Jamaica Observer: He Ugly American is a novel written in the late 1950s which carries a central theme that has evolved over the years (or devolved) into an American believing that he is exceptional and that other cultures are not even worth the time spent trying to understand them.
Former American Olympian Carl Lewis easily fits into that slot.
In 1984, the decade when many American athletes and the Eastern Europeans were charged up on drugs, Lewis won four gold medals, including the two sprint medals at the Olympics. Give him credit for that.
At the 1988 Olympics Lewis took silver in the 200 metres and also, for a brief moment, silver in the 100 behind the Canadian (Jamaican-born) Ben Johnson. A few minutes later Johnson was stripped of his medal after his system was found to be overloaded on a performance-enhancing drug. Lewis was awarded the gold and was lauded for capturing the back-to-back 100 metres title.
During that decade, one special Jamaican woman — Merlene Ottey — found herself on the wrong side of gold medal history. The rumours were many that the Eastern Europeans and some of the Americans were ‘juiced up’, but proving it was next to impossible. We were the sprats and they were the big money tiger sharks.
Years passed and the rumours refused to die down.
In an article titled, ‘Lewis: No Scholarships for Foreigners’ in the Inquirer of June 3, 1994, it was stated, ‘Eight-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis lashed out yesterday at US universities who offer scholarships and financial aid to foreign athletes.
“We are bankrolling the world Olympic movement when we should be helping our Olympic movement,” Lewis told Reuters news agency in an interview at the NCAA Track and Field championships in Boise, Idaho, where he is helping to coach the University of Houston’s 400-metre relay team.
“In the 1976 Olympics, I don’t know of any African sprinters in the finals of the 100 or 200,” Lewis said. “In 1992, there were three in the 100, and they ended up second, sixth and eighth.”
At that time American coaches would regularly visit Champs in Jamaica to scout for talent. After the highly influential Lewis sounded off, the talent hunt was severely curtailed.
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Janet Shan is a freelance journalist and managing editor of the Hinterland Gazette, who is working on her first novel, a mystery based in the hills on Montego Bay.