How Olympic Legend Carl Lewis Was Inspired to Surpass His Idol

Season 6 Episode 616
WIth 10 Olympic medals to his name, nine of them gold, track and field star Carl Lewis is certainly one of the greatest athletes we've ever seen. It's funny to consider that Carl was once a teenager looking up to other athletes for inspiration.

Recently, for Oprah: Where Are They Now?, the living legend shared how a few words from track star Jesse Owens sent him down his record-breaking path. As Carl tells it, Jesse, who had four Olympic gold medals to his name, came to speak at a track meet. He told stories about how "this funky little kid found so much success."

Later, with Jesse's words echoing in his head, Carl tried to break his idol's record at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Carl broke it—and then some. Jesse, who had held the record for decades, was also the person who inspired Carl to surpass him.

"When you meet someone like that, you admire them your whole life," Jesse says, "and then when I decided to try, people said, 'You can't do it. You can't do it.' I just felt that spirit I got to try it."

Additionally, Carl was moved by Jesse's stories of overcoming racial prejudice. "When Jesse talked about going to Berlin and having to go up the service elevator because of the color of his skin. All of those things, it inspired me to not be afraid to try."

Tune in Sunday, July 24, at 10/9c for the Oprah: Where Are They Now? special "Olympic Legends."