Sprint greats Lewis, Burrell tout merits of Pan American Games

Fred Sturrup is currently in Lima, Peru, as a part of a 2019 Pan American Games journalistic program. Following is his Sports Scope column from the games: 

LIMA, Peru — The events of the 18th Pan American Games, and the host factor, have galvanized Peru. The Peruvian Government set the tone by demonstrating its dedication to sports. Billions of sols, the native currency of Peru, which means millions upon millions of American dollars, have been spent to provide state-of-the-art facilities for 36 sporting disciplines.

At a special press conference on Monday, at the Main Press Center, celebrity guests Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell, extolled the values of the Pan Am Games to the Americas and emphasized the positive impact on their lives.

“The Pan Am Games happened to be my first international platform. I was just 17, but that was my start, internationally,” Lewis disclosed. Burrell credited the Pan Am Games with being sort of the centerpiece of track and field in the Americas. The Pan Am Games event, today, causes conflicting points-of-view.

There are those elite athletes of the Pan Am region who think of the games as not being a priority on their schedules. They opt for other engagements, rather than attend. On the other hand, there is Lewis and Burrell, two of the fastest men in history, and as another prime example, Elaine Thompson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, gracing the Pan Am scene here in Peru with their presence.

Thompson and Fraser-Pryce are two of the fastest women in the world. The multiple Olympic and World gold medalists in the 100 and 200 meters (m), and the sprint relay, obviously considered the Pan Am Games significant to their schedule this year, and an important plank in their already glorious legacies. The Pan Am Sports Organization (PASO) would do well to glean from the connection to Lewis, Burrell, Thompson and Fraser-Pryce this time around, some innovative marketing ideas for the future.

The American sprint legends and the gifted Jamaicans added a collective exquisite element to the games in Peru. They gave the games a dimension which was afforded respect and a higher status in the track and field world.

Inviting Lewis and Burrell was a great choice that paid dividends for PASO. The throng of the news personalities from the Americas and the wider world soaked up the information provided by the American pair.

To a question I asked about the formula for his longevity, versatility and consistency, Lewis, an Olympic 100m and long jump champion, was modest and credited wholesome surroundings, led by his mother and supplemented by quality associates and tough work ethics, as the factors.

“It was really simple. I just utilized what had been provided in my life and applied that and worked hard,” he said.

Burrell paid a tribute to Lewis, the man he succeeded as a world record holder in the 100 meters.

“I remember the first time I saw him. He stepped out of a red sports car and I remember thinking ‘I want to be like him.’ Later on, I got to associate with him because of our University of Houston background,” said Burrell.

Burrell also brought to the attention of the audience, the Bahamian Olympic medal trailblazer for athletics, Frank Rutherford. He won the first Olympic medal in athletics for the country, a triple jump bronze in 1992.

Rutherford was Burrell’s teammate at the University of Houston and remains a treasured member of the university’s fraternity, Burrell noted.

Just like during their fabulous careers, Lewis and Burrell were exceptional and added luster to the Pan Am environment in Peru.

• To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at e-mail address or on WhatsApp at (242) 727-6363.

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