Carl Lewis was the world’s fastest sprinter in the 1980s. Usain Bolt is considered the fastest athlete ever. Lewis won 10 Olympic medals; Bolt has won 9 and is the only man to win the “sprint double" - the 100m and 200m - in three separate Olympics. Bolt also holds the world record in the 100m and 200m categories. During the 2012 London Olympics, Bolt made controversial remarks criticizing Lewis for his comments that anti-doping mechanisms in Jamaica were poor.

Comparison chart

Carl Lewis versus Usain Bolt comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartCarl LewisUsain Bolt
  • current rating is 3.98/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(103 ratings)
  • current rating is 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(144 ratings)
Carl LewisUsain Bolt
Nationality American Jamaican
Date of birth July 1, 1961 August 21, 1986
Height 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in)
Weight 81 kg (180 lb) 94 kg (210 lb)
About Frederick Carlton ("Carl") Lewis (born July 1, 1961) is a retired American track and field athlete who won 10 Olympic medals including 9 golds, and 10 World Championships medals, of which 8 were golds. Usain St. Leo "Lightning" Bolt, OJ, C.D. (born 21 August 1986), is a Jamaican sprinter widely regarded as the fastest person ever.
Full name Frederick Carlton Lewis Usain St. Leo Bolt
Nickname(s) Carl Lewis Insane Bolt, Lightning Bolt
Events 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters
Years Active 1979 - 1997 2004 - present
Number of Olympic medals 10, including 9 gold 9, all gold
Number of World Championship medals 10 medals: 8 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze 10 medals: 8 gold, 2 silver
Personal best 100m 9.86 s (1991) 9.58 (2009) - World Record
Personal best 200m 19.75 (1983) 19.19 (2009) - World Record
Personal best long jump 8.87 m (1991) Did not compete
Personal best 400 m Did not compete 45.28 (2007)
Accolades IOC Sportsman of the Century: 1999; IAAF World Athlete of Century: 1999 IAAF World Athlete of the Year: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012; Track & Field Athlete of the Year: 2008, 2009; Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: 2009, 2010, 2013; BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year: 2008, 2009, 2012
Bolt striking his signature "To Di World" pose
Bolt striking his signature "To Di World" pose

Early Life

Carl Lewis was born on July 1st 1961 in Birmingham, Alabama. His parents, William and Evelyn Lewis, ran a local athletics club. At 13, Lewis began to compete in the long jump. He attended Willingboro High School in New Jersey, and by the time he was a senior, he was one of the top long jumpers in the world. He was first coached by his father. He attended the University of Houston, where he was coached by Tom Tellez.

Usain Bolt was born on August 21st 1986 in Trelawny, Jamaica. He grew up with his parents, his brother and his sister. His parents ran a rural grocery store. He attended Waldensia Primary School and William Knibb Memorial High School. Although he originally played cricket and football, his cricket coach encouraged him to try track and field. He was coached by both Pablo McNeil and Dwayne Jarrett.

Early Career

Carl Lewis achieved his first world ranking in 1979, when Track and Field News declared him 5th in the world in long jump. He qualified for the 1980 Olympics both in the long jump and for the 4 x 100m relay team. However, the Olympic boycott prevented him from competing. In 1981, Lewis jumped 8.62 m at the TAC Championships, making him the number two long jumper in history. He also ran the 100 m in 10.00s at the Southwest Conference Championships in Dallas in 1981, the third-fastest time in history. He was then ranked number one in the world in both 100m and long jump.

Usain Bolt made his first appearance on the world stage in 2001 at the IAAF World Youth Championships. He failed to qualify in the 200m, but set a personal best. In 2002, age 15, he won the 200m at the World Junior Championships, making him the youngest world-junior gold medalist in history. He then won four golds at the 2003 CARIFTA Games and another gold at the 2003 World Youth Championships. He turned professional in 2004, but was hampered by hamstring injuries, preventing him from competing in the 2004 World Junior Championship and ruining his chances in the Athens Olympics. Another hamstring injury prevented him from competing in the Commonwealth Games in 2006.

Olympic Success

In his first Olympic appearance in the 1984 Los Angeles games, Carl Lewis won gold in the 100m, 200m, 4x100m relay and long jump. In the 1988 games in Seoul, he won gold in the 100m and long jump and silver in the 200m. In the 1992 Barcelona games, he won gold in the 4x100m relay and long jump. He also won gold in the long jump in the 1996 Atlanta games, his last Olympic competition.

In this video, Carl Lewis counts down his top ten Olympic moments, ending with his first gold medal that he won in Los Angeles in 1984:

In Bolt's first Olympic appearance in Athens 2004, he suffered from a leg injury and was eliminated in the first round. In Beijing in 2008, Usain Bolt won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. In the 2012 London Olympics, he again won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. He is the first athlete to win 6 gold medals in the sprint and the first athlete to successfully defend both the 100m and 200m title. With Usain Bolt in lead, the Jamaica team also set a new world record for leading the 4x100m relay in 36.84sec during the 2012 London Olympics.

