- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 26, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia Michael Johnson wanted to end his Olympic career with a gold medal. So did Allen Johnson.
It was not a Johnson & Johnson night at the finish line, though, at Olympic Stadium before a record crowd of more than 112,000 yesterday.
Michael Johnson got his wish, winning the gold medal in the 400 meters for the second straight Olympics becoming the first man to repeat in the event finishing with a time of 43.84 seconds, just ahead of American teammate Alvin Harrison (44.40). Gregory Haughton (44.70) of Jamaica was the bronze medal winner.
And that wasn't the only American gold in track and field yesterday. Stacy Dragila won the women's pole vault in the event's debut at the Olympics.
Burke native Allen Johnson had the same plans as Michael Johnson to follow up his 1996 gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles in Atlanta with another one in Sydney.
Not only did Allen Johnson fail to fulfill his goal he didn't even come away with a medal yesterday. In the race that followed Michael Johnson's victory, Allen Johnson finished fourth behind gold medal winner Anier Garcia of Cuba, who finished with a time of 13 seconds, and American teammates Terrence Trammel (13.16) and Mark Crear, the silver medalist in Atlanta who won the bronze yesterday in 13.22.
Allen Johnson, who appeared to hit every hurdle while jumping over, just finished behind Crear in 13.23. It was clear that Johnson was suffering from a hamstring problem that had been plaguing him in the days leading up to the Games. He said he felt a twinge while training last month, and then aggravated it two weeks ago at a meet in Japan. Before yesterday's race, he admitted he wasn't fully recovered.
"It's not 100 percent," Allen Johnson said. "I can run with it like it is well enough."
It wasn't well enough for a medal, though.
Allen Johnson wasn't the only great hurdler who had problems. Great Britain's Colin Jackson, the world record holder (12.91 seconds), finished fifth, and said it was a "very messy race."
It also was clearly a difficult moment for Allen Johnson, who laid face down on the track for a few moments and then paced back and forth while Garcia made his victory lap a lap that Allen Johnson had hoped would be his again to cement his place in history as the premiere hurdler of his time.
For 33-year-old Michael Johnson, another gold medal and his place in history was more than enough to satisfy him. After crossing the finish line, he and Harrison carried American flags they got from the crowd in a victory lap around the stadium, with the Australian crowd paying tribute to one of the greatest track stars of his time.
"I had the opportunity to make history tonight, and to end my career like this means a lot to me," Michael Johnson said.
It wasn't Atlanta, when he was clearly the star of the Games, winning gold in both the 200 and 400 meters. He took a back seat yesterday to Australian Cathy Freeman, who sent her countrymen into a frenzy with her gold medal win in the women's 400 meters. But Michael Johnson seemed at ease with not being the biggest star on the stage.
"My Olympic career has been great," he said. "This Olympics has been very special because it is my last. Nothing will ever take away from Atlanta, but this was very enjoyable."
He has one more race left the anchor leg of the 1,600-meter relay on Saturday.
Michael Johnson said it would be his last major competition, and, if so, he will retire with a historic legacy. He has won four Olympic medals and nine in the world championships all of them gold. Yesterday was the the 23rd time he has run the 400 meters under 44 seconds. The next closest to him are Americans Butch Reynolds and Quincy Watts, with just four times under 44 seconds.
Michael Johnson holds both the world record in the 400 meters (43.18 second, set in August 1999) and the Olympic record of 43.39 he set in Atlanta. And he intimated before the race that the only way to perhaps steal the show in Sydney was to break 43 seconds. He missed that, but he succeeded in cementing in place in track history.
"I didn't want my last Olympic race to be a bronze or a silver or anything but gold," he said. "That was the big motivator that I was thinking about all day today was just basically keeping my reputation intact."
Allen Johnson wanted the same and perhaps more. The 29-year-old former Lake Braddock High School track star never got the recognition he probably deserved after winning the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles in Atlanta, and was hoping that a second would bring that recognition.
"A second medal might make people recognize me for being the dominant hurdler of my time," he said in an interview before the Games.
He certainly made his mark as a hurdler. In addition to winning the gold medal in Atlanta, holding the Olympic record with a time of 12.95 seconds, Johnson won two world championships, in 1995 and 1997, and has run eight of the 17 fastest times in 110-meter history.
And Allen Johnson had to deal with a series of injuries that nearly kept him from getting to Sydney. He suffered through an injury-filled 1999 season, with a stress fracture in his pelvis during the indoor season and then was forced to withdraw from the semifinals of the world championships with a strained right calf muscle.
While Allen Johnson came up short in defending his gold medal, Stacy Dragila became the first gold medal winner in women's pole vault, clearing 15 feet, 1 inch (4.60 meters), beating out Tatiana Grigorieva of Australia, who won the silver and Vala Flofadottir of Iceland, who took away the bronze.
Dragila, 29, a former rodeo rider from Auburn, Calif., who began pole vaulting in 1993, tried to break her own world record of 4.63 meters, but failed on three attempts. "I would have loved to get the world record tonight, but the gold is far more important than the world record," she said.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Gail Devers moved into the semifinals of the 100-meter hurdles by winning her second-round heat in 12.77 seconds. In the first round earlier in the day, she ran 12.62 the sixth-fastest time in the world this year. Other Americans who advanced to their respective finals were James Carter of Baltimore and Angelo Taylor, who moved into the 800-meter finals. Dwight Phillips was the only American to reach the finals in the long jump.
In other track finals action, Maria Mutola won the first Olympic gold medal for Mozambique by winning the women's 800 with a time of 1 minute, 56.15 seconds; Gabriela Szabo of Romania set an Olympic record in the women's 5,000 meters with a time of 14:40.79; Jonathan Edwards of Great Britain won the men's triple jump with a leap of 58 feet, 1 and 1/4 inches; Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia repeated as the winner of the men's 10,000 in 27:18.20; and Lithuania's Virgilijus Alekna won the men's discus with a mark of 69.30 meters.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide