Taipei-Legendary athlete Carl Lewis, who is serving as assistant coach of the United States track and field team to the Taipei Universiade, said Tuesday that the event offers a unique opportunity for athletes because it gives them an experience similar to the Olympic Games.
"All our athletes are young it's really exciting because they are getting what a true Olympic experience is," Lewis said at a press conference at the Taipei Municipal Stadium after the U.S. team held a practice session there.
The experience is one that even a world championship "doesn't give you," the 56-year-old retired track and field star added.
Lewis is the winner of nine Olympic gold medals in track and field and is the only man to have won the Olympic long jump title four consecutive times.
At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, he won four gold medals -- in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 4x100-meter relay and long jump. His 1984 world record of 8.79 meters in the indoor long jump still stands.
In addition to the four gold medals in the Los Angeles Olympics, Lewis also won one silver and two gold medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, two gold medals at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and one gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Head coach of the U.S. Universiade track and field team Leroy Burrell, who also attended the press conference along with members of the team, said their goal is to win 10 medals in Taipei against what he describes as strong competition.
The team also wants to enjoy the games and learn more about Taiwanese culture during their stay, said Burrell, who is also a former track and field athlete and previous world record holder for the 100-meter sprint.
The U.S. track and field team comprises mostly students from the University of Houston and includes the coach's son, sprinter Cameron Burrell.
"I will definitely use this experience as a learning experience, or a stepping-stone to go to the Olympics because that has always been one of my aspirations," said Cameron Burrell.
He ran 9.93 seconds to take silver in the 100-meter dash at this year's NCAA Championships, breaking his father's 1989 school record of 9.94 seconds.
Meanwhile, discus thrower Valarie Allman, who competed in the 2015 Gwangju Universiade, said the university games have helped her and shown her what it takes to be competitive at the next level.
"It's really exciting to be in a community where athletes are also celebrated as students," and a sense of continued learning is encouraged, she said.
Asked about the future of track and field, Lewis said he and coach Burrell are both involved in a youth track and field club and their objective is to grow the sport and teach young people to grow the sport.
"Because as time goes on, as we've gone through the last 10 or 15 years, the last 10 years especially, the sport hasn't grown," he said "That's what we're teaching young people at the University of Houston, that you need to make your job unique andgrow your sport and not just grow yourself."
On the question of what he might like to tell young aspiring sprinters, Lewis said, "fast people are everywhere. Just don't feel like there's any reason you can't run fast."
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel