Olympian visits UH
Thirty years have passed since track and field champion Frederick Carlton Lewis arrived at UH. Although the campus has expanded, the students and the feel of UH have not changed, Lewis said.
Lewis entered UH in 1979 on an athletic scholarship, and excelled under the guidance of former UH track and field coach and assistant Olympic coach Tom Tellez.
‘The first thing (Tellez) did was he told me what he could do for me,’ Lewis said. ‘He said, ‘I can help you become an Olympic champion. I can help you with your school.”
Tellez formed a bond with Lewis that carried them through nearly two decades on the track.
‘He said, ‘I will always coach and I will never ask for anything,’ and he kept his word. In 18 years we never left the track angry at each other.’
Lewis said he would have never developed into a star athlete without Tellez’s and UH’s influence.
‘If I hadn’t come here, you wouldn’t have known me,’ Lewis said. ‘I feel that strongly.’
Lewis’ astonishing accomplishments include 10 Olympic medals, nine of which are gold.
ewis took gold in the long jump on three occasions, and won six gold medals in sprinting events (100 meters, 200m, 400m).
Although Lewis’ talent is a product of his hard work, he credits most of his success to Tellez’s career and athletic guidance.
‘I probably would have been injured, because I came here with a bad knee and coach Tellez changed my techniques,’ Lewis said. ‘A lot (of my success) came because I came to the University of Houston, and people took interest,’ Lewis said.
Born on July 1, 1961 in Birmingham, Ala., and raised in Willingboro, N.J., Lewis moved to Houston to join of UH’s track and field squad.
Although he is not a native Houstonian, Lewis has fond feelings for this city. This attitude is illustrated in his desire to see the International Association of Athletic Federations hold the World Championships in Houston.
‘I think it would be a great event here,’ he said. ‘Anything that can be good to the city of Houston means a lot. Houston will always be a very important part, no matter where I am.’
Lewis said he is excited about the direction of the UH Athletic Department, including the hiring of Athletic Director Mack Rhoades because he is seeing improvements in areas like football and soccer.
He believes the track and field program is still capable of competing for national championships.
‘I talked to the kids yesterday, and now there is expectation at UH,’ Lewis said. ‘I would love to see UH get back in the top five. We are the one school in the country that can break up this monopoly of the Bowl Championship Series.’
The International Olympic Committee named Lewis Sportsman of the Century in 1999, the same year Sports Illustrated in 1999 honored him as Olympian of the Century.