Michael Johnson brings home second gold

Michael Johnson brings home second gold


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On August 1, 1996, sprinter Michael Johnson breaks the world record in the 200 meters to win gold at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Three days earlier, Johnson had also won the 400 meters, making him the first man in history to win both events at the Olympics.

Four years earlier at the Barcelona Olympics, Johnson had been the clear favorite to win the 200 meters until he came down with food poisoning 12 days before the race. Ten pounds lighter, Johnson didn’t recover his strength in time for the competition and lost in the qualifying rounds, a major disappointment for both him and the U.S. team. (Johnson did win gold, however, as a member of the world-record breaking 4 x 400 relay team in Barcelona.)

At the 1996 Olympics, things got off to a much better start. On July 29, sporting his now-famous thick gold chain and gold track shoes, he ran the 400 meters in a remarkable 43.49 seconds for a gold medal and a new Olympic record. And, as the reigning world record holder, Johnson was the heavy favorite for gold going into the 200 meter final despite a fast field. His two toughest were Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Ato Boldon from Trinidad and Tobago. Johnson lined up in lane 3, and Fredericks, who had broken Johnson’s 22-race winning streak in the 200 on June 5, was positioned in lane 5, to Johnson’s outside. Boldon, who won bronze in the 100 meters in the 1992 Olympics, was in lane 6. At the gun Johnson stumbled slightly, but recovered quickly and passed Fredericks as they entered the first turn. Johnson then kicked it into high gear, beating his closest competition to the finish line by four strides.

After seeing his time, Johnson dropped to his hands and knees in disbelief, while Ato Boldon, who came in third behind Johnson and Fredericks, walked over to Johnson and bowed in awe. Analysis of the race later revealed that Johnson had run a 10.12 for the first 100 meters, and then blew away the field with a stunning 9.20 seconds for the last half of the race. His official time of 19.32 seconds shaved three tenths of a second off his own world record of 19.66–set six weeks prior at the Olympic trials–which had broken a 17-year-old mark.

On the same night that Johnson became the first man to win both the 200 and 400 meters in the Olympics, Marie-Jose Perec of France became the second woman to accomplish the feat. American Valerie Brisco-Hooks had won both races at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.


Sprinter Michael Johnson on recovering from a stroke: ‘I did feel like, why did this happen to me?’

M ichael Johnson is recalling the unusual physical sensations – involuntary movement of his left foot, numbness, “a sort of tingling sensation” in his left arm – that came over him moments after finishing his daily workout in his home gym in August last year. “I hobbled over to my weights bench and thought, am I having a cramp or something? I called my wife Armine over and said: ‘Hey, something feels weird. Something doesn’t feel right.’”

The cause wasn’t a cramp, though, overexertion or an infection. The legendary athlete – a four-time Olympic sprint champion, just 50 years old at the time – was having a stroke. As he tweeted soon after: “It seems these things can affect anyone, even the once-fastest man in the world!”

The confusion he felt was fairly typical, he points out now, eight months later, on the phone from his home in California. Many stroke victims do not realise at first that they are experiencing an event that could leave them dead or seriously disabled, potentially for life. “I experienced no pain,” he says, in a deep drawl reflecting his Texan roots. “There was no jolting moment that made me think: ‘I’m having a stroke.’ And I think that’s one of the things that makes it so potentially dangerous.”

After half an hour spent wondering what to do, Johnson decided to go to hospital. Armine drove him to the Emergency Room at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, 20 minutes from their home in Malibu. It was a wise call. A CT scan, then an MRI confirmed the ER doctor’s diagnosis of a stroke. “I’d been able to get off my bed, and on to the MRI table myself – but when the MRI ended 30 minutes later, I could no longer walk. I couldn’t stand or put any weight on my left leg. The numbness in my left arm had increased significantly and I couldn’t feel the two smallest fingers of my left hand. And my foot was completely numb.”

Johnson – an athlete once so supreme that he was known as Superman – was now enfeebled. The stroke had occurred deep in the right side of his brain, in an area called the thalamus – a thalamic or lacunar stroke, in medical jargon. His sudden helplessness prompted him to start asking a lot of difficult questions: what was his life going to be like now? Would he be able to dress himself? Would he need others to look after him? Would he recover – and how long would that take?

Frustratingly for Johnson, the medical team could not provide the clarity he wanted. “They said: ‘Because you’re in good shape and got here quickly, that improves your chances, but only time will tell.’” The doctors’ uncertainty about how well and how quickly he would recover was shocking, he says. “It made me feel – it’s hard to describe – just afraid and scared, and wondering what my future was going to be.”

In the 1990s, Johnson was the fastest man in history over 200 and 400 metres. He became the poster boy of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta after triumphing over both distances in custom-made golden spikes. Now he was having to come to terms with the fact that recovery from stroke is variable and not guaranteed. “It took a while for that to actually sink in,” he says.

Initially, Johnson was angry angry that someone as determinedly clean-living as himself, with no obvious risk factors – he didn’t smoke, ate healthily, kept fit and had no family history of cardiovascular disease – had suffered a stroke. “I did feel like: ‘Why did this happen to me, when I was doing all the right things?’” But within 24 hours he had gained a different perspective. “It’s natural for anyone to go through that period of anger. I was pretty fortunate to get past that situation [the stroke], with an opportunity to completely recover, which is what I hoped to do.”

Johnson decided to put the same determination that he had brought to his athletics career into recovering from his stroke. He brought a touch of his famous self-confidence to bear, too, telling Armine not only that he would recover, but that he would do it faster than anyone had done it before.

It was an arduous process, both physically and mentally. The first stage of his recovery involved a physiotherapist helping him to learn to walk again using a walking frame. Johnson half-laughs, half-winces at the memory. “Ironically, the first day we covered about 200 metres – having been the world record-holder at that event, it wasn’t the most positive thing.” He had clocked 19.32 seconds while breaking the world record in Atlanta. But the same distance that first day with the physio took 10 minutes.

