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Johnson wants world’s fastest man to electrify

3 May 2006

By Gary Smith

American sprint legend Michael Johnson, one of most accomplished track and field athletes in his era, said the new upraising stars lack the drive to bring the excitement back in the sport.

Lack of competitive vibes

Johnson, who became the first man in history to medal in both the 200m and 400m at the same Olympics in 1996 at Atlanta, singled out Jamaican soft spoken sprinter Asafa Powell as a talented but low key competitor, adding that the Jamaican world record holder is too quiet.

"Asafa Powell should be one of the more visible athletes in the sport but most people probably would not recognise him if they saw him walking down the street," Johnson said "because he rarely has anything to say about anything."

"I'm certainly not suggesting that an athlete should try to be something he's not, but the sport and the athletes are in desperate need of a little more excitement."

What is your status – who is really the world's fastest man?

Powell broke the world record with a sizzling run of 9.77 second at an IAAF Grand Prix Meeting in Athens, last season, but Johnson, who became the only man to repeat as Olympic 400m champion when he won the gold at the Sydney Games in 2000 said the Jamaican star is way too laid back.

"There should be a furious debate about who is really the fastest man in the world," the man who raced to an astonishing 19.32sec 200m world record in Atlanta said.

"This year is an important part of the build-up to the next Olympics Games...I am suggesting that this new generation of athletes show more of their personalities and at least have an opinion about something."

Meanwhile Johnson said that fellow American Justin Gatlin, the world and Olympic 100 metres champion, who also won the 200m at the worlds, "stands out as athletics' most visible competitor these days," but it going to take a bit more to get the sport back to exciting moments.

"This new generation of athletes is incredibly talented," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, the sport today, compared with even just a few years ago, is in desperate need of a few stand-out athletes whose personalities - along with their performances - will make you want to watch athletics and keep you interested."

Apart from owning the 200m world record Johnson also holds the fastest time ever over the 400m with a time of 43.18. Born in Dallas, Texas, on September 13, 1967, the American sprint legend dipped under 43sec seven times during his career, while breaking the 20sec barrier six times.

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