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Johnson wishes Wariner, Hart could have seen eye-to-eye

14 February 2008

Michael Johnson Michael Johnson
By Charean Williams

Michael Johnson won his five Olympic gold medals under the tutelage of coach Clyde Hart. Johnson now serves as Jeremy Wariner’s agent.

So when it came to Hart and Wariner’s disagreement over contract terms, Johnson kept his distance. He said he had nothing to do with Wariner’s decision to leave Hart.

“To those guys credit, they didn’t involve me in it, because it would have been difficult for me,” Johnson said Thursday during media day at his Michael Johnson Performance Center. “Coach Hart is like a father to me, and certainly Jeremy, I have a great relationship with him, have mentored him, and I’ve been involved with his career since 2004. …As much as I would have liked to have tried to help the situation and make it work, it would have been difficult for me, and my relationship with both of those guys is more important.”

Hart announced the parting with Wariner two weeks ago, the result of a disagreement over Hart’s compensation. Hart said Thursday that he and Johnson have talked several times since then.

“Michael assured me he didn’t advise him,” Hart said. “Jeremy said it was a ‘business decision.’ That’s what it boils down to. … It’s a shame it happened, but I don’t think it’s going to affect my relationship with Michael.”

Wariner was unavailable for comment. He is in Australia, where he will run the 200 meters Saturday at the Sydney Athletics Grand Prix. He is scheduled to run his first 400 of the year next week in Melbourne.

He told reporters in Beijing last week that Johnson had nothing to do with the coaching change. Wariner admitted “money” played a part in the split with Hart, but he said that was not the sole reason.

Michael Ford, a Baylor assistant who is a protege of Hart’s, is training the defending Olympic 400 gold medalist.

While the U.S. Olympic Trials are less than five months away, followed by the Beijing Games in August, Johnson said he has no concerns about the timing of the move.

“Same program,” said Johnson, whose 400-meter world record of 43.18 is being chased by Wariner. “Michael recruited Jeremy to Baylor and has been involved in his career from the very beginning. …It’s not a major change for Jeremy.

“Coaching is a part of it, but obviously talent is a part of it; experience is a part of it. He’s only 24 years old, and he’s already running some incredibly fast times. That’s not just because coach Hart [was] his coach or just because I’m his agent. That’s because he’s a great athlete, and he’s learned the event.”

Wariner, an Arlington Lamar product, has talked about training part time at the Michael Johnson Performance Center after this year’s Olympics. To that end, he has bought a house in Craig Ranch near the training facility.

“He’s always talked about doing the same thing I did, spending most of my time here, having my home here in Dallas, where my family is,” Johnson said. “His family’s here. But he’ll keep a place in Waco and continue to go down there and train, because he’s got training partners just like I did. …I think that’s his plan.”

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