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Michael Johnson answers your questions

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Tom Fordyce | 15:31 UK time, Thursday, 30 April 2009

Earlier in the week, I opened the floor to questions for the sprinting/summarising legend that is Michael Johnson.

Rather splendid they were too - so without futher blather or prittle-prattle, here are his answers to the best of the bunch.

(If your question made the cut, hats off. If it didn't, don't take it personally; MJ's a busy man. Format should be self-explanatory - name and question of user first, Michael's chat second and any 'TF' subsidiary questions from you've-worked-it-out.)

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ojones88 asked: If you could compile an all-time 200m race, who would feature in it?

"I would put myself in it, Usain Bolt, Tommie Smith - 1968 Olympic gold medallist - John Carlos, the silver medallist in that race, Carl Lewis, Calvin Smith - 1983 world champion - and Frankie Fredericks."

TF: Which lane would you want, and which athlete in the lane outside you?

"Lane five, and it wouldn't matter."

TF: The 1-2-3?

"I'm only concerned with the one - and that would be me."

TheresOnlyOneK-Dee asked: Is Usain Bolt the greatest sprinter you have ever seen? If not, who is?

"I can't say he's the greatest sprinter I've ever seen, but I can say his 100m in Beijing was the greatest performance I've ever seen, no doubt about it. For him to be the greatest, he'll have to win gold at another Olympics or a World Championship, show some consistency and longevity. But there's no reason for me to think he can't do."

TF: Greatest sprinter ever?

"Jesse Owens. The significance of what he did we all know about; what not everyone knows is that, just on one day at a collegiate meeting, he broke four world records and tied another one, all in the space of 45 minutes. No-one else could do that."

FalmouthWanderer asked: Do you think its possible for Usain Bolt (or someone else) to run under 19.00 in the 200m?

"It's definitely possible. I could have run under 18 seconds. Could Usain? You'd think he probably could."

TF: How could you have run under 18?

"I wouldn't have needed more training, but I would have needed more competition. I ran 18.5 secs on a 4x200m relay as a collegiate athlete, and the race when I ran 19.32 secs was not the perfect race.

"There were a couple of things I could have improved on - I stumbled out of the blocks and that cost me time, and I strained my left hamstring at the end which cost me time. Correcting those two would maybe get me a tenth of a second total, so I would have needed more on top."

Toon_Luigi asked: Do you think Usain Bolt will break your 400m world record?

"I think he can, but I think it's a lot more difficult than he thinks it probably would be. It's all come very easily to him in the 100m and 200m. It's not that he hasn't worked hard - he has - but he's only been in the sport a few years, and he's already broken the 100m and 200m word records.

"When I broke the 400m record, I'd run 43.39 and the record was 43.29. It took me four more years to move from 43.39 to break the record. Same with the 200m - I was within seven hundredths of a second of it in 1992, but it took me another four years in 1996 to break it.

"The 400m is also much more of a strategic race, as well as having to learn how to train for it and then do that tough training."

Wellly asked: What do you think is the fastest maximum speed you've ever reached is and how would it compare to Bolt's?

"I don't get too caught up in the whole comparisons thing. It's great for message-boards but it's not for me. It's Usain's time now - he's the Olympic gold medallist and the fastest man in the world; I was, but I've moved onto other things. I think my fastest was 23 point something miles per hour, but I'm not sure exactly."

ukathleticscoach asked: There is a big debate on another athletics board. If Bolt and Bekele raced over 600m, who would cross the line first?

"Usain Bolt, hands down. Bekele is a completely different sportsman. 600m is by far not even the middle point between them. There's no fair distance between them - it's like saying let's try to find a sport that a tennis player could compete against a footballer in."

preacherandy asked: In the 1992 Olympics you were hot favourite for the 200m title and yet through illness it all went wrong. How did you deal with that disappointment?

"That was my first opportunity to win an Olympic medal, so it was a huge disappointment. I dealt with it by being realistic. There's was nothing I could do about the illness, so I acknowledged that.

"It also didn't mean that I wasn't still the best in the world - none of the guys who won medals had beaten me before. That was the only race I'd lost in three years, so I kept telling myself, and then set myself some new goals and focused on them."

kingkenny07 asked: If you had decided to pursue your career running 100m, what sort of times do you think you could have run?

"I ran 10.08 secs for the 100m having never trained for it, so I think I could have run about 9.9 secs - which wouldn't have been fast enough any medals - if I had really committed myself to it."

