for a top-flight relay event, and in particular given Lewis’s extraordinary workload, the same four American runners were used in all three rounds.
The quartet was led off by Sam Graddy, later an NFL player with the Denver Broncos and LA Raiders, who finished second in the individual event behind Lewis.
Next came Ron Brown, placed fourth in the individual final and a future LA Ram footballer, while the bend was run by world 100m record holder Calvin Smith who had failed to qualify from the Olympic trials.
They breezed through the heats and semi, and the only question marks over the final would be the winning distance and whether they could keep hold of the baton.
Everyone in the stadium knew what was at stake when Graddy settled in the blocks, another gold for the jubilant US team and an iconic landmark for Lewis.
The win was never in doubt. Smith was already yards clear when he handed the anchor leg to Lewis, who crossed the line with the scoreboard registering a new world record of 37.83secs.
The crowd went berserk and Lewis’s place in the history books was sealed.
But behind the celebrating Lewis another equally impressive story was coming to a close.
Don Quarrie, the versatile Jamaican sprinter, first qualified for the Olympics in Mexico 1968. He was the 200m champion from Montreal, where he also finished runner-up in the 100m.
In Los Angeles, Quarrie was competing in his last major competition and yet again he did his country proud. He had lost none of his prowess on the bend as he gave the baton to Ray Stewart who guided the foursome home for a memorable silver.