3 minute read

Michael Johnson

Wins Both Events At Atlanta

Johnson was primed and ready when the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games opened in July 1996. He raced to victory in the 400-meter sprint with a new Olympic record time of 43.49 seconds. Only three days later, he set a new world record time of 19.32 seconds in winning the 200-meter sprint. The victories were particularly sweet for Johnson, who four years earlier had been waylaid by illness on his race for gold in the same events at Barcelona. Never before had a man won gold in both events at the same Olympics. (The only woman to win gold in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints was Valerie Brisco-Hooks, who accomplished the feat at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.) Of his remarkable performance, Johnson told the Olympian: "I've always wanted to bring the two events together in a way that nobody else had ever done; this sums up what my career is about." In a bold display of confidence, Johnson ran both events in gold-colored running shoes and sported a thick gold chain around his neck.

Chronology

1967 Born September 13 in Dallas, Texas
1986 Graduates from Skyline High School in Dallas
1990 Receives bachelor's degree in accounting and marketing from Baylor University
1998 Marries Kerry Doyen on October 3
2000 Becomes a father with birth of a son, Sebastian, in May
2001 Announces retirement from competition

Related Biography: Track and Field Coach Clyde Hart

Clyde Hart, the longtime track and field coach at Baylor University, was first attracted to Michael Johnson by the high school sprinter's stability and maturity, qualities he thought would make Johnson a valuable addition to Baylor's 4×400 relay team. It was only after Johnson had begun training at Baylor that Hart began to see that the young runner had far more potential than the coach had first realized. Hart was particularly impressed by the times Johnson was posting in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints.

Johnson's decision to run both the 200- and 400-meter sprints in competition was largely an outgrowth of a training program Hart had developed for Johnson during his junior and senior years at Baylor. The program was designed to help the runner avoid leg problems that had plagued him during the 1989 track season and called for him to run mainly relays during the spring of 1990. "Running both events fit perfectly with our program," Hart said. "We feel that strength is synonymous with speed—if you're strong, then you can run fast." And under Hart's guidance, Johnson certainly learned to run fast.

A native of Arkansas, Hart was an accomplished sprinter at Hot Springs High School, taking the state title in the 100-yard dash in 1951. He attended Baylor on a full scholarship, competing for the Baylor Bears all four years of his college career. After graduating he coached high school track in Little Rock from 1957 through 1963. In 1963 he returned to his college alma mater as coach of the track and field team. He has occupied that job for four decades.

Shortly after his impressive win at Atlanta, Johnson published a motivational book titled Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats, and toured extensively in late 1996 to promote it. In recognition of Johnson's accomplishment in winning both the 200- and 400-meter sprints, the U.S. Olympic Committee named Johnson Sportsman of the Year for 1996, an honor he'd previously won in both 1993 and 1995. The IAAF named him Legend Athlete of the Year for 1996, and the Amateur Athletic Union gave him its 76th annual James E. Sullivan Memorial Award. Things also improved financially for Johnson when he was signed by Nike to a six-year, $12 million endorsement deal.

Michael Johnson

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsTrack and FieldMichael Johnson Biography - Born In Dallas, Runs Track For Baylor, Waylaid By Illness In 1992, Wins Both Events At Atlanta - SELECTED WRITINGS BY JOHNSON: