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Michael Johnson: I didn't come between Wariner and coach

15 February 2008

Michael Johnson Michael Johnson
By KATE HAIROPOULOS and ALBERT BREER / The Dallas Morning News

Michael Johnson, the five-time Olympic gold medalist, said Thursday he was not involved in the contract dispute that recently caused reigning 400-meter world and Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner to part ways with legendary Baylor coach Clyde Hart.

Johnson, who was coached by Hart, is now Wariner's agent.

"To both those guys' credit, they didn't involve me in it, because it would've been difficult for me," Johnson said during a media event at the Michael Johnson Performance Center. "Coach Hart is like a father to me. And Jeremy, certainly I have a great relationship with him.

"As much as I would've liked to talk through the situation and made it work, it would have been difficult for me. And my relationship with both of those guys is more important."

The split came as a surprise with the Beijing Olympics approaching in August and Wariner's recent times threatening Johnson's world record of 43.18 seconds.

Johnson said Wariner, an Arlington Lamar graduate, should continue to thrive while training in Waco under new coach Michael Ford, a Baylor assistant and Hart protege.

"He's only 24 and he's already running some incredibly fast times, and that's not just because coach Hart is his coach or because I'm his agent," said Johnson, a Dallas native. "It's because he's a great athlete, and he's learned the event."

Johnson said it is possible for Wariner to break his world record this year.

"You never know with records," Johnson said. "I was a tenth of a second off the world record in 1995, and it was four years later before I actually broke it.

"He's doing well. The thing that makes me confident he will break it is that he's running so fast, so consistently at 24 years old."

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