How did a legendary athlete, a champion, a classic alpha male, deal with being so helpless? “I think about looking at myself in the mirror, struggling to hold a balance position for more than 10 seconds or struggling to coordinate my body when I used to be one of the best athletes in the world. But what that did for me is encourage me to channel that in the right way, [and believe] that if anyone can do this, I can.”

He learned – impressively quickly – to walk, then to walk in a balanced way, and then to be mobile, and then to get up and down stairs. Then he succeeded in eliminating his limp, although that took a month. Then he began working on regaining his strength, power and fine motor skills on his left side. He drew on a key lesson of his path to sporting glory: often progress comes in small, incremental steps. In one of his early progress reports, he tweeted that, while his recovery was going well, relearning the very basics of movement was “gruelling”. It has been a journey of many emotions: confusion, anger, anxiety, fear, positivity and vulnerability. But by December, he says now, “I was almost back to what I would consider my normal. And now, eight months on, I’m 100% recovered.”

Once known as Superman . Johnson at the Atlanta Olympics 200 metre final. Photograph: Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images

Since retiring from competitive track Johnson has acquired a reputation as an articulate and straight-talking commentator on athletics, and was a key member of the BBC’s punditry team at the past two Olympics. His main day-to-day job is running Michael Johnson Performance, a company that operates a training centre in Texas for up-and-coming athletes he also works with sports clubs and federations worldwide.

But he has now taken on a new role, promoting awareness of stroke – stressing that if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. He is helping the Stroke Association to gain attention for its Rebuilding Lives campaign, which is using stroke survivors’ stories to bring home how random stroke is and the horrendous impact it can have. There are more than 100,000 strokes a year in the UK one every five minutes. In 2017, it claimed 29,855 lives. While fewer strokes are occuring, smoking, obesity and diabetes remain three major risk factors.

Research the Stroke Association undertook among the public revealed high levels of ignorance about even the fact that a stroke occurs in the brain, as well as a widespread lack of know-how about how to support survivors as they recover. Separate findings from a group of survivors uncovered awkward truths: many said they saw friends and family less often than they did before their stroke, or found that people spent less time with them than they used to.

Johnson has learned a lot about the condition that struck him down. So what do people need to know most about stroke? Anyone who thinks they may have had one should seek urgent medical attention and not wait for the symptoms to pass, he says. “You’re not experiencing any pain or real discomfort, so you may be tempted not to go to the hospital. You may instead go: ‘Oh, I’ll just sleep this off. I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.’ That could be catastrophic.” He emphasises that last word.


What the Guardian saidSaturday 3 August 1996Frank Keating

A year before I was born there was Jesse-Owens-at-Berlin. For obvious and retold reasons that hyphenated resonance of man and place will be twined and twinned in the log for ever. In my lifetime, Blankers-Koen and London go together, and so do Zatopek and Helsinki in 1952. Spitz equals Munich, and Daley-Coe-Ovett certainly go with Moscow like a horse and carriage. There was LA and Carl Lewis, and Ben Johnson, notoriously, at Seoul.

Another Johnson is garlanded with sport’s laurel wreath in 1996. Ever remembered. The upright, sobersided Texan has taken Georgia by storm. Victor ludorum, and a phenomenal one at that.

A man’s gotta do … and he did just that. And that is the word. It is not the over-used one, “great”, the word is “phenomenal”. In italics, and underlined to boot.

Consider first that Johnson laid to waste in his laid-back manner in this 200 metres such fancied dandies as Frankie Fredericks and Ato Boldon in shattering his own world record with an astounding 19.32sec. And that, had Johnson entered the 100m, he would more than likely on Saturday have slapped the world-record winner Donovan Bailey into second place.

The first man to win gold medals in both 200m and 400m at the same Games was to attempt to add another in the 4x400m relay but yesterday withdrew with a hamstring injury. He had won 54 races on the trot in the 400m and had never lost an outdoor final at that distance. Before a minor glitch last month he had reeled off 21 consecutive victories in the 200m and has been ranked No1 in the world at both events for four years, unprecedented. He was world champion in each event singly – the 200m at Tokyo five years ago and the 400m at Stuttgart in 1993 – and won them both in Sweden last year. There was a nice tribute from Derek Mills, the world’s third-ranked 400m runner: “I keep trying to remember that Michael is just a man.”

A friend, arriving back from the stadium on Thursday, genuinely elated, said much the same. “I’m going to frame that night and that performance. I’m going to hang it on a wall at home, or better still try and sell it to an art gallery or museum.”

Johnson afterwards actually bothered to smile. “The world record is a bonus,” he said. “The most important thing to me was making history. A lot of people hold a world record, and I did too before I arrived here. But nobody else can say they made history, the first man to win the 200 and 400. I told myself before I got in the blocks that this was the one I wanted. I didn’t make it in Barcelona because of food poisoning and I have been four years since just looking for this one.


Michael Johnson recovering at home after four-time Olympic champion reveals he suffered 'mini-stroke'

Michael Johnson was a dominant sprinting force during the 1990s Credit: Mike Powell

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M ichael Johnson, the four-time Olympic champion and one of the greatest athletes in history, is recovering at his San Francisco home after suffering a stroke.

Johnson, 50, has worked as a television pundit since retiring from his glittering running career and showed no signs of ill health on his most recent BBC appearance during the European Athletics Championships last month.

However, on Saturday night he revealed he had suffered a stroke last week, but has thankfully been cleared of any ongoing heart problems.

"Last week I rather surprisingly suffered what's known as a Transient Ischemic Attack or mini stroke," he said. "The good news is I'm back at home with my family, cleared of any heart issues and have already made great progress on my road to a full recovery.

