Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Justin Gatlin. The names conjure up blistering excitement for an event that lasts mere seconds. And after the 100-meter dash and a few other must-see finals in London, track will fade just as quickly for another four years. It's part of what makes the Olympics so anticipated, but sees the sport struggle for attention in between.
Carl Lewis is no stranger to this phenomenon. The nine-time Olympic gold medalist has dedicated much of his life to helping grow the discipline. For the past six years, he's worked with Hershey's Track and Field Games to get children involved and excited about the sport.
"I actually got my start by participating in an event that was similar," Lewis said. "Though the majority of participants do not make it all the way to the Olympics, many of them take something away from the Games like lasting relationships and sense of self-worth."
Lewis is headed to London to watch those who have made it onto the world's biggest stage, in particular American sprinter Justin Gatlin in the 100-meter dash. Although many analysts will point to Yohan Blake's recent victory over his Jamaican countryman Usain Bolt in the event, Lewis believes Gatlin has a real shot.
"This is the first race in history where two people have the opportunity to be a repeat winner," Lewis said, noting both Gatlin and Bolt have taken home the gold in the 100 meters in the past. "This is the story to watch."
Fans should also keep an eye on the women of Team USA, Carmelita Jeter in particular. She didn't make the team that went to Beijing in 2008, but won the 100 at the U.S. Olympic trials in June, securing her spot for London. Many around the sport have low expectations for Jeter and her teammates, but Lewis doesn't agree. Lewis says they'll outperform their critics, and he'll be in the front row cheering them on.
That is, when he's not checking out his latest fascination.
"I recently met a few fencers," Lewis said, "and am really looking forward to going to see them compete."
-- Follow Adam Watson on Twitter @AdamKWatson.