This week’s ‘Where are they Now?’ segment focuses on one of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Johnson.
Michael Johnson was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He was schooled in Skyline High School and Baylor University. While at Baylor he was coached by Clyde Hart, who remained Johnson’s coach throughout his career. One of his first major feats in college was running the 200 metres in a time of 20.41.
Johnson trained hard for the 1988 Seoul Olympics but injury before the Olympic trials ruined his chances of making the team and he failed to make the 400m team. As a result of this, he pulled out of the 200m trials.
The following year was more successful for Johnson as he won the 200m at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Outdoor Championships with a time of 20.59. He graduated from Baylor in 1990 with a degree in business as the first ever man to be number 1 in the world at both 200m and 400m.
His unprecedented success continued at the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991 as he annihilated the rest of the field in the 200m final to win his first gold medal. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona he was the favourite to take home gold at 200m and 400m but he contracted food poisoning a couple of weeks before the event. Johnson was still favourite going in to the 200m but finished 6th in his heat and failed to qualify for the final. It wasn’t all bad news as he was part of the gold medal winning USA 4x400m relay team.
In 1993 he focused solely on the 400m and won the USA trials and added the 400m World Championship gold and the 4x400m relay gold to his medal tally in Stuttgart. At the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Johnson made history by winning an unprecedented double gold in the 200m and 400m. The 4×400 copper fasten their hold on gold medals by again winning with Johnson as their star man.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics will always be regarded as Johnson’s defining event of his career. He showed his form at the US trials breaking the world record at 200m. His new time of 19.66 beat the old record of 19.72 that had stood for almost 17 years. Johnson was then criticised in some quarters and put a lot of pressure on himself as he donned golden shoes for the 200m and 400m heats.
He didn’t let the pressure get to him as he obliterated the field in the 400m final, winning gold in an Olympic Record time of 43.49. Johnson wasn’t finished as he saved his best for the 200m final. He was up against a world class field that included Frankie Fredricks, Ato Boldon and Obadele Thompson. In what is one of the most iconic races of all time, Johnson clocked a time of 19.32, smashing the World Record he ran at the US trials. This performance is regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest in Olympic history. This record stood until Usain Bolt ran 19.19 in August 2009.
At the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Johnson won another gold at the 400m and repeated the achievement in 1999 at the Seville World Championships and despite injury plaguing much of his season he broke the World Record in that race.
The US Olympic trials in 2000 saw Michael Johnson come up against Maurice Greene in the 200m event. Johnson had already qualified for the 400m and Greene was seen as a major threat to his 200m crown as he held both the 100m and 200m World Titles. In a hotly anticipated race, disaster struck for Johnson as he injured his hamstring and was unable to qualify for the Olympic 200m.
Michael Johnson finished his career by again winning the 400m at the Sydney Olympic in 2000. This brought his total to 4 Olympic gold medals and he won 8 gold medals at the World Championships. At the end of his career he had broken the 200m World Record twice and the 400m World Record once.
In 2004 Michael Johnson was elected to the US Track and Field Hall of Fame. Since retiring from athletics he works mainly as a commentator for the BBC. He lives in California with his wife Armine and his son Sebastian born during his first marriage in 2000.