Wednesday, July 17, 2024
HomeWorldCarl Lewis opens up on Louis Hinchcliffe’s journey from broken student to...

Carl Lewis opens up on Louis Hinchcliffe’s journey from broken student to potential Olympic finalist – as he backs his protege to become one of Britain’s greatest ever sprinters

Carl Lewis was on holiday in Bali last summer when he received an unexpected message on WhatsApp. The sender was a British student and the text read: ‘Can you fix me?’

“I’d never heard of him,” Lewis admits of the athlete who approached him out of the blue in hopes of a transfer to the University of Houston, where he is head coach. ‘But I looked him up and then spoke to him on the phone.

‘My conversation with him was, “I can fix you if you’re willing to work and I think you can make your Olympic team.” I told him that in the first conversation. There was no guarantee, but I thought he would have a chance.”

Well, fast forward eleven months and that student, Louie Hinchliffe, will get his chance at the British Olympic Trials on Saturday – and Lewis will be in Manchester to support him.

“I’m excited for him,” the nine-time Olympic champion told Mail Sport from Houston before travelling to Britain. “He’s a great young man. He’s unique.

Carl Lewis (above) got a text from Louie Hinchliffe last summer that said,

Carl Lewis (above) got a text from Louie Hinchliffe last summer that said, “Can you fix me?”

After being coached by Lewis, Hinchliffe gets his chance at the British Olympic qualifiers on Saturday

After being coached by Lewis, Hinchliffe will get his chance at Saturday's British Olympic Trials

After being coached by Lewis, Hinchliffe will get his chance at Saturday’s British Olympic Trials

‘I think he’s going to be one of the best sprinters Britain has ever had and if I’d said that a year ago everyone would have thought I was crazy.’

When Hinchliffe first contacted Lewis last year, his personal best was just 10.17 seconds, leaving him a paltry 11th in the British rankings in 2023. But the Sheffield sprinter has lowered his record to 9.95 seconds after moving from Washington State University to Houston to work under Lewis.

READ ALSO  Rains help firefighters gain ground on large wildfires in southern New Mexico

That time, which he set when he became the first European to win the US collegiate men’s 100m title earlier this month, is the fastest by a Briton this year. He now needs to finish in the top two in Saturday night’s final at the Manchester Regional Arena to secure his place in Paris, with national record holder Zharnel Hughes out through injury.

“If he stays focused he should be in the top two,” Lewis insists. “We’re not trying to do something different, we’re just trying to do something again. If you run 9.95, you’ll probably get there. And there has never been an Olympic Games where someone who ran 9.9 did not reach the final.’

How did Lewis turn a broken student into a potential Olympic finalist?

“When I got him on the phone and said, ‘What do you need fixed?’ he was talking about his back and his hamstring,” explains the American sprint and long jump legend, who won four gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics 40 years ago. “Sprinting is technique, it’s mechanics. So I said, ‘I can fix your mechanics, and if I fix your mechanics, you won’t get hurt.’

“He had the buy-in to do something completely different and learn a different technique. When he didn’t do it for three days in a row, I yelled at him, ‘Dude, I told you you want to be healthy, you want me to fix you, do what I tell you to do.’ He respected that and did it.”

Lewis celebrates his victory in the men's 4x100m relay in 1992

Lewis celebrates his victory in the men's 4x100 meter relay in 1992

Lewis was elected "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee in 1999

Lewis was voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee in 1999

Lewis, who won nine golds in a stellar career, is considered one of the greatest Olympians ever

Hinchliffe, who studied at Lancaster University before moving to the US in January 2023, first caught the attention of track and field fans in Britain when he ran a wind-aided 9.84 seconds in May. In an interview with the Mail Sport after that breakthrough, he joked about his own technique, admitting it wasn’t “elegant” and that he was running as if he was “holding a rugby ball”.

“We’re working on that!” Lewis laughs. “His arms are way out from his body. We’re working on bringing them in.

‘It will take time, but he will become smoother and run faster. We are evolving. We have only had nine months and are watching his improvement. He has all the tools. He will be great for years to come.”

As an athlete who was truly great for years, Lewis believes his experience can help Hinchliffe deal with the hype surrounding him.

“That’s part of my job,” he says. ‘I have won nine Olympic gold medals. I won the 100m three times at the World Championships and twice at the Olympic Games. So it’s like, “Dude, I know what to do, I know how to deal with it, I know what you’re going through.”

‘Everything goes so fast for him. That’s my biggest thing, taking things slow so he doesn’t get distracted.

“He’ll be coming back to Houston to train straight after the trials. He’s got to stay focused. At the end of the year we want to say he’s been to the Olympics, made the final and helped Great Britain win the relay.”

READ ALSO  Carl Weathers gets golf tournament named in his honor

Lewis finds it funny that he is now inadvertently helping the British team, given his past rivalry with Linford Christie, who will also be in Manchester this weekend coaching his athletes.

Hinchliffe (right) has already set an astonishing pace as the sixth fastest Briton of all time

Hinchliffe (right) has already reached an astonishing pace as the sixth fastest Briton of all time

Hinchliffe (right) has already reached an astonishing pace as the sixth fastest Briton of all time

“I’m looking forward to seeing Linford,” Lewis added. “We had a big rivalry where we went back and forth. But then you retire and you become a human being, you become a father and a grandfather, and we had a nice chat at the World Championships in Budapest last year.

‘It’s going to be interesting at the trials because I’m there with an athlete who’s trying to win the British trials, whereas I’ve always tried to beat the British people. It’s a unique space that I never thought I’d be in, but here we are.

‘The hardest part about coaching is watching. I still get nervous. It’s like they’re your children. I don’t know how my mum did it! But I’m looking forward to Louie doing well and being part of the British team.’

WATCH VIDEO

DOWNLOAD VIDEO

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE
- Advertisment -

RECENT POSTS

- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -