Athletics great Carl Lewis has bemoaned the lack of interest in the long jump. GETTY IMAGES

American athletics legend Carl Lewis says he is not expecting to see new records any time soon in what he considers the most challenging field event, the long jump.

Speaking to journalists at the World Athletics Relays in Bermuda last weekend, the 62-year-old also raised doubts about the mental resilience of young athletes who are easily distracted. Between 1984 and 1996, Lewis secured four consecutive Olympic gold medals in the long jump,  a run which started at Los Angeles 1984 where he matched Jesse Owens' four golds - long jump, 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay - at Berlin 1936.

Lewis was unbeaten in the long jump for a decade until his defeat by Mike Powell at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, a showdown which was one of the most captivating field confrontations in history.

Powell's victory required him to achieve a world record leap of 8.95 metres, surpassing Bob Beamon's 8.90m set at the Mexico City 1968 City Games, which remains an Olympic record. Those two jumps, along with Lewis' 8.87m in that Tokyo world final, are the three longest legal distances in history.

"Why is the long jump not popular? Because no one's jumping far," Lewis said of the perceived decline. In support of Lewis's assertion, Miltiadis Tentoglou clinched the Olympic title in Tokyo with a best jump of 8.41m. The Greek won gold at last year's World Championships in Budapest with a distance of 8.52m.

Athletics legend Carl Lewis says the long jump is not advancing. GETTY IMAGES
Athletics legend Carl Lewis says the long jump is not advancing. GETTY IMAGES

"It's not rocket science. When you have a generation that got used to people that were jumping 8.60m and competition was there, people were excited," Lewis continued. "Fans don't feel like they're going to see anything special. With the long jump at one point, you really felt like 'I want to be there because I'm going to see something special.

"Times have changed, with a severely reduced number of newcomers willing to submit to the rigorous training demands needed to become a top jumper. I just don't think our culture is raising kids to do that anymore. It's just not in the culture to work that hard, to not be distracted. It's just not there.

"And in our culture, I'm not talking about just athletes but I'm talking about kids. What I had to go through... a kid now? 'Oh no, got to stop, mental health.' Seriously, I'm just being honest," he concluded.