Dalgrush asked: Growing up you must have tried all sort of athletics events. What was your best field event and what was your PB?

"My best field event was the long jump, and my PB was about 21 feet, which I jumped in high school. But I really didn't enjoy it - I only did it to try it. I always wanted to be a sprinter."

N0apc1000 asked: When you were in your prime how many hours a day did you train?

"There's a complete difference between training for a specific event and goal and just training. Now I just work out to be fit. There's no objective at this point. You guys call it training, but that's not training - it's working out.

"As an athlete I'd average four hours a day. It doesn't sound like a lot when some people say they're training for 10 hours, but theirs includes lunch, massage and breaks. My four hours was packed with work. Weights in the morning, track in the afternoon. When I was finished there was nothing else I could do."

TF: Ever go near a running track any more?


"Sometimes, but just to do the sort of thing I would do on a treadmill or on the roads - just running, not sprinting."

FutureTrackKing asked: Did you ever wish you had a serious rival in the 400m to push you like the rivalry shared between Jeremy Wariner and Lashawn Merritt over the past few seasons?

"Rivalries don't necessarily mean races being close at major championships. I had a rivalry with Butch Reynolds for many years. I won all the races, but Butch was the world record holder before I came into the sport, he was extremely talented and he was the only other man running 43 seconds.

"I had to be ready for him, knowing that if I didn't execute properly, he would beat me. Same with Quincy Watts. So those rivalries pushed me to the performances I did do."

brianuk67 asked: Given that you set a tremendous world record at 400m, had great endurance and certainly did not give the appearance of ever staggering over the line in any 400m race I can remember, were you ever tempted to do an Alberto Juantorena and have a crack at 800m at any time?

"No. I guess it's a compliment that despite me being the best in the world at two events and breaking world records, they want me to do another event as well?

"It's just impossible to add another one. On one hand it's flattering; on the other it's like, two events isn't enough? I dominated at 200m and 400m, and now I'm being asked about 100m and 800m?"

kinglts1 asked: How fast can you run the 200m and 400m now?

"It doesn't matter now! But if I went out right now, I'd run about 48 seconds for the 400m. 200m? 21 seconds."

pelepedro asked: After your many great victories on the track how did you like to celebrate? Did you like to party or would you savour victory over a nice cup of tea?

"No specific pattern. Usually at major championships my family - parents, brothers, sisters - would be there, so we'd celebrate with dinner."

robintdh asked: Who would you like to star in a movie about you and would you want to coach the actor how to run like you?

"Hmmm. Not sure who I'd want to star as me. But it would be easy to coach someone to look a certain way, much easier than to coach them to run fast times."


  • Comment number 1.

    200m in under 18 seconds? Alright.

  • Comment number 2.

    True legend, true winner

    Michael Johnson shows why America are better at sports, just with they're mentality, they want to be number one, they want to be the best, and ultimately usually are...

    Britain need to adapt a similar mentality to produce a true winner

  • Comment number 3.


  • Comment number 4.

    2. At 7:20pm on 30 Apr 2009, dcfctommo123 wrote:
    True legend, true winner

    Michael Johnson shows why America are better at sports, just with they're mentality, they want to be number one, they want to be the best, and ultimately usually are...

    Britain need to adapt a similar mentality to produce a true winner


    I agree with the first bit. He is a true legend

    But implying he's a stereotypical American. Sorry but stereotypical Americans are obese (thats actually almost a factual stereotype, not sure about the statistics though. They also have no clue about anything that goes on outside America and hardly anything that goes on inside it (bad thing about the state system) some idiots even thought Britain was an American state. Others were shown a globe and told that Australia was north korea and new zealand was south korea and the one guy just said "I never realised North Korea was So much bigger than South Korea"

    There's your stereotype.

    Michael Johnson is just a legend

  • Comment number 5.

    Dr F Roy Dean Schlippe

    Fair play
    True facts I'm guessing...

    however, in the context of sport, all American athletes are highly motivated to be a winner, to be the best. They have an extremely high win ethic, second place is simply unacceptable in their eyes, this is what the difference is, they believe they can win.
    Over here, in Britain, our win ethic is different, second place is acceptable, reaching finals is acceptable.
    Okay i know we haven't got the class that the Americans have, but I truly believe that when a bit of class does come along we need to push them to the top, to make them the very best, winning must be the only option.
    You may not agree, but that's what i think needs to change.

  • Comment number 6.

    A true legend, I wouldn't miss a Michael Johnson race.

