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Michael Johnson says track 'needs' a great men’s 100

11 August 2008

Michael Johnson Michael Johnson
American sprinting great Michael Johnson believes the men’s 100 meters at these Olympics should provide a welcome jolt for track and field. As long as Tyson Gay’s troublesome hamstring holds up, that is.

“It has the potential to be one of the top events of the games,” Johnson, the four-time Olympic gold medalist and world recordholder in the 200 and 400, said Monday. “I think the sport needs it, so hopefully it materializes into what it has the potential to be.”

The race to be the world’s fastest man is a staple Olympic highlight. A sport still shadowed by doping scandals could sure use an amazing race.

Gay, America’s fastest man, will run the preliminary 100-meter heats Friday — his first real races since his hamstring seized up at the U.S. Olympic trials last month. His expected showdown in Saturday’s finals against Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell would be the fastest field ever.

Until May, Powell owned the world record at 9.74 seconds. Bolt broke it with a 9.72 that was all the more astounding because the 200 specialist is a newcomer to the 100. Gay set an American mark by running 9.77 in a heat at the trials, then in the finals ran a 9.68 that didn’t qualify as a world record because the tail wind was too strong.

For these finals to truly be great, Johnson said, all three stars need to be at full strength.

That seems to be the case. Gay has told reporters he’s 100 percent and Powell, whose chest muscle bothered him earlier this year, has run well recently.

“We’ll find out more as that competition gets under way and we start to see the early rounds and see what kind of shape Tyson Gay is in and where everyone else is,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Bolt has a legitimate chance to become the first since Carl Lewis to win both the 100 and 200, which Lewis did at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I still think he’s a better 200-meter runner than 100-meter runner,” Johnson said.

Johnson manages Jeremy Wariner, the defending 400-meter gold medalist who had been dominant until two losses to fellow American LaShawn Merritt. Wariner has since beaten Merritt twice.

“He’s already proved that he did bounce back and ran the fastest time in the world this year,” Johnson said. “Jeremy has matured a lot over the years since he won in the last Olympics.”

Johnson likes his 24-year-old protege’s progress.

“I think Jeremy’s a lot further along than I was at this point because he learned the event a lot quicker than I was able to, with me doubling back from 200 to 400,” Johnson said.

Johnson also acknowledged that his world records—his 200 mark of 19.32 came at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and he set the 400 record of 43.18 in 1999— could fall in Beijing.

Bolt in the 200? And Wariner, who speaks openly about targeting Johnson’s record, in the 400?

“All records will be broken at some point,” he said.

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