The best 200 and 400m sprinter in the history of the sport of track & field, Johnson’s progressions through the ranks of track and field were swift and stunning! A dual event world champion, the likes of which were never seen before, Johnson surpassed legends and surged to the top of record books of years gone by.
During the summer of 1990, his first year as a professional, Johnson won thirteen consecutive 200m races. Obtaining the six fastest 200m times recorded for the year, he secured the number one world ranking. He also defeated the world’s best 400m sprinters by running four sub 45 second races.
Johnson’s decision to run both the 200 and 400m sprints came mostly out of the training program developed by his coach, Clyde Hart, at Baylor. In an effort to enhance speed and strength, and to avoid leg injuries which hindered Johnson over the past year, Hart devised a simple strategy for the spring of 1990: Johnson was to mostly run relays. Running both events fit perfectly with our program, noted Hart. We feel that strength is synonymous with speed-if you’re strong, then you can run fast. Adds Johnson, The sprint relays gave me the speed-work I needed, and the relay 400s gave me the strength work. I got in a good base while working on my speed at the same time. The program’s results were nothing short of spectacular.
Johnson went on to dominate the international track scene, after establishing himself in the United States. His first major international breakthrough came in Edinburgh, Scotland in July, 1990 where he raced in a field that included, defending Olympic Champion, Joe DeLoach. On a chilly 55 degree night, Johnson destroyed what he called, the greatest field I had ever run against, posting a personal best of 19.85.
He also planned to run, some 400s later in the season, just to break up the monotony of running 200 after 200. What began largely as a training routine, and a diversion from boredom, turned into a dominating specialty. He ran four sub 45 second races at 400m, defeating the world’s best, including current world record-holder, Butch Reynolds. Though Johnson excelled at both distances, he decided to concentrate on the 200m at the 1991 World Championships where he produced the most convincing 200m win in a major international competition since Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics.
Johnson had the greatest consecutive seasons of any sprinter in history in 1990 and 1991. He also became the first athlete ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world in both the 200 and 400m. Equally impressive, he became the only sprinter in history to run sub 20.00 for 200m and sub 44.00 for 400m during a career, and in the same competition. All of these achievements earned him the popular title of World’s Fastest Human.
In the 1992 Olympic Trials, Johnson won the 200m with a blazing time of 19.79 seconds, breaking Carl Lewis’s 19.84 meet records held since 1984. In the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, he was plagued with food poisoning, but competed nonetheless as a member of the 4x400m relay team that set a new Olympic record and brought home the Gold medal.
Since Johnson had primarily been recognized as a 200m sprinter and had not contested the 400m at a major championship, the talk of the 1993 USA Track and Field Championships was whether he could last the rounds, gain a top three finish, and qualify for the World Championships. With the World Record Holder, Butch Reynolds, and 1992 Olympic Champion, Quincy Watts, in the race, his task appeared formidable. However, he took no mercy on the field and won the race in a personal record time of 43.74, the fastest 400m ever run on American soil.
Johnson entered the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart as the favorite and emerged as a champion, winning the 400m in a Championship Record time of 43.65, and anchored the World Record setting American 4x400 relay in 42.94, history’s first sub 43.00 relay legs.
Throughout 1994, Johnson won all of his 400m races and repeated a Gold Medal performance at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia in July. In the fall of 1994 he was awarded the prestigious Jesse Owens Award along with being ranked #1 in the World for the third time in his career in both the 200m and 400m. He continued his incredible winning streak as he blazed through the 1995 Indoor season with his 40th win in a row, in the 400m. He broke his previous World Record only three weeks old with a time of 44.63.
At the 1995 US National Championships in Sacramento, California, Johnson became the first athlete since 1899, to win both the 200m and 400m US National Champion titles! During the World Championships in Goteborg, Sweden, he performed another historic feat. He ran nine races over nine days and left Sweden as the first man ever to attain World Championship titles at both 200m and 400m in the same championship.
Michael Johnson is the only male athlete in history to win both the 200m and 400m events at the same Olympics, a feat he accomplished at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also the only man to successfully defend his Olympic title in the 400m. Aside from his Olympic success Johnson accumulated eight gold medals at World Championships, and is thus tied with Carl Lewis for the most medals won by any athlete in history
Michael Johnson, Track and Field, U.S.A.
