Michael Johnson takes his Golden Shoes to Victory at Atlanta 1996 | The Olympics On The Record

Michael Johnson takes his Golden Shoes to Victory at Atlanta 1996 | The Olympics On The Record

Michael Johnson’s 1992 Olympic
campaign was a disaster. Already at the age
of 25, Johnson was the most dominant sprinter in the world. But he contracted
food poisoning shortly before
the Olympic Games in Barcelona, and underperformed in all
his events. He failed even to qualify
for the final of his favourite event,
the 200m. After that unhappy summer,
he was quickly back on top of the world. Not a 100m guy, he specialised
in the 200m and the 400m, being equally good in both. His upright running style
and short stride patterns made him
an unconventional figure. He didn’t really look
like a sprinter, at all. But, boy, could he run. By the time the Atlanta Olympic
Games came around in 1996, Johnson was in
a unique position of being the best 200m runner in the world, and the best
400m runner in the world. He had become the first man in
history to go under 20 seconds in the 200m, and
under 44 seconds in the 400m. He was such a big star that when he asked the Games’
organisers to change the schedule so
he could attempt both events, they actually said yes. No-one
wanted to miss out on history. Meanwhile, in a creative
meeting far, far away, Team Johnson had to face the most pressing matter
of them all – the key question that has taxed
Olympians over the ages. What to wear! They wanted Johnson to wear
a shoe that made a statement – a shoe to light up the Games –
that could inspire, that could celebrate, that could intimidate, that could fly. These are rubbish ideas. I know.
What a load of nonsense. Are these the best ideas
they can come up with? Why doesn’t he just wear
gold shoes? Ha! Leading up to Atlanta, Johnson’s record
was pretty much perfect. So when the business studies
graduate from Dallas took his place at
the starting line in Atlanta, he did so
as the overwhelming favourite – wearing gold shoes. Success, however,
brings its own pressures. He had failed
four years previously, with millions watching
around the world. Johnson now faced
the pressure to deliver – a pressure which only a few athletes in history
have experienced. And there was another thing
bothering him. Just a few weeks beforehand,
he’d lost a 200m race to his Namibian rival,
Frankie Fredericks. Fredericks was in
the form of his life. A quick word about the 200m. It is a sprint like the 100m, but it does not run
in a straight line, and the ability to run the bend
effectively is a key test. Johnson called it “the danger
zone”. So much could go wrong. Having won the 400m, Johnson
wanted that second gold medal. He wanted it badly. ..400m gold medallist, representing the USA,
Michael Johnson! So, we’re ready for the start. Johnson in lane three,
the man all eyes are on. Look at the flashbulbs go
and look at Michael Johnson go! Boldon running well in six,
Fredericks in five, but look at Johnson coming up
in lane three, on the bend. Johnson is in the lead and
Johnson is extending that lead! Fredericks, trying
desperately to catch him, but he’s not going
to come close! Johnson’s across
the finish line in a new world record! 19.32 – a new Olympic
and world record, smashing his own record
by 0.34 of a second. Fredericks had run
a new personal best and was the fastest human over 200m,
aside from Michael Johnson. By breaking a world record
by such a huge margin, he’d achieved
the greatest performance of the Atlanta Olympic Games. This is where it stood in the context of all
that had gone before it. He’d run the last 100 metres
in 9.10 seconds, taking the world record
into a new realm. It was your shoe idea, Nelly.
That’s what won it. Thanks, Jan.


  1. It is a shame that so many of the US "Champions" of that era were later found to be a sham … drug cheats. Florence Griffiths Joyner, Carl Lewis, Dennis Mitchell, Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin, Mary Decker, to name but a few.
    So any "extraordinary" performance by an US athlete from those times is today viewed with a degree of justified cynicism.
    Who knows whether Michael Johnsons athletic dominance was legitimate. The US historic record suggests that "everyone was at it".
    I happen to be one of the people who think that Michael was genuine, and was the exception to the rule of what was going on in US sports at that time. But unfortunately he is a victim of circumstance, and history may well assign him to yet another American cheater.

  2. 初めての20秒切り、44秒切りを果たしたのに自己ベストは19秒32と43秒18ですか…。


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