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Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson Sydney2000.jpg

Michael Johnson at the 2000 Summer Olympics

Nationality: American
Distance(s): 200m, 400m
College team: Baylor
Date of birth: 13 September 1967 (1967-09-13) (age 42)
Place of birth: Dallas, Texas, United States
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)[1]
Weight: 78 kg (170 lb; 12.3 st)[1]
Personal bests
100 m: 10.09
200 m: 19.32
400 m: 43.18
Medal record
Competitor for  United States
Men's Athletics
Olympic Games
Gold 1992 Barcelona 4 x 400 m relay*
Gold 1996 Atlanta 200 m
Gold 1996 Atlanta 400 m
Gold 2000 Sydney 400 m
Disqualified 2000 Sydney 4x400 m relay
World Championships
Gold 1991 Tokyo 200 m
Gold 1993 Stuttgart 400 m
Gold 1993 Stuttgart 4 x 400 m relay
Gold 1995 Gothenburg 200 m
Gold 1995 Gothenburg 400 m
Gold 1995 Gothenburg 4 x 400 m relay
Gold 1997 Athens 400 m
Gold 1999 Seville 400 m

Michael Duane Johnson (born September 13, 1967) is a retired American sprinter. He won four Olympic gold medals and was crowned world champion eight times.[2] Johnson currently holds the world record in the 400 m and 4 x 400 m relay and formerly held the world record in the 200 m and Indoor 400 m. His 200 m time of 19.32 at the 1996 Summer Olympics stood as the record for over 12 years.

He is the only athlete in history to win both the 200 m and 400 m events at the same Olympics, a feat he accomplished at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Johnson is also the only man to successfully defend his Olympic title in the 400 m. Aside from his Olympic success Johnson accumulated eight gold medals at World Championships, and is thus tied with Carl Lewis for the most medals won by any athlete in history.[3]

Johnson was noted for his unique running style. His stiff upright stance and very short steps defied the received wisdom stating that a high knee lift was essential for maximum speed.


Early life and career

Johnson was born and raised in Dallas, Texas as the youngest of five children, and attended Skyline High School and Baylor University.[4] At Baylor, Johnson was coached by Clyde Hart, and won several NCAA titles in both indoor and outdoor sprints and relays.[2] Among his early collegiate feats, Johnson broke the school record for the 200 m in his very first race with a time of 20.41, and in 4 x 400 m relays he clocked a leg at 43.5. He prepared for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but developed a stress fracture of his left fibula before the U.S. Olympic trials began. He did not qualify in the 400 m and he withdrew from the 200 m.[4] In 1989, he placed 2nd in the 400 at the USA Indoor Championship, while at the NCAA Outdoor Championship he led off runner-up Baylor in the 4 x 400 with a time of 43.8 and won the 200 in an American record time of 20.59. Johnson hit his stride in his senior season, winning three of the four major 200 m events on the schedule, taking the 400 m at the USA Indoors Championship, and anchoring several winning relay teams.

Johnson graduated from Baylor in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in business, as the first athlete ever to hold the number one world ranking in both the 200 m and the 400 m.[4] In 1991, he won the world 200 m title in Tokyo by the largest margin of victory (.33 over Frankie Fredericks) since Jesse Owens won the event in the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Two weeks before the 1992 Summer Olympics began, Johnson and his agent both contracted food poisoning at a restaurant in Spain.[4] Johnson lost both weight and strength. He was the favorite to win the 200 m going into the Olympics, but he could do no better than sixth in his semifinal heat, and failed to reach the 200 m final. Nevertheless, he was able to race as a member of the 4 x 400 m relay team, which won a gold medal and set a new world record time of 2:55.74. Johnson ran the third leg in a time of 44.73.

He won the 1993 U.S. title in the 400 m, and followed it with world titles in both the 400 m and 4 x 400 m relay. His 42.91 second split time in the 4 x 400 m relay remains the fastest 400 meters in history.[2] At the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Johnson won his first 200 m and 400 m "double." No elite-level male track athlete had accomplished this in a major meet in the 20th century.[4]

Atlanta Olympics

Johnson celebrating victory in Sydney

In 1996, Johnson ran 19.66 seconds in the 200 m at the U.S. Olympic Trials, breaking Pietro Mennea's record of 19.72 seconds, which had stood for 17 years. With that performance he qualified to run at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and prepared to attempt to win both the 200 meters and 400 meters events, a feat never before achieved by a male athlete.[4] (Two women have won Olympic gold medals in both races in the same year: Valerie Brisco-Hooks in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and Marie-José Perec, in the same 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.)

Johnson entered the Olympic finals donning a custom-designed pair of golden-colored Nike racing spikes made with Zytel, causing him to be nicknamed "The Man With the Golden Shoes." Sources differ on the exact weight of these shoes; the manufacturer of the spikes claims they weighed 3 ounces (85 g) each,[5] while other sources state each shoe weighed about 94 grams (3.3 oz).[6] The left shoe was a US size 10.5 while the right shoe was a US size 11, to account for Johnson's shorter left foot.[5]

On July 29, Johnson easily captured the 400 m Olympic title with an Olympic Record time of 43.49 seconds, almost one full second ahead of silver medalist Roger Black of Great Britain. At the 200 m final on August 1, Johnson ran the opening 100 meters in 10.12 seconds and finished the race in a world record time of 19.32 seconds, breaking by more than three tenths of a second the previous record he had set in the U.S. Olympic Trials—the largest improvement ever on a 200 m world record. Some commentators compared the performance to Bob Beamon's record-shattering long jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.[2]

After the 1996 season ended, Johnson received the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in any sport in the United States,[7] and was named ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. In August, HarperCollins published his biographical/motivational book, Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats.

The world's fastest man

In 1997 Johnson began appearing in television advertisements in which he was billed as "the world's fastest man" as a result of his 200 m world record. This was despite the fact that the 100 metres world record holder, at the time Donovan Bailey (Canada), was typically given that unofficial title, but Johnson's clocking of 19.32s (10.35 m/s) en route to breaking the 200 metre world record at the 1996 Olympics led many to consider him the fastest man in the world.

In a much hyped competition in June 1997, he raced against Donovan Bailey in a 150-metre (164 yd) race at the Rogers Centre (then SkyDome) in Toronto. The event was unsanctioned, and its unique course consisted of 75 metres of curved track and a 75 metre straight. The race was billed as a competition for the title of "World's Fastest Man." However it failed to live up to expectations when Johnson pulled up around the 110 metre mark, apparently having injured his quadriceps. Bailey won the race and the $1.5 million prize that came with the victory, Johnson received $500,000. During the same year, Johnson won his third 400 m world title in Athens.

Later career

At the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York, Johnson anchored the U.S. 4 x 400 m relay team with Jerome Young, Antonio Pettigrew, and Tyree Washington to a win and set a world record of 2:54.20. Pettigrew has since admitted doping from 1997, while Young was caught doping in 1999.[8] The world record was annulled by the IAAF in August 2008, and reverted to the time of 2:54:29 Johnson helped set in the 1993 World Championships.[9]

Johnson was plagued by injury in 1999, and his following season was troubled with two injury scares that limited him to just four 400 m races before the 1999 World Championships in Seville. Were it not for an IAAF policy that allowed automatic entry to defending champions, he could not have raced in Seville since he failed to compete in the U.S. trials due to his injury. He recovered and won his fourth 400 meter world title with a new world record time of 43.18 seconds.

After qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics in the 400 m at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Johnson injured himself in the 200 m final while racing in a highly anticipated matchup against the 100 m and 200 m world champion, Maurice Greene. The injury prevented a defense of his 200 m Olympic title.

Johnson ended his career at the 2000 Summer Olympics by winning gold medal in the 400m, which brought his total number of Olympic gold medals to four. By winning the 400m, he earned the distinction of being the oldest gold medalist at any track event shorter than 5000 m in Olympic history.

Michael Johnson has run 200 m under 19.80 seconds six times, and he has run the distance in less than 20 seconds twenty-three times. He holds nine of the top 50 200 m performances of all time.[10] Johnson has run twenty-two 400 m races in under 44 seconds; he holds twenty-two of the top 50 and five of the top 10 400 m performances of all time.[10] Over the course of his career, he twice set the world record in the 200 m, three times set the world record as part of the 4 x 400 m relay team, twice set the indoor 400 m world record, set the outdoor 400 m world record once, and set the 300 m mark once.

After athletics

Since retiring from competitive track, Johnson has worked as a television pundit, often for the BBC in the United Kingdom, where he also writes a column for the Daily Telegraph. His sport management company, Ultimate Performance, serves as the agent for track and field athletes including Jeremy Wariner, who won the gold medal in the 400 m at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. Wariner, like Johnson, ran at Baylor University for coach Clyde Hart. In 2007 Johnson opened the Michael Johnson Performance Center in Dallas, Texas where he and his staff train many professional and youth athletes in all sports. He was elected to the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004, where his 200 m performance at the 1996 Olympics was named the greatest track and field moment of the last 25 years.[2]

In June 2008, Johnson voluntarily returned the 4 x 400 m relay gold medal he earned in the 2000 Olympics after Antonio Pettigrew, who ran the second leg, admitted he took performance enhancing drugs between 1997 and 2001.[11] Pettigrew made his admission while giving testimony in the trial of coach Trevor Graham for his role in the BALCO scandal. On August 2, 2008, the International Olympic Committee stripped the gold medal from the U.S. men's 4x400-meter relay team.[8] Three of the four runners in the event final, including Pettigrew and twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison, and preliminary round runner Jerome Young, all have admitted or tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.[8] Only Johnson and Angelo Taylor, who also ran in preliminary rounds, were not implicated.[8] Johnson had already returned his medal because, as he said, he felt the medal was not won fairly.[8]

Johnson currently lives in San Rafael, California, with his son Sebastian.[2]

Personal bests

Date Event Venue Time
June 15, 1994 100 meters Knoxville, United States 10.09
August 1, 1996 200 meters Atlanta, United States 19.32 World Record Olympic Record (1996 – 2008)
March 24, 2000 300 meters Pretoria, South Africa 30.85 WB
March 4, 1995 400 meters (indoor) Atlanta, United States 44.63 World Record (1995 – 2005)[12]
August 26, 1999 400 meters Seville, Spain 43.18 World Record (1999 – present)


Year Meeting Venue Result Event Time
1989 USA Indoor Championships 2nd Indoor 400 m
1989 NCAA Indoor Championships 1st Indoor 200 m 20.59 AR
1990 ? Edinburgh, United Kingdom 1st 200 m 19.85 AC
1990 USA Indoor Championships 1st Indoor 400 m 47.43
1990 USA Indoor Championships 1st Indoor 200 m 20.72
1990 USA Outdoors Championships Norwalk 1st 200 m 19.90
1990 NCAA Outdoors Championships Durham 1st 200 m 20.31
1990 Goodwill Games Seattle, United States 1st 200 m
1991 IAAF World Championships Tokyo, Japan 1st 200 m 20.01
1991 USA Indoor Championships 1st Indoor 400 m 46.70
1991 USA Outdoors Championships New York City, United States 1st 200 m 20.31
1991 IAAF / Mobil Grand Prix Final Barcelona, Spain 1st 200 m 19.88
1992 U.S. Olympic Trials New Orleans, United States 1st 200 m 19.79
1992 Crystal Palace London, United Kingdom 1st 400 m 43.98 AC
1992 1992 Summer Olympics Barcelona, Spain 1st 4 x 400 m Relay 2:55.74 World Record Olympic Record
(3rd leg, 44.73)
1993 IAAF World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 1st 4 x 400 m Relay 2:54.29 World Record
(4th leg, 42.91) World Record
1993 IAAF World Championships Stuttgart, Germany 1st 400 m 43.65 AC
1993 USA Outdoors Championships Eugene, United States 1st 400 m 43.74
1993 IAAF / Mobil Grand Prix Final London, United Kingdom 3rd 200 m
1994 Goodwill Games St. Petersburg, Russia 1st 200 m 20.10 AC
1995 IAAF World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 1st 4 x 400 m Relay 2:57.32 AC
(4th leg, 44.11)
1995 IAAF World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 1st 200 m 19.79
1995 IAAF World Championships Gothenburg, Sweden 1st 400 m 43.39 AC
1995 ? Reno, United States 1st Indoor 400 m 44.97 World Record
1995 USA Indoor Championships Atlanta, Georgia 1st Indoor 400 m 44.63 World Record
1995 USA Outdoors Championships 1st 200 m 19.83
1995 USA Outdoors Championships Sacramento, United States 1st 400 m 43.66
1995 IAAF / Mobil Grand Prix Final Monaco 1st 200 m 19.93
1996 Atlanta Grand Prix Final Atlanta, United States 1st 200 m 19.83
1996 U.S. Olympic trials Atlanta, United States 1st 400 m 43.44 US
1996 U.S. Olympic trials Atlanta, United States 1st 200 m 19.66 World Record
1996 1996 Summer Olympics Atlanta, United States 1st 400 m 43.49 Olympic Record
1996 1996 Summer Olympics Atlanta, United States 1st 200 m 19.32 World Record Olympic Record
1996 USA Indoor Championships 1st Indoor 400 m 44.66
1996 IAAF / Mobil Grand Prix Final 1st 400 m
1997 IAAF World Championships Athens, Greece 1st 400 m 44.12
1998 Goodwill Games New York City, United States 1st 400 m 43.76
1998 Oslo, Norway 3rd 400 m 44.58
1999 IAAF World Championships Seville, Spain 1st 4 x 400 m Relay 2:56.47 AC
1999 IAAF World Championships Seville, Spain 1st 400 m 43.18 World Record
2000 Pietersburg, South Africa 1st 200 m 19.71 AC
2000 Pretoria, South Africa 1st 300 m 30.85 WB
2000 South Africa 1st 400 m 43.9
2000 U.S. Olympic Trials Sacramento, United States 1st 400 m 43.68
2000 2000 Summer Olympics Sydney, Australia 1st 400 m 43.84
  • AR - American record
  • AC - All-comers record; fastest time ever run on host nation's soil
  • US - Fastest time ever run on United States soil