    One minor correction, John Carlos won the bronze, the late Peter Norman won the silver.

  • Comment number 7.

    I remember watching Michael Johnson running in Edinburgh on a wet and windy night, it was the first time I had seen him and it was clear he was going to take the sport to another level.

    I think his comment above about running under 18 seconds is typo, I think he could have run under 19 seconds if pushed to that level.

    There are 2 reasons for watching sport: the first is to see who wins in a competitive event but the second is to marvel at excellence. When watching Johnson it was simply an opportunity to watch a legend, the rest could not win unless he was injured or suffering from food poisoning!

  • Comment number 8.

    Jesse Owens was a true legend, what he achive in his lifetime is unforgetable even more so at berlin in 1936 (I think) hitler was outraged but what the young black amrecian had achived

  • Comment number 9.

    I'm not convinced the desire to win is about nationality. I think we British like to think we're more circumspect and modest than Americans. Whereas the latter may be true as a generalisation, that's not the same thing as not having the same will to win. Michael Johnson is a true great, Usain Bolt may get there, but for the archetypal driven winner look no further than the greatest sportsman this country has ever produced: Daley Thompson simply didn't know how to lose.

    Other driven British winners: try Lewis Hamilton, Sir Alex Ferguson, Sebastian Coe, Lester Piggott. It's interesting how all of them have that underlying (and in SAF's case overlying) ruthlessness. As for foreign nationals who fall into the same category, consider Shane Warne and the greatest, most single-minded sportsman of the lot - the late, great Ayrton Senna.

  • Comment number 10.

    I also saw MJ (on TV) in that race in Scotland. He destroyed the field. It was obvious that here was a new talent

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Under 18 is a typo twice, though, which made me doubt it. Only under 19 would make sense.

  • Comment number 13.

    holey-moley, stinpake - MJ did indeed say 18 seconds. Astonishing, I know - which is why I asked him how. Have a look at the video at 1 min 33 secs...

  • Comment number 14.

    Surely when MJ says sub-18 secs is possible, he's talking about a 4x200m relay leg with a running start from the handover?

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks Tom - my computer is far too slow for fancy things like videos. He's definitely wrong, but at least he backs himself. Speaking of which, did he give you any tips for the 400m of your decathlon?

  • Comment number 16.

    I think he is talking about sub 19 sec's surely? His explaination about knocking 0.1 sec's off illustrates the context. This man knows the sport inside out and doesn't for one second think he could have knocked more than a second off of his WR time.

  • Comment number 17.

    It doesn't matter whether people here think he could have run sub 18 or not, the fact is, he thinks he could and that winning mentality is what got him all those medals. If some British sportsmen displayed even half the attitude MJ did, we would be in a far better boat. He reminds me of a boxer talking himself up. Fantastic. Sprint legend.

  • Comment number 18.

    Matt - you'd think so, wouldn't you, simply because 2x9 secs for 100m seems impossible. Then again, the second 100m is from a full-speed running start, rather than stationary on the blocks. Still seems improbable in the extreme, but then again, so did 19.32 when he did it.

    stinpake - watch this space. All about the pacing, apparently...

  • Comment number 19.

    I saw MJ run a 400 in Brussels on a summer evening at a Grand Prix event, probably 96 or 97.
    We were sat high up at about the 200 Meter mark, he starting to accelerate at about the 80 point coming off the curve and by the time he passed us, with that oh so familiar stride, he had destroyed a pretty good field.
    I have watched sports (all kinds) all over the world at the highest levels, but I swear this was one of the most graceful and beautiful things I have ever seen I can just close my eyes and not only see the race but actually feel the sensation that ran through me that night.
    Legend is a word that is too easily used nowadays but in this case it is totally warranted.
    Thanks MJ

  • Comment number 20.

    What a whitewash. Granted the man has many fantastic accomplishments behind him, but he also has faults. How come no one asks any hard questions, or are they filtered out?
    For me, Johnson's legacy is that he quit. Not retired, but quit when things didn't work out his way. After he won his gold medals, he and the American press bragged he was the fastest human on earth. But Donovan Bailey disagreed. After exchanging taunts and boasts, a match was arrainged for them to face off in a 150 meter sprint, winner taking the bragging rights. Bottomline is, when Bailey took off and was the superior and faster runner, Johnson faked an injury and pulled up. He didn't want the world to see him beaten in a fair fight.

  • Comment number 21.

    Can some-one in the BBC sort out what you write and co-ordinate it with the interview. Johnson clearly says he ran 18.