Double Olympic champion in Mexico 68, he was the father of the idea of the raised fist from the podium, but when he won he dared to do it reluctantly
A black beret . Powerful legs. Some Games, those of Mexico 68. A conversation in which Tommie Smith and John Carlos participate . A universal protest in favor of social justice. A historic moment for sport. A man, Lee Evans , who lets himself be convinced. I did not want to run the final of the 400 meters . “Lee,” said John Carlos, “is better that you participate, that you win and that you get on the podium.” The Californian athlete, then 21 years old, signed up for the Olympic final.
He won it , but that was the norm for the first man who fell below 44 seconds in the 400 meters , precisely in that race in which he did not want to be (43.86), on the same day as Bob Beamon’s jump into history . His record would last 20 years. Now that he has just passed away in Nigeria, where he had become a coach, victim of a long illness (cancer) at the age of 74 , it is time to remember the sprinter as an extraordinary winner and as a fine banner of ‘black power’: he encouraged the thought to raise his fist, but only dared to do so after seeing his companions. It ended up irritating fellow critics, blacks and whites. Personality was left over.
He dominated the World 400 with an amazing naturalness, as if he were racing in high school where he never lost a race. Raised in the legendary sprinting school of Lloyd Winter , he was United States distance champion at only 19 years old to anticipate a race with titles and records, such as the 4×400 also in Mexico 68 with his friends Vincent Matthews, Ron Freeman and Larry James (2.56: 16), a record that lasted 23 years, almost as long as Owens’ long jump of 1935. Evans, a worthy representative of black power, did not need too many gestures to enter history .