Janet Evans called passing the Olympic torch to Muhammad Ali (above) to light the cauldron at the Atlanta Games in 1996 as the defining moment of his career © Getty Images
Janet Evans called passing the Olympic torch to Muhammad Ali (above) to light the cauldron at the Atlanta Games in 1996 as the defining moment of his career © Getty Images

Los Angeles: Janet Evans, the athlete who passed the Olympic torch to Muhammad Ali in the 1996 Atlanta Games, has mourned the death of the legendary boxer. “Muhammad Ali was truly the greatest — an athlete who transcended sports to become a global icon,” four-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Evans was quoted as saying by Xinhua on Friday. “He inspired me, and millions of others around the world, to be the best version of ourselves. Passing the Olympic torch to Muhammad to light the cauldron at the Atlanta Games in 1996 was the defining moment of my career, and a memory I will treasure forever, as much as any of the medals I won.” The 74-year-old sports icon, who had battled Parkinson’s disease for decades, died Friday in a hospital in Phoenix,rizona.

“As Olympians, our role is to inspire others to achieve their dreams, and no person has ever lived that role more than Muhammad Ali,” said Evans, vice chair of the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid. “On behalf of all of us at LA 2024, we offer our deepest condolences to Muhammad’s family and friends. He will be sorely missed, but his legacy will forever endure.” After a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease, Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74,” family spokesman Bob Gunnell had said in a statement in the morning on Friday, Xinhua news agency had reported.

Ali was hospitalised for a respiratory problem on June 2. One of the greatest boxers in the history, Ali retired in 1981 and soon found signs of sluggishness and neurological damage. He thereafter received treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Ali, known as Cassius Clay before he converted to Islam, began boxing training at the age of 12 years. He won the World heavyweight championship at the age of 22 in 1964. He again won the title again in 1974 and 1978.