"It seems these things can affect anyone, even the once fastest man in the world! I'm no stranger to a good exercise plan and have thrown myself into it with my usual focus and determination.

"In these situations being a former athlete has really helped with mindset but also a reminder that you need to take of yourself."

K nown for his trademark stiff, upright running style, Johnson is one of athletics' most famous figures after dominating the 200m and 400m for close to a decade in the 1990s.

T he American won his first of eight world titles in 1991 and is best remembered for his 1996 Olympic double when he triumphed over both distances on home soil in Atlanta, wearing custom-made golden spikes.

"Opting for gold shoes could have been considered downright cocky," he wrote in his autobiography Gold Rush, "but I was confident and never doubted my ability to deliver gold medals to match my shimmering footwear."

H is 19.32-second winning time at those Games was the largest ever improvement on a 200m world record and remained the fastest time in history for a dozen years until Usain Bolt surpassed it at the 2008 Olympics.

His 400m time of 43.18sec to win the world title in 1999 stood as a world record for even longer until Wayde van Niekerk broke it when winning Olympic gold at Rio 2016.

Since retiring from the sport in 2001, the American has built a reputation as one of television's straightest-talking athletics pundits, regularly serving as an antidote to the pro-British sentiment of some of his fellow pundits.


20 years ago, Michael Johnson set a new gold standard for speed

As Ato Boldon rounded the turn in the final of the 200-meter dash at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the race he says he’s most known for even though he only won bronze, he experienced something that had never happened to him during a race: He had a conscious thought.

Having gone through the first 80 meters in lane six without a hitch — neither world record holder Michael Johnson of the U.S. nor Namibian medal favorite Frankie Fredericks had passed him yet — the 22-year-old quite calmly wondered if that psychic back in Trinidad was onto something.

She had been right about the 100 three days earlier, after all. Before that race, Boldon says, she predicted "trouble at the start," and sure enough, multiple false starts and a disqualification of defending champion Linford Christie of Great Britain delayed the start of the race for several minutes. Once the gun finally went off, Boldon finished third in 9.90 seconds as Canada’s Donovan Bailey sprinted to a world record of 9.84 with Fredericks finishing second in 9.89.

The psychic had a different premonition for the Trinidadian sprinter before the 200, though, predicting, "Glory for Ato."

As he leaned to his left to fight back the inertia of his own speed around the turn, Boldon was starting to let himself believe she might be right.

Then three things happened in an instant.

First, Boldon noticed the camera flashes all around him. Tens of thousands of light bulbs popped on and off all around him like an animated version of Starry Night painted on the 82,884 spectators in the stands.

Then, Johnson flew by him in a blur in lane three, producing another, more jarring flash. Johnson’s gold shoes flared as they bolted towards the finish line, sparkling in bursts as they carried him to a gold medal and a world record of 19.32 seconds.

Finally, Fredericks went by him, too, and Boldon had one last thought: "That psychic doesn’t have a fricking clue what she’s talking about."

­­­­­The title of "World’s Fastest Man" is usually reserved for the world record holder in the 100-meter dash. But after Johnson sprinted past Boldon and into the record books on that balmy August night, he blurred convention. Bailey had raced to a 9.84 in the 100m, but Johnson’s 19.32 in the 200m equated to back-to-back 9.66’s.

It was an unfathomable burst of speed. After coming through the first 100 in 10.12 seconds, he ran the straightaway in 9.2. He beat Fredericks, whose 19.68 was the third fastest time in history, by four yards.

"I said before, the person who won the 100 meters was the fastest man alive," Boldon, just inches from Johnson in a packed room beneath the stadium, told reporters in the press conference following the race. "I think the fastest man alive is sitting to my left."

(Johnson and Bailey would meet in a match race over 150 meters in May of 1997. Johnson pulled up lame with a hamstring injury 80 meters into the race with Bailey leading.)

The 19.32 was a result for a future era—a time that still seems otherworldly 20 years later. It continues to be an aspirational performance even for elite sprinters today. While Bailey’s world record time from ’96 isn’t even in the top-50 times anymore, only two people have run faster than Johnson: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt (who has run 19.19 and 19.30) and Yohan Blake (19.26).

"It wasn’t the perfect race," Johnson says looking back on it now, "but it was absolutely the best race I ever ran."

The run was an outlier — the Bob Beamon Leap of the 200. At the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, Beamon soared to a 29 feet, 2 ½ inch jump, obliterating the former world record of 27 feet 4 ¾ inches that had stood for one year.

"I happen to have been sitting right across from [Beamon’s jump]," says Clyde Hart, Johnson’s coach. "I didn’t think that would ever happen again — that someone would skip the marks."

Then Hart saw Johnson sprint past him into the home straight in Atlanta. Sitting in the stands by the 100-meter mark, he clicked his stopwatch and was shocked to see 9.9 (hand timing is usually about 0.2 seconds off).

"He’s never been here before," Hart thought to himself. No one had.

"I knew [at the 100] that he was going to run fast, but when I saw that 19.32," Hart pauses when talking about the race now, still amazed by the performance, "I looked twice … Skipping the 19.50s and the 19.40s? That was unbelievable."

Diamond in the Rough

One day in the hot Texas spring of 1986, Hart drove the four hours from Galveston to Waco wondering what the heck he was going to do. The head coach of the Baylor University track team, he had gone to Galveston to sign the top 100 and 200 runner in the state, but he was coming home empty handed. Derrick Florence, who Hart says was going to sign with Baylor, had changed his mind he was going to go to Texas A&M instead.

Hart was counting on the recruit for his sprint relay teams, and without him, Hart was in desperation mode. He drove straight to his office and poured over results with his assistant coach. They noticed the runner who had taken second at the state meet behind Texas A&M’s newest gem, and hoped he hadn’t signed with a college yet. His name was Michael Johnson.