  1. ^ a b, profile page, accessed 27 January 2010
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Michael Johnson profile". Baylor University. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  3. ^ "Michael Johnson". USA Track & 24 January 2001. Retrieved 25 August 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Schwartz, Larry (2007). "Johnson doubled the difficulty". SportsCentury. ESPN. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  5. ^ a b Christie, James (1997-04-08). "Bailey's Shoes Go High-Tech: Spikes to be ready for Skydome sprint" (reprint). The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  6. ^ Berggren, Svante (November 2004). "Sole structure - European Patent EP 0964625". Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  7. ^ In American English, the term "athlete" is a generic term for a competitive sportsperson, and is not specific to the sport known as "athletics" in most of the English-speaking world and "track and field" in the U.S.
  8. ^ a b c d e Wilson, Stephen (2 August 2008). ""IOC strips gold from 2000 US relay team". Associated Press. 
  9. ^ "400m relay world record amended". BBC Sport. 2008-08-12. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  10. ^ a b Larsson, Peter (2008-06-01). "All-time men's best 200m". Track and Field all time Performances. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  11. ^ United States Olympic Committee (2008-06-03). "Statement From United States Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Jim Scherr Regarding Antonio Pettigrew and Michael Johnson Returning their Medals". Press release. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  12. ^ 400 Metres All Time (indoor). IAAF (2009-02-08). Retrieved on 2009-04-06.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
United States Roger Kingdom
Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Soviet Union Sergey Bubka
Preceded by
United States Kevin Young
Men's Track & Field ESPY Award
Succeeded by
United States Dennis Mitchell
Preceded by
United States Cal Ripken, Jr.
Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
United States Tiger Woods
Preceded by
United States Dennis Mitchell
Men's Track & Field ESPY Award
1996 – 1997
Succeeded by
Denmark Wilson Kipketer
Preceded by
Ethiopia Haile Gebrselassie
Men's Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Denmark Wilson Kipketer
Preceded by
United States Maurice Greene
Men's Track & Field ESPY Award
Succeeded by
United States Maurice Greene
Preceded by
United Kingdom Simon Hughes
RTS Television Sport Awards
Best Sports Pundit

Succeeded by
United Kingdom John Francome
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Brazil Robson da Silva
Men's 200 m Best Year Performance
1990 – 1991
Succeeded by
United States Michael Marsh
Preceded by
United Kingdom John Regis
Men's 200 m Best Year Performance
1995 – 1996
Succeeded by
Trinidad and Tobago Ato Boldon
Preceded by
Nigeria Francis Obikwelu
Men's 200 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
United States Joshua J. Johnson



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