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Olympic Track and Field Champions: Where Are They now?

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Many former Olympic track and field stars are now coaches. Others are public speakers, authors, entrepreneurs or politicians. Find out what your favorite names from track and field’s past are doing today.

Sprint

Tommie Smith and John Carlos: Best-remembered for the black-gloved protest they performed at the 1968 Olympics, it’s easy to forget that the pair were elite sprinters – how else would they have arrived at the medals stand? Smith won the gold and Carlos the bronze in the 100 meters at the Mexico City Games.

Additionally, Smith won the 220-yard title at the 1967 NCAA National Championships, running for San Jose State College, and also won the national AAU title at that distance. Smith repeated his NCAA 220 championship in 1968 and finished second to Carlos at the Olympic Trials. He set a world 400-meter record in 1967.

Carlos won the 200 meters at the 1967 Pan-American Games and set indoor records in the 60-yard (5.9) and 220-yard (20.2) events. He also enjoyed success after the Olympics. In 1969 he tied the world 100-yard record (9.1), won the AAU 220 and led San Jose State to the NCAA championship, winning the 100 and 220 and running on the victorious 4 x 110-yard relay squad.

Today, both Smith and Carlos are involved in multiple activities, including public speaking. The two recently concluded a joint speaking tour where they discussed the events of the 1968 Olympics. Smith’s autobiography, “Silent Gesture,” was published in 2007. Smith was a long-time sociology professor as well as track and cross country coach at Santa Monica College. Carlos is a counselor and in-school suspension supervisor at Palm Springs (Calif.) High School. “Why: The Biography of John Carlos,” written with C.D. Jackson, was published in 2000.

Wyomia Tyus: Tyus was the first woman to repeat as the Olympic 100-meter champion, winning gold medals in 1964 and ’68. She also earned two Olympic medals in the 4 x 100 relay, winning a gold in 1968 and a silver in ’64. Tyus won the 200 at the 1967 Pan-American Games and won eight national AAU championships. She held world records in both the 100-meter and 100-yard events.

Tyus has worked as a track coach and was a founding member of the Women’s Sports Foundation. She’s worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Black Studies Center at UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Lee Evans: Evans earned gold medals in the 400 and the 4 x 400-meter relay at the 1968 Olympics, setting world records in both events that stood for 20 years. He won the 400 at the 1967 Pan American Games and won five national AAU championships in that event.

Evans has traveled the globe to coach and assist athletic programs, primarily in Africa. He’s led programs and coached in nations including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Cameroon and was the sprint coach for the All-African team at the first World Cup in 1977. Today he’s the head cross country/track and field coach at the University of South Alabama.

Sprint/long jump

Carl Lewis: The most dominant athlete of his era, Carl Lewis earned nine Olympic gold medals, two in the 100, one (plus a silver) in the 200, four in the long jump and two in the 4 x 100- meter relay, in addition to eight world championships. Lewis also qualified for the 1980 Olympic team but the U.S. boycott prevented him from making his Olympic debut. He owned a 10-year, 65- meet winning streak in the long jump that was only broken by Mike Powell’s world record performance in the 1991 World Championships.

Lewis now lives in Los Angeles. As an actor he’s appeared as himself and as various characters in many productions. His roles have included playing himself in Speed Zone! (1989), a reporter in Material Girls (2006), and he had a role in Tournament of Dreams (2007).

Long jump

Mike Powell: Powell set the world long jump record of 8.95 meters (29-feet, 4.5 inches) at the 1991 World Championships. He also won the World Championship in 1993, earned Olympic silver medals in 1988 and 1992 and gained six U.S. championships, in 1990 and 1992-96. He won 34 consecutive events in 1993-94 and earned the Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete in 1991.

Powell recently ended three years as men’s and women’s jumps coach at UCLA. He currently serves as a track and field ambassador for the IAAF and coaches individual athletes.

Bob Beamon: Beamon destroyed the world long jump record with his leap of 8.90 meters (29.feet, 2.5 inches) at the 1968 Olympics, beating the previous world mark by almost two feet. He won NCAA indoor long jump and triple jump championships for the University of Texas-El Paso. He won two national AAU championships.

Beamon has worked in business, public relations and done motivational speeching. Among his current interests is the Bob Beamon Organization for Youth, a non-profit organization designed to benefit children. He runs the Bob Beamon Golf & Tennis Classic, which benefits the Beamon Organization. With his wife, Milana Walter Beamon, he is co-author of his autobiography, “The Man Who Could Fly.”

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