Steve Lewis regains health, stride Wins 400 meters at New York Games


NEW YORK -- The virus still doesn't have a name. But Steve Lewis will tell you what it did to his running career.

Four years ago, he was one of the bright lights of the Summer Olympics, stealing away with the 400-meter men's gold medal. He never expected to grow rich and famous, but he never imagined falling ill in the summer of 1990, missing one season and part of another, then rebuilding his career almost from scratch.

Thirteen doctors told him he had a virus. But none could tell him its name, or how long it would last.

"I lost weight," he said. "I lost time. I used to be a night person. Stayed up to 1 in the morning. But all of a sudden, I was going to sleep at 5 in the afternoon. I had the shakes. I had fevers that shot up to 106 degrees. I couldn't work out. I couldn't do anything. I was so discouraged."

But Lewis is healthy again, and talking boldly about defending his gold medal at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain. At yesterday's New York Games, he ran through a swirling breeze that knocked over wind gauges and sent balloons flying to the sky, and led wire to wire to win the 400 in 44.85 seconds.

"Had I taken this race out fast, I would have died coming home," said Lewis, after finishing ahead of Trinidad's Alvin Daniel and Kenya's Samson Kiture. "Without the wind, it's hard to say how fast I could have run. But I'm in the best physical

shape I've ever been in."

In many ways, the New York Games served as a five-hour warm-up act for the world's top track and field stars. But on a holiday weekend with the New York Yankees in town and the Indianapolis 500 on television, only 8,842 spectators ventured to Columbia University's Wien Stadium.

So much for track and field's visibility in the United States.

But there was Carl Lewis, winning the long jump with a wind-aided leap of 28 feet, 7 1/2 inches, and pronouncing himself ready for an Olympic assault.

"I was looking forward to jumping farther," said Lewis, who also jumped 28-1, the longest legal jump of the year. But his concentration was rattled after Llewellyn Starks, the world's fourth-ranked jumper, suffered a compound fracture of his right leg on his third attempt.

With the injury to Starks, world-record holder Mike Powell, Lewis and Larry Myricks are now overwhelming favorites to represent the United States at the Olympics.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee pulled off an impressive double with wins in the long jump (23-6 1/4 ) and 110 hurdles (13.16).

Said Aouita, a five-time world-record holder and the 1984 Olympic 5,000-meter champion, out-leaned John Trautmann at the tape to win the mile in 3:58.20.

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