Michael Johnson – Best 200/400 m Sprinter In History
Michael Johnson is the most eminent figure in track and field athletics in 1990s. During his 11-year career, Michael Johnson was virtually unbeaten in 200 m and 400 m dashes, breaking several world records and establishing himself as the best sprinter in 200 m and 400 m races in athletics history. Michael Johnson – best Olympic athlete of the 1990s is a phrase that summarizes the American’s career, a record breaker that run faster than the scientific limits of his time. The American sprinter is considered one of the greatest and consistent athletes of all time, an example of total dedication and pure talent.
The American sprinter is considered the world’s fastest man. Johnson run 22 times under 44 seconds in 400 m dash, more than twice as many as any other athlete (only 3 other sprinters managed to go under 44 seconds after 1999). The American sprinter holds 27 of the top 100 performances in 400 m (out of which 14 are in the best 25 performances of all time) and 13 of the top 100 performances in 200 m. Michael broke several Olympic and world records in 200 m, 400 m and 4 x 400 m relay races. Michael Johnson became know as the “Fastest Man in the World” after making the impossible Olympic double – 200 m and 400 m – setting 2 new Olympic records. He is the only male Olympian in history to win the those 2 long sprints events during the same Games. The American sprinter is also the sole Olympian in history who managed to defend his 400 m Olympic title. Michael Johnson still holds the world and Olympic record in 400 m race and the world best in 300 m.
Michael Johnson was born in Dallas, being the youngest child of a truck driver and an elementary school teacher. Michael showed his sprinting talent from an early age, running competitively from the age of 10. He was one of the top 200-meters sprinters in highschool and started running 400 m dashes after he attended Baylor University in Waco. Johnson broke Baylor’s 200 m record in his first race, with an incredible time of 20.41 seconds. In his junior year (1989), Michael Johnson set the US in-door record in 200 m race and won the collegiate title. In his first senior year, 1990, Michael Johnson established himself as a world class athlete by winning 13 consecutive 200 m races and as a result securing the number one world ranking. Moreover, Johnson secured number one world ranking in 400 m dash as well, after winning 4 sub 45 seconds races (beating the world record holder of that time – Butch Reynolds).
The American focused on 200 m race for the 1991 Tokio World Championships and Johnson amazed everyone with his win (the largest victory margin – 0.33 second over Frankie Fredericks – in a major international competition in 200 m dash since Jessie Owens in 1936 Summer Olympics). Michael Johnson showed again his amazing talent when he broke Carl Lewis‘ 200 m Olympic Trial record (19.84 seconds). Johnson clocked an astonishing 19.79 and showed that he can go beyond any human barrier. Unfortunately, due to food poisoning the legendary sprinter failed to pass the 200 m Olympic semi-finals. However, he won the gold medal as part of the 4×400 m relay team, who set a new world and Olympic record 2:55.74 (with Johnson running his lap in 44:73 seconds).
Michael Johnson demonstrated again his class in the 1993 US Track and Field Championships. The 400 m dash final lineuped the best long distance sprinters in the world: Michael Johnson, Butch Reynold (world record holder – 43.29 seconds) and Quincy Watts (Olympic Gold Medalist – 43.50 seconds). Johnson set a new personal best (43.74 seconds) and also clocked the best 400 m time ran on American soil ever. Michael won the gold medal in 1993 World Championships’ 400 m dash (43.65). He also won the gold medal with the American 4×400 m relay team, being the first to man to run a relay split sub 43 seconds. Johnson’s 42.91 seconds relay split is the fastest 400 m time ever. Michael won all his 400 m races in 1994 and a gold medal at the Goodwill Games in St Petersburg.
Michael started 1995 with a new indoor 400 m world record (44.63) and continued his incredible win streak (40 consecutive wins in 400 m dash). He became the first sprinter in history to win both 200 m and 400 m titles in US National Championships. Michael Johnson shattered another barrier and established himself as the first male athlete in history to win both 200 m and 400 m world titles in the same championship (he also won another gold medal in 4×400 relay). After running 9 races in 9 days, Michael Johnson left Goteborg World Championships with an amazing gold triple, a feast that no male athlete was ever able to accomplish.
1996 was the year when Michael Johnson became an absolute legend. He started by breaking the 200 m world record (held by Pietro Mennea since 1979 – 19.72 seconds), after clocking an incredible 19.66 in the US Olympic Trials. The Man with the Golden Shoes easily won the gold medal in 400 m race, setting a new Olympic record (43.49 seconds). Four days later, the American sprinter became a legendary figure after winning the Olympic title in 200 m dash, establishing a new world record – 19.32 seconds (he improved his own world record with 0.34 second – which is the largest improvement ever on the 200 m world record – and it remains the 4th fastest 200 m times in history). Michael Johnson is the first and only male athlete to win Olympic gold medal both in 200 m and 400 m in the same Olympics. An astonishing accomplishment for one the best athletes of all times!
Johnson recovered on time for the 1997 Athens World Championships and managed to win another gold medal in 400 m race. Michael Johnson continued his amazing career by breaking some more world records in 1998 and 1999. Michael Johnson was part of the amazing US 4×400 m relay team that set a new world record (2:54.20) in Goodwill Games, but the record was annulled because 2 members of the team admitted being doped. However, Michael Johnson recorded the best 400 m of the year during that event (43.76 seconds). Michael Johnson finally broke the 400 m world record in 1999 Seville World Championships, winning the gold medal after clocking an amazing 43.18. The record is still held by Johnson and since then no athlete was able to challenge that time.
Michael Johnson ended his career with another incredible performance, being the first and only male athlete to defend his Olympic 400 m title. Despite being injured for a long time, Johnson showed that talent and longevity are his main strengths and easily grabbed the 400 m gold medal. He was also member of the 4×400 m relay team that won the gold medal, but the team was later on disqualified because several members were caught doped. Johnson did an amazing gesture by returning the gold medal, stating that he does not want to taint his image. The Man in the Golden Shoes demonstrated that he was a true athlete, that had something special and can cleanly win a race!
Michael Johnson had a rather strange running style. He gave the impression that he was running like a duck (waddling from side to side of his lane), but he had the speed of a cheetah. Everybody argued that his rigid, upright stance and low knee lift combined with piston-like arm movement are not efficient, but he defied all odds and became a legendary athlete, one of the most complete and consistent sprinters ever.
Michael Johnson has an amazing record of 18 gold medals (out of which 4 Olympic title and 8 World Championships titles – most gold medals won in World Championships by a runner, alongside Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt), 0 silverware and 0 bronze medals. Michael Johnson holds nine of the 50 200 m performances ( he has run 6 times under 19.80 seconds and 23 times under 20.00 seconds) and he also hold five of the top 10 400 m performances. He was ranked number one 10 times in 400 m and 5 times in 200 m in Track&Field News World Rankings. These achievements show that Johnson was born for success, an athlete born to surpass legends. Michael Johnson is a unique athlete and undoubtedly the best long distance sprinter in history!