Hart hopped back in his car and drove 100 miles straight to Skyline High School in Dallas. He found a school that had a football coach leading the track team and a runner with a stride that people thought was too upright. He had run 21.30 in the 200 and shown promise in the 400—Hart says he heard Johnson ran 48 seconds to lead off many 4x400 relays only to watch his teammates give up the lead. Johnson wasn’t a state champ, but Hart at least thought he had found a guy who could contribute to his relays. Once Hart convinced Johnson’s parents, Paul, a truck driver, and Ruby, an elementary school teacher, that Baylor was the best spot for Johnson to grow as an athlete and a person, he had his guy.

"I was very lucky I happened to find a diamond in the rough," Hart says. "He was willing to come in and commit himself to our type of training and, of course, the rest is history."

Johnson surprised Hart, who made no attempt to change Johnson’s straight-backed stride, early. He ran 20.41 to break the Baylor school record in the 200 in his first outdoor track race as a freshman, but it wasn’t always perfect—Johnson struggled to stay healthy. Nonetheless, a pulled hamstring his freshman year, broken fibula as a sophomore, and another hamstring injury as a junior didn’t stop him from winning five NCAA titles (three individual and two relays) and turning into the world’s best 200 and 400 runner. Johnson ended a healthy senior year in 1990 as the world’s No. 1-ranked 200- and 400-meter runner with personal bests of 19.85 and 44.21.

Johnson signed a contract with Nike in 1990 after graduating from Baylor based on his success, and in 1991 went on to win the 200 at the World Championships in Tokyo by 0.33 seconds. He won the 200 at the 1992 Olympic Trials in 19.79 and, heading into Barcelona, seemed poised to supplant Carl Lewis as the U.S.’s track and field star.

Instead, food poisoning two weeks before the games thwarted his Olympic dreams. He finished sixth in the 200 semifinals and had to watch from the stands as Michael Marsh of the U.S. won in 20.01. Johnson recovered to win his first gold medal as a member of the U.S.’s 4 x 400-meter relay team, but it wasn’t enough. Missing out on individual glory because of something as foolish as food poisoning stuck with him. "I could do everything right and still not win Olympic gold or any other color," Johnson wrote in his autobiography, Gold Rush. "Something out of my control could happen again."

With the Barcelona disappointment in the back of his mind, he rebounded to win the 400 at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany in 1993 and did what no other man had done at the 1995 world championships in Gothenburg, Sweden: Johnson won the 200 and the 400 in 19.79 and 43.39, respectively. He wasn’t satisfied. Johnson wanted to attempt the same double in Atlanta, on the world’s biggest stage. The U.S.’s Valerie Brisco-Hooks had completed the feat in 1984, but Johnson hoped to break new ground on the men’s side.

His coach wasn’t so sure. "At that point he had no individual gold," Hart says, "and now he’s telling me he wants to do both of them." It would be a more difficult double—there were three rounds each in the 200 and 400 at the world championships, but there would be four in each race in Atlanta. With heats, quarters, semis and finals, Johnson would have to race eight times in seven days.

But the 1996 Olympics were in the U.S. so Johnson wanted to do something special. Hart admits he didn’t take much convincing. They set a plan in motion to do what no one had ever done.

Everything from training to nutrition to recovery had to be considered and perfected — even the shoes.

All that glitters isn't gold

Johnson crossed the finish line Gothenburg in a sprint spike that had been released in 1984. Nike had updated the Nike Zoom S, but Johnson didn’t like the spike plate. The shoes were cumbersome — Johnson wanted light and stable.

Enter Tobie Hatfield. The younger brother of famed Nike designer Tinker — who worked on the Air Jordan 3 through the Air Jordan 30 along with multiple other Nike shoes (including the self-lacing Back to the Future Nike MAGs) — didn’t have his older brother’s training in architecture. Tobie did, however, share Tinker’s background as an athlete, both having been elite pole vaulters. He had worked his way through Nike, starting in plastics and foams in 1990 before moving onto product development. By 1995, Tobie was helping design shoes and Johnson’s shoe was his first assignment at the helm of a design team. It wasn’t an easy task.

"I challenged them," Johnson says of Hatfield and his team. In their first trip down to Dallas early in 1995, he told them he wanted a simple, light-weight shoe that would allow him to "feel" the track beneath his feet. He wanted stiffness and stability, too.

The team got right to work. They followed Johnson to workouts and races, using high-speed cameras to capture his stride and foot strike. In the 18 months leading up to the 1996 Olympic Trials, they brought countless pairs of prototypes for Johnson to try — "I don’t know how many pairs," Hatfield says, "but it was a lot." Their trial and error gave birth to what Hatfield says was the first spike with exposed foam on the bottom. They took out the receptacles for replaceable spikes, and instead used permanent ones. "No one had ever done stuff like this before," Hatfield says, "because there wasn’t an athlete pushing us to do it."

"The philosophy from our co-founder Bill Bowerman," Hatfield says, "is that the best shoe would be us putting nails in the bottom of someone’s foot, and that would be it." Hatfield and his team got close. For Johnson’s Atlanta run, they created a shoe that weighed three ounces — most spikes were at least six ounces at that point — and, more importantly to Hatfield, the shoe lived up to Johnson’s expectations. There was one problem with the color, though.

About two months before the Trials, when Hatfield was in Taiwan helping a team assemble the shoe that Johnson would wear, a group from Nike brought the final prototypes to the Baylor track to show the Olympian. With Johnson eagerly awaiting, they pulled out a pair of reflective cleats whose mirror-effect coloring showed the sprinter’s face back to him as he held them up to the light.

Johnson was flabbergasted. He thought they were the coolest track spikes he’d ever seen.

Then Coach Hart spoke up: "I don’t like it."

"You won’t be able to see the mirror effect," Hart said. "They’ll look silver."

Johnson realized his coach was right. Before he knew it was coming out of his mouth, he said, "I want them to be gold."