Photographed by: Walter Iooss, Jr. / SI
In 1996, Johnson ran 19.66 seconds in the 200m at the U.S. Olympic Trials, breaking Pietro Mennea's record of 19.72 seconds, which had stood for 17 years. With that performance he qualified to run at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and prepared to attempt to win the 200m and 400m events, a feat never before achieved by a male athlete. (Two women have won Olympic gold medals in both races in the same year: Valerie Brisco-Hooks in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and Marie-José Pérec, in the same 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.)
Source klew97 photostream at flickr
Johnson entered the Olympic finals donning a custom-designed pair of golden-colored Nike racing spikes made with Zytel, causing him to be nicknamed "The Man with the Golden Shoes." Sources differ on the exact weight of these shoes; the manufacturer of the spikes claims they weighed 3 ounces (85 g) each, while other sources state each shoe weighed about 94 grams (3.3 oz). The left shoe was a US size 10.5 while the right shoe was a US size 11, to account for Johnson's shorter left foot.
On July 29, Johnson easily captured the 400m Olympic title with an Olympic Record time of 43.49 seconds, almost one full second ahead of silver medalist Roger Black of Great Britain. At the 200m final on August 1, Johnson ran the opening 100meters in 10.12 seconds and finished the race in a world record time of 19.32 seconds, breaking by more than three tenths of a second the previous record he had set in the U.S. Olympic Trials, on the same track one month earlier—the largest improvement ever on a 200m world record. Some commentators compared the performance to Bob Beamon's record-shattering long jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
TIME magazine cover Summer 1996
Uncle Sha posted this at sha.tc:
Thou ‘retired’ now, his record of 19.32s and 43.18s in the 200/400m respectively is deemed ‘unbreakable’ by many. Well I’ve gotten my hand on an article on how he runs his 400m. It’s from his official website, which no longer exists. 400m runners take note!:
"The start is still important even though it’s a 400m. For me, being a 200- and 400-meter runner, it’s important that I don’t get in the same aggressive mode as I am in a 200.
So I want to get a good reaction but then stay a lot smoother in the 400 – basically, get a good start and establish a pace in the first 100 meters since this is the area where the pace of the entire race is really going to be started.”
Once I’ve gotten to the 100-meter mark, the pace is going to be what it’s going to be – otherwise, it’s going to hurt me in the race. If I haven’t run the first 100 meters fast enough, then I’m going to have to make up that time in this area – the second 100 meters.”
On the backstretch, the second 100 meters, I just basically try to relax after the pace has been established and not really try to make any moves. I try not to slow down or speed up or anything like that, but just relax for that 100 meters after the pace has been established. Then, try to get a good 200-meter split, somewhere around 21 seconds.”
Once I’ve reached 200 meters it will look like I’m starting to run faster, and that’s not actually the case. I’m actually just starting to put out more energy and starting to put more force into it, to try to maintain the pace that I’ve been running. It takes more energy to do that at this point because now we are 200 or 250 meters into the race, so that’s why it’s starting to look like I’m running faster.”
The objective, strategy-wise, during the third 100 meters along the curve is to establish myself as the leader of the race coming off the curve. Once I’ve established the lead the objective is just to make sure that everything (arms and legs) is going straight up and down, keeping my head straight and not moving from side to side.
I just focus in on the finish line and try to not do anything different, which is the difficult thing to do at this point because the body is starting to fatigue and it wants to do what it wants to do. I’ve got to work against it and kind of balance that with making sure that everything is just going straight up and down.”
Michael Johnson’s race thoughts:
"The race itself is certainly intellectual. You’re always thinking about something every step of the way. For the 400, it’s even more so, because it’s so much more of a strategic race. The 400 is much harder to pace since nobody can go out and run 400 meters full-speed from the gun.
So there’s a strategy and it’s all based on pace and energy output. And then you throw into that mix what your competitors are doing. I may feel like I’m running a good race, but I’m 10 meters behind, so maybe the internal clock isn’t working. So there’s a lot of strategy involved in the 400-meter race.”
(Uncle Sha at sha.tc)
Leo Rucker Gallery Online
ESPY Award, Feb 14, 2000
US Male olympian of the Decade award
MGM in Las Vegas
UPI nk/Nasser Khan