A footage of Usain Bolt leading the 4x100m relay and setting a new world record of 36.84 sec during the 2012 London Olympics:

In the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Usain Bolt repeated his performance from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics to once again win three gold medals: the 100 m, 200 m and 4×100 m relay.

Who's the greatest Olympian? Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps?

World Championship Success

In the first World Championships in 1983 in Helsinki, Carl Lewis won gold in the 100m, 4x100m relay, and long jump. In the games in 1987 in Rome, he won gold in the 100m, the 4x100m relay, and the long jump. In 1991 in Tokyo, he won gold in the 100m and the 4x100m relay and silver in the long jump. In 1993 in Stuttgart, he won bronze in the 200 m.

In his first World Championships in 2007 in Osaka, Usain Bolt won the silver in both the 200m and the 4x100m relay. In 2009 in Berlin, he won gold in the 100m, the 200m and the 4x100m relay. In 2011 in Daegu, he again won gold in the 200m and the 4x100m relay. However, in the 100m, he received a false start and was disqualified. In 2013, in Moscow he won gold in the 100m, the 200m and the 4x100m relay.


Carl Lewis won the James E. Sullivan Award for top amateur athlete in the US in 1981. He was named Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News. He was also named “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee.

Usain Bolt is nicknamed “Lightning Bolt” and considered the fastest man ever. His awards include the IAAF World Athlete of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, Track & Field Athlete of the Year in 2008 and 2009, and Laureus Sportsman of the Year in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

World Records

Carl Lewis set the world records for the 100m and the 4x100m relay. He still holds the world record for the indoor long jump and the 4x200m relay.

Usain Bolt holds the current world record in 100m and 200m. He also held the previous world record in both events and set the world record for the 4x100 m relay with his three teammates. Usain holds the world youth best and the world junior record in the 200m.


Lewis’ main rivals in the long jump were Larry Myricks, the last man to beat him before the 1983 World Championships, and Mike Powell, the silver medalist in the 1988 Olympics and the top-ranked long jumper in 1990. He also had a rivalry with Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter.

Usain Bolt’s biggest rivals are Tyson Gay and training partner Yohan Blake.

Career outside Athletics

Carl Lewis appeared in many movies and TV shows. He played himself in cameos in Perfect Strangers, Speed Zone! and Alien Hunter. He appeared on The Weakest Link. He filed to run as a Democrat for New Jersey Senate in April 2011, but he did not meet the residency requirement.

Usain Bolt has been involved in several advertizing campaigns, including one for Virgin Media. He partnered with mobile gaming company RockLive to release a mobile game in 2012. His autobiography is scheduled for release in 2012.

Personal Life

Carl Lewis’s mother and sister were also Olympians: his mother competed in the 80 m hurdles in Helsinki in 1952, and his sister Carol finished 9th in the long jump in 1984. He is a vegan and an official sponsor of Ronald McDonald House Charities. He is also a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. He suffers from arthritis.

Usain Bolt is often described as a laid-back and relaxed individual who loves dancing. He is a known practical joker.


Lewis tested positive for banned drugs three times before the 1988 Olympics for pseudoephedine, ephedrine and phenylpropanolamine and was banned from the Seoul Olympics. He protested the ban, saying that they were taken inadvertently, and the decision was overturned.

In 2001, Bolt was detained by police after hiding in the back of a van when he was supposed to be preparing for the 200 m finals.

2012 doping controversy

During the 2012 Olympics in London, Lewis, without making any direct accusations, said that Jamaican drug testing procedures need to be tightened. Lewis told Sports Illustrated: “Countries like Jamaica do not have a random program, so they can go months without being tested. I’m not saying anyone is on anything, but everyone needs to be on a level playing field.”

Bolt, who is Jamaican, took exception to Lewis' comments and fiercely criticized Lewis saying "I’ve lost all respect for him. All respect. To jump up and say something like that. As far as I’m concerned he’s looking for attention. That’s all."[1]

Carl Lewis, who won 100-meter gold in 1988 after steroid user Ben Johnson was stripped of the title, has been the subject of drug controversies himself. According to documents released in 2003 by the U.S. Olympic Committee’s former director of drug control administration, Lewis tested positive for stimulants and bronchodilators three times in the run-up to the 1988 Olympics. USOC, however, decided to overturn the results after Lewis said he had taken the drugs inadvertently.[2]


Share this comparison:

If you read this far, you should follow us:

"Carl Lewis vs Usain Bolt." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 20 Sep 2020. < >