At about that same time in Taiwan, Hatfield was having a similar revelation. He held one of the "mirror" shoes and thought, "These look too silver. Michael’s looking for two golds."

The (Almost) Perfect Race

At 7:15 p.m. on Aug. 1, 1996, a sticky, humid day in Atlanta, Johnson rushed through the strip of warmup track tucked beneath the stands of Centennial Olympic Stadium. He had just coasted to an easy win in the 200-meter semifinal, running 20.27, but with less than two hours to go until the final, he needed to get away from the stadium.

Instead of doing his final warmup under the stands, he met Coach Hart, hopped on a bus and went to the practice track a half-mile away.

It was quiet there. Of the eight 200 finalists, only Obadele Thompson of Barbados joined Johnson at the track. The hum of the crowd was distant instead of right on top of them. Johnson laid on a massage table to relax and regroup as Hart walked around the track nervously. The stadium lights off, a dim glow from the few security lights illuminated the track.

Johnson began his warmup. Having run the semifinal only two hours before, he went through half of his normal routine — jogging, stretching, drills, strides — as he listened to Tupac’s "Me Against the World" through his headphones on repeat.

The 400 was a formality. He had coasted through three rounds before racing to an Olympic record of 43.49 to win the final by 0.92 seconds. He had his first gold, but the 200 final was the race he had been gunning for all along. It was the race that would take Johnson from Olympic Gold Medalist to legend. The race that would take the gold shoes from brash and cocky to prophetic and iconic.

There were seven races in his legs already, but Johnson felt fresh. With 45 minutes to go, Johnson hopped back onto the bus for a silent ride back to the track. "Watch your start" and "Go get ’em," were the only words Hart said to him as Johnson went back into the stadium.

He sat in a corner of the warmup area and visualized the race. He let himself think about the disappointment of 1992 — still sticking with him four years later — but he also thought about the possibility in front of him. "We trained to be able to produce my best race in the eighth race of that championship," Johnson says. This was the race he had circled for four years. He laced up his spikes — his eighth pair of the games — and walked out onto the track.

The cheers were deafening. Fans yelled Johnson’s name as he made his way to the start line with his seven other competitors.

"Michael got a rush of adrenaline at exactly the right moment," Hart says. "If he had been underneath those stands, with the crowd cheering and all that, that adrenaline might have started then. You get it and then it kind of disperses, but he got it at the right moment."

The crowd hushed as Johnson and the fastest 200-meter runners in the world settled into their blocks. Johnson’s gold shoes glistened in one last moment of stillness until, finally, the gun cracked.

Johnson was off. It was one of the best reactions to the gun he ever had — maybe too good. His arms weren’t prepared for the burst, and because they didn’t keep up with his legs with over-exaggerated swings, he faltered on the third step of the race.

"I recognized the stumble," Johnson says when looking back on the race. "I immediately made the correction." Recounting the race, it’s like Johnson’s mind is replaying a slow-motion video of each and every step. Boldon says he never had conscious thoughts during a race, Johnson was constantly thinking.

"I remember that correction going well," he says. "I remember executing around the bend exactly like I wanted to. I remember making ground on the competitors outside of me quicker than I expected to, so I knew everything was going well. I can remember that throughout the race, that everything was going according to plan and I was executing as well as could be expected."

Crossing the finish line in first was a combination of relief and joy, Johnson says. Then he remembers seeing the clock.

He raised his arms and screamed. He continued running even though he had felt a twinge in his right hamstring that would keep him from joining the 4 x 400-meter relay team. He was filled with relief and joy.

"I was overwhelmed," he says.

For everyone else, it was shock. "I went and tapped on the clock," Boldon says, "because we’d never seen a time that looked like that before."

"Everybody knew because of the amount Michael beat everybody by that it was special," Hart says, "but when they saw that time, they thought, ‘Is that for real?’"

The State of Speed

Johnson was a star, and with it came fame. He was on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated and he got his own Wheaties box. Marie-José Pérec of France had become the second woman to win the 200-400 double in 1996, but Johnson was the media darling, especially in American circles. He won the ESPY for best male athlete in 1997, and if it wasn’t for an up-and-coming star named Tiger Woods, he probably would have been Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year.

He would go on to add a 400-meter world record to his resume in 1999 and win gold in the Sydney Olympics in the 400 and 4 x 400-meter relay, too. Every Olympic medal (five) Johnson ever won was gold.

Johnson is still involved with the sport as a commentator for the BBC, and, honestly, track and field is in a similar place to what it was when he ran to fame 20 years ago.

Ben Johnson’s 1988 drug bust still hung over the sport when Johnson was at his best. (Michael Johnson, who never failed a drug test, lost his 4 x 400 gold medal from 2000 because teammate Antonio Pettigrew admitted to using drugs.) Today’s sport isn’t much better. The International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s governing body, has banned Russia from international competition because of a Word Anti-Doping Agency report that found a "deeply rooted culture of cheating" in Russian athletics. The top four finishers in this July’s Prefontaine Classic 100 meters had to miss time in the sport due to doping bans.

There are still glimmers and flashes of hope, though. Drug testing has improved. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently retested samples from the 2008 and 2012 games to find a total of 54 athletes who were using performance-enhancing drugs (not all of the athletes were track and field athletes). While athletes who lost to the cheats may have been robbed of their moment, there is at least some redemption.

While Bolt has ignited the sport with strikes of lightning, he has said this will be his final Olympics and he has no clear heir. A new batch of runners are coming through, though. Finishing behind Bolt and Justin Gatlin in the 100 at last year’s World Championships in Beijing in a tie for third was Trayvon Bromell of the U.S. and Andre De Grasse of Canada. At 20 and 21, respectively, track has burgeoning rivalry. Sydney McLaughlin, a 16-year-old from New Jersey, just became the youngest track and field Olympian in the U.S. since 1972 after she took third in the 400 hurdles on July 10.

