We met Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis at the Hershey's Store in Manhattan. The champion sprinter and long jumper is the celebrity ambassador for the 35th annual Hershey's Track and Field Games.
Here's our interview:
Tell us about the Hershey and Track Field Game.
It's wonderful! Where kids get to compete in track and field and some go to Hershey Park in August to go to the North American finals. But almost 500,000 kids every year get a chance to participate. So anyone could go out and play. Families enjoy it because they could go out and watch their kids play. And they could prepare them for it and it's been going on for 35 years. I love it because it's kids from 9 to 14. So all you guys are in the age group and all of you could do it. So we want to see you guys out there this year. So I could see you at the finals hopefully.
How fast could you run the 100 sprint and how fast can you run now?
I was the fastest man in the world back when I use to run. I ran a 9.86 in 100 meters. Now I'm one of the fastest 50-year-olds in the world. Which is a lot slower than when I ran 9.86. But it's OK. Comparing me in retirement is like you guys, remember when you left kindergarten and they made a big deal when you left kindergarten. It's the same thing.
Do you have any brothers or sisters and are they athletes?
I have two older brothers, much older brothers. They wouldn't like me saying that, and one younger sister. They were all athletes. My oldest brother played soccer, the other brother ran track and my sister, Carol, ran track and field also. She and I were on three Olympic teams together. When I was your age (12) she was the best athlete in the country and I was like really bad
At what age did you start running?
I started running at about 8 years old. Just about the time that everyone started and I had so much fun. It's just like this -- if you're going into sports, you go in to have fun. When I was started, I wasn't very good. I didn't know that having fun was only winning. I thought having fun was just being out with my friends. So if you do any sports just go and have fun with your friends because I was like the smallest kid, the slowest kid in the world like when I was your age and then I grew up and went the fastest. So you never know. So just go out and have fun at it. And the key to having fun is setting your own goals. So you say I want to do "X" it doesn't matter what place I come in. If I set my own goal, then I achieved it. So I used to come across the line like in 7th place and they'd say what was my time, yes and I'd be cheering and people in the stands would say, "What's he cheering for? He just got seventh." But I was having fun because I set my own goals.
What's your technique for winning?
It's preparation. It's the exact same for everyone. Monday through Friday I prepare. And I used to always say you win in practice and you show it in the meet. So in practice you work hard all week to prepare. It's just like anything you do. You do well in a test in school, when? When you study. And when you do your homework and stuff or in the Hershey Track and Field Games when you practice . . . and when you finish practice, then you get awards.
Did you do other sports?
Yes I did. I played soccer, I swam, I played baseball one year. I did all kinds of sports. I love sports growing up.
What are you currently doing now?
Other than working with Hershey and the Track and Field games I have my own company. So I travel the world. I'm a United Nations Ambassador for the Food and Agricultural Organization. I'm trying to help feed the hungry. I have other relationships with other companies, with Nike and some other people. I have a wonderful life I enjoy every day and I get a chance to end up in a Hershey store all the time. So you know I'm happy.
What is your favorite event?
In track and field? Oh, the long jump. I set a world record at Madison Square Garden in the long jump and it still stands to this day. That was my favorite event and I used to run the 100 meters, the 200 meters. Those were the other ones. I was a long jumper.
Was racing a passion or just to compete?
It was a passion for me. I love to run. I always loved my whole life. I was lucky my parents were coaches, I used to run with all my friends and have a great time with it. I grew up doing that and I was fortunate that that was my calling to be an Olympic runner because I loved it so much. Because I ran it and competed for the fun of it as a child, it was almost like it was a reward to have that my whole life.
If you could go back in time what would you change?
If I changed anything I wouldn't be standing here. So I don't want to change anything.
What was your early life like?
Here's the deal now. My parents were teachers. I went to one of their schools almost my entire life. My parents were coaches. I ran track. Studying was important etc. all of that. I would go to school all day and my parents were there. We'd get home we'd go to dinner and then go to track practice, they were there. Like we'd go to track meets on weekends, it was like going on vacation every weekend. My mother would pack of big thing of fried chicken. I loved the fried chicken. And all that stuff and we'd go to track meets. So it was like going on vacation all the time. So it was a wonderful life growing up.