There’s the present, as well. Bolt isn’t the sport’s only star — the U.S.’s Allyson Felix causes a stir, too. When she stepped onto the 200-meter indoor track at the New York City Armory on 168th Street on Feb. 20, a roar filled the 4,000-seat stadium. And that was just for her warm-ups. It wasn’t the spectacle that is a Stephen Curry pre-game shootout, but the buzz when Felix steps on the track is palpable, even in her pre-race routine. She went on to win the 60 meters easily to kick off her 2016 racing campaign — a year with high expectations.

Felix wasn’t into track in 1996 — she was more of a basketball fan and was captivated by the gymnastics competition in Atlanta. "I don’t remember watching [the 200]," she says today, "but I do remember the gold shoes." She was a shoe geek then, just like she is now — she estimates she owns about 250 Air Jordans.

Once she joined the track team in high school, one of the first things she studied was Johnson’s race. "It was breathtaking," she says.

Soon after, she was the one sending shockwaves through the 200. She won the Olympic Trials in the event in 2004 at the age of 19, and has been one of the world’s best runners since. Individual Olympic gold eluded her in 2004 and 2008 as she took silver in the 200 both years, but she redeemed herself with a gold medal run in 2012, running 21.88.

At 30, Felix wanted to replicate history in 2016 — by matching Johnson’s 200-400 double. "It’s a huge challenge," she said in June before the Olympic Trials, where she would need to finish in the top three in each event to qualify for Rio, "but it’s one that I feel it’s time to take."

Like Johnson, she wanted everything to be perfect — she even worked with Nike to create a shoe. Based on Felix’s feedback, the Nike team tested 30 versions of the spike plate and more than 70 modifications of the upper. Like Johnson, she has a spike she loves. She says the Zoom Superfly Flyknit feels like she isn’t even wearing shoes.

It wasn’t meant to be, though. Felix rolled her right ankle on an exercise ball in May. The injury derailed her training — she had to run counterclockwise around the track to avoid aggravating it. Still, she came from behind to capture the 400 title at the Olympic Trials on July 3 to book her fourth trip to the Games. Felix finished fourth in the 200 seven days later — missing out on the team by .01 seconds — and her shot at joining Johnson, Brisco-Hooks and Pérec was over.

"Honestly disappointed, you know?" she told reporters when asked how she felt after the 200. "The whole year, that has been what I was working for."

It’s not the double she hoped for, but she’s still running for gold in Rio — and she’ll be in her custom shoes.


TRACK AND FIELD Johnson Adds Gold in 200 to His Collection

His mission accomplished, an unprecedented pair of world sprint titles and two Mercedes-Benz automobiles taken as prizes, Michael Johnson could finally relax. He tumbled backward on the track after today's 200-meter victory, the pressure escaping from him like air from a valve.

He had matched his personal best of 19.79 seconds -- equaling the fifth-fastest time in history -- and if another world record had eluded him, he had met his own expectations.

No one in history had won 200- and 400-meter titles at the world track and field championships. Now there would be great anticipation for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and great demand on track's world governing body to alter the Olympic schedule in Johnson's favor.

As usual, his race lacked all suspense. Frank Fredericks of Namibia took second place in 20.12 seconds, 33-hundredths of a second behind.

It was the same gap by which Johnson defeated him at the 1991 world championships in Tokyo, and the largest gulf between a gold and silver medalist in a major 200-meter race since the 1952 Olympics. Jeff Williams of the United States finished a distant third in 20.18 seconds.

The only question today was whether Johnson would break the oldest world record on the books. But this was his eighth race in seven days, and the toll on his legs kept the Italian Pietro Mennea's 16-year-old world mark of 19.72 seconds safe for another day. Safe, but for how long?

"I feel very confident about my prospects for the rest of the season and breaking the world record at both distances," said the 28-year-old Johnson, who ran the second-fastest 400 meters in history in 43.39 seconds on Wednesday.

Another American did set a world record today, when Kim Batten of Tallahassee, Fla., won a scintillating women's 400-meter hurdles race in 52.61 seconds, finishing three inches ahead of the runner-up Tonja Buford (52.62) of Urbana, Ill. Both women finished below the world-record time of 52.74 seconds, set by Sally Gunnell of Britain on Aug. 19, 1993.

Batten seemed to have a remote chance of breaking the record 10 weeks ago, when she underwent an emergency appendectomy less than a month before the United States championships. But she recovered in time to win her third national title and entered today's race after dreaming on Thursday night that she would break the world record.

She had never run within a second of Gunnell's mark, and the British runner was injured today and not in the race to pull Batten along. It didn't matter. Batten and Buford challenged each other to personal bests, the lead changing hands three times in the homestretch after the 10th and final hurdle. Buford seemed poised to win, but Batten leaned at the tape, grabbing both the gold medal and the world record.

Sergei Bubka of Ukraine won his fifth consecutive world pole vault title with a jump of 19 feet 5 1/4 inches. But even Bubka, the world record- holder, had to take a back seat today to Johnson, who, with the distance runner Noureddine Morceli of Algeria, has become the greatest athlete in his sport at the moment. He has a chance to win a third gold medal here Sunday in the 1,600-meter relay.

Asked what it would take to elevate him to the level of Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Johnson said that Owens stood unreachable as track and field's greatest athlete, achieving what he did as a black man at that time.

"A lot of things he suffered through as an athlete, we can't even understand, with all the freedoms we have," Johnson said. "But what I did here has put me pretty high on the scale of athletes doing great things."

There are those who would question his greatness, however. Carl Lewis, who owns eight Olympic gold medals, said today in The International Herald Tribune that the world championships were "boring," and suggested that Johnson lacked enough charisma to excite a listless crowd.

"The one American they're trying to build up, Michael Johnson, he doesn't have it," Lewis said. "He's not doing anything for them."

Brad Hunt, Johnson's agent, complained this week that the Nike shoe company, which sponsors both athletes, gave Lewis preferable accommodations for the world championships, which Nike denied. Johnson distanced himself from the dispute with Lewis, who withdrew from this meet with an injury.

"I think a lot of people approve of what I do," said Johnson, who lives in Dallas. "My focus is to satisfy myself and satisfy my fans. I don't care what one particular athlete has to say, Carl or anyone else."

Running in Lane 4, Johnson reacted more quickly than anyone to the gun, swept through the curve chasing Brazil's Robson da Silva and pulled away down the stretch, his body in its usual upright position, his legs pumping low and hard to his 14th consecutive victory at 200 meters.

Whether he repeats this dual success in Atlanta depends on the schedule. There is overlap between the 200 and 400 at the Olympics, and Johnson has vowed not to run both races unless the 200 concludes before preliminary rounds of the 400 begin. He said today that he was "encouraged" about chances that the schedule would be tailored to his wishes.

"When I'm able to run the 200 and 400 unlimited, I can show all my talent," Johnson said. "I feel confident that, given the opportunity next year, I can do just as well or better."

KIM BATTEN's world record in the 400-meter hurdles was the first by an American woman since FLORENCE GRIFFITH JOYNER set the 200 mark at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. . . . Kenya's MOSES KIPTANUI, the world record-holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, set a championship record of 8 minutes 4.16 seconds in leading a one-two Kenyan finish in the event. It was Kiptanui's third consecutive world title. . . . Mozambique's MARIA MUTOLA, seeking her second straight women's 800 title and the huge favorite, was disqualified in the semifinals for running out of her lane.


Michael Johnson - Achievements of an underrated fighter

It was after a win over Michael Johnson when Nate Diaz addressed Conor McGregor in a historic call-out, which gave way to one of the most intense post-match Octagon interviews. At that time, Michael Johnson was fresh off a controversial split decision loss to Beneil Dariush, which had snapped his four-fight win-streak inside UFC.

In all capacities, Johnson competed inside the cage four times between August 2013 and February 2015, with notable victories over Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau, Melvin Guillard, and Edson Barboza. Since then, Johnson has competed against some of the best fighters in the UFC.

It is the inconsistency in his performances that has barred him from ever coming close to the Lightweight gold.

However, one cannot outright ignore his incredible performances inside the Octagon. Johnson has always been a fighter ready to take on any challenge, and it is evident from his fight resume, which features some of the best fighters in the history of the Lightweight division.

Michael Johnson is the only fighter to beat Tony Ferguson till now inside UFC

Michael Johnson is the only fighter in UFC history to hand the interim Champion, Tony Ferguson, a loss inside the UFC octagon. While the record is subject to change depending on the outcome of UFC 249, it remains as a distinguished achievement for Michael Johnson. Additionally, Johnson also holds a KO win over former interim Champion Dustin Poirier. The loss marked Poirier's second defeat inside the UFC Octagon since losing to Conor McGregor, with his most recent loss coming against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242. In the process, at that time, Johnson snapped Poirier off a four-fight win-streak, when he KO'd the former Champion in the first round of the fight.

While one can settle the argument by calling it a fluke, Johnson has always put up incredible performance inside the Octagon. It is evident how much UFC acknowledges the caliber and the quality fighting that Johnson brings inside the cage. He not only took on Khabib Nurmagomedov, who returned after a two-year lay-off in the stylistically mismatched bout but was also the first fighter UFC deemed fit to welcome Justin Gaethje for his UFC debut.

Johnson will go down as one of the most impactful fighter in the division

Yes, the win-loss ratio might not say much about Michael Johnson, but if one looks at the quality of the fighters that he has squared off with inside the Octagon, and the incredible victories he has to his name, he stands out as one of the best of his time. And if not for him, Tony Ferguson would have been enjoying a 16-fight win streak, more than any fighter in the Lightweight division.

Michael Johnson will go down in history as a fighter who has not only competed 22 times for the biggest MMA promotion in the world but has had incredible bouts with some of the best that UFC had to offer. The Ultimate Fighter Season 12 finalist will go down as one of the best in the eyes of many fight fans around the world.


American Heart Association News Stories

American Heart Association News covers heart disease, stroke and related health issues. Not all views expressed in American Heart Association News stories reflect the official position of the American Heart Association.

Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, for individuals, media outlets, and non-commercial education and awareness efforts to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered and proper attribution is made to American Heart Association News.

Other uses, including educational products or services sold for profit, must comply with the American Heart Association&rsquos Copyright Permission Guidelines. See full terms of use. These stories may not be used to promote or endorse a commercial product or service.

HEALTH CARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your health care provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or call for emergency medical help immediately.


One Down, One To Go Johnson Wins The 400 Meters In Second-Fastest Time Ever He Shoots For The 200 Today

Michael Johnson is halfway home, with his goal of an unprecedented 400-200 double within reach at the World Championships.

Johnson, with a powerful move in the last 140 meters, ran away from the competition in winning the 400 meters on Wednesday in 43.39 seconds, the second-fastest time in history.

“I have to admit that I wanted to break the world record,” said Johnson, who goes after the 200-meter title beginning today. “But I’m very pleased with my time. I think I’ll eventually break it.”

Butch Reynolds, who finished second at 44.22 - nearly 8 meters behind, holds the world record of 43.29 set in 1988. Johnson gets another chance for the 400-meter record next Wednesday at Zurich, Switzerland, where he’ll only have to run a final instead of three qualifying rounds and a final like he did here.

Darnell Hall, who finished sixth, predicted Johnson will set the record in Zurich.

“Michael can break the record any hour, any day, any time,” Hall said. “In Zurich that record will fall.”

It was Johnson’s second consecutive 400 world title, and he went under 44 seconds for a record eighth time. His effort dominated the competition on the fifth day of the championships.

John Godina, also attempting an unprecedented double, became the first American to win the shot put at the championships with a throw of 70 feet, 5-1/4 inches). He also qualified for Friday’s 12-man discus final.

In other finals, Fernanda Ribeiro of Portugal outkicked Olympic champion Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia and won the 10,000 in 31:04.99, the fastest in the world this year, and Algerian Hassiba Boulmerka, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist, took the women’s 1,500 in 4:02.42.

Meanwhile, two of the favorites in the women’s heptathlon, Heike Drechsler and Sabine Braun, both of Germany, withdrew because of injuries sustained in the high jump. The leader after the first four events was Svetlana Moskalets of Russia with 3,941 points.

Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka, the only athlete to win four individual golds in the same event in the first four championships and the world record-holder, qualified for Friday’s pole vault final.

But it was still Johnson who dominated.

Reynolds, runner-up despite his best time of the year, also was impressed with Johnson’s effort.

Asked if Johnson was unbeatable, Reynolds replied, “Without a doubt.”

“I’m lucky I still have the world record,” he added.

Johnson was a little disappointed that he had come so close to the record without breaking it.

“When you’re running that hard and know you can get the record, then look up at the clock and see 43.39, you’d almost rather see 43.7 or 43.8,” Johnson said. “You think if I had run the first 150 meters just a little harder, or run the middle 150 a little faster, or run harder down the stretch, I could have gotten it.

“It excites me to do what no man has ever done.”

What no man ever has done is win both the 200 and 400 at a World Championships or an Olympics, and that is Johnson’s goal this week. The first two rounds of the 200 are Thursday, with the semis and finals on Friday. He won the 200 in 1991.

If he wins both, it would strengthen his case with the International Amateur Athletic Federation to rearrange the track schedule for the 1996 Olympics in order to give him an opportunity to sweep the two.

At present, there is a conflict between both events. Johnson, who has been campaigning strongly for a schedule change, has insisted that he won’t attempt a double at the Atlanta Games if the two events are not separated.

“My objective when I came here was to win two gold medals,” Johnson said. “The fire is still burning. It gives me a lot more incentive to win the 200 after I didn’t get the record. Maybe I’ll get it in the 200.”

The 200 record of 19.72 by Pietro Mennea of Italy in 1979 is the oldest on record. Johnson’s best is 19.79, and he is unbeaten in 13 straight 200 finals.

In the 400, he went in confident and controlled the race like an overwhelming favorite should.

“I felt like the only way I was going to lose the race was if I didn’t do what I was supposed to do,” said Johnson, who won his 46th consecutive final in the 400. “I didn’t worry about the other runners. That way I could control my own destiny. I just feel very confident.”

Reynolds said he couldn’t believe Johnson’s decisive move.

“When he passed me, he put 5 meters on me so quick,” Reynolds said. “I said, ‘How did he get by me so fast?’ I tried to keep my stride pattern and think that he would come back to me.

“He doesn’t come back. Michael is the greatest now. I’m still the greatest of all time.”

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WORLD TRACK AT A GLANCE A glance at Wednesday, the sixth day of the World Championships: Winners: Michael Johnson of the U.S. came within a tenth of a second of the world record in the 400 as he won the first half of his attempted 200-400 double. Portugal’s Fernanda Ribeiro won the 10,000 meters, beating Olympic champion Derartu Tulu of Ethiopia. Hassiba Boulmerka of Algeria regained her crown in the women’s 1,500 and American John Godina won the men’s shot put. Losers: Germany had two heptathletes drop out. Sabine Braun, the 1991 World Champion, injured her hand in the high jump, and Heike Dreschsler, who had the season’s best score in 1994, spiked her foot in the same event. A look ahead: Finals today are men’s 400 hurdles and 50-kilometer walk and women’s 200, triple jump and heptathlon finish.

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How it happened

Just two weeks before his 51st birthday, Johnson had a strength and cardio session at his home gym in Malibu, California.

But he soon knew that all was not well.

"After that workout I began experiencing a very strange sensation. I had a weakness in my left leg and a lack of co-ordination and also a tingling and a numbness in my left arm.

"I made the decision to go to the emergency room and not because I was experiencing any discomfort or pain or even knew that I was having a stroke but just out of caution."

After having a brain scan, which came out clear, Johnson's coordination and strength deteriorated rapidly.

He fell asleep inside the MRI chamber, and then could not get up with the whole of his left side limp and numb.

Johnson had suffered a Transient Ischaemic Attack, also known as a mini-stroke.

This is caused by a blood clot in a brain artery but, fortunately, it was not the more serious form of stroke (haemorrhagic) involving bleeding on the brain.

The scan showed the clot had already gone, but it had left several ruptured blood vessels on the right side of his brain leading to his physical failings on the left of his body.

Doctors quickly diagnosed the condition and gave him 48 hours rest before beginning rehab.

Those two days saw the American grow fearful that he might never walk again, and angry at what had happened to him.

"I was doing all the right things – keeping my weight down, working out every day, eating healthy – and I still end up having a stroke." - Michael Johnson speaking to the American Heart Association


Mitch Gaylord

Gymnast Mitch Gaylord vaulted himself into American history during the 1984 Olympics when he became the first gymnast to ever score a perfect "10."

During those Games in Los Angeles, Gaylord left the U.S. Men's Gymnastics team to the gold medal and captured three individual medals, including silver in the vault competition and bronzes in the rings and parallel bars.

Gaylord used his Olympic success to help launch Gold Medal Fitness, which offers a number of workout programs. “The Melt it OFF! with Mitch" programs consist of meal plans, recipes and workout schedules for those looking to lose weight or tone and tighten their physique.

Follow Chad Brooks on Twitter @cbrooks76 or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+.


Watch the video: Michael Johnson Atlanta 1996 Gold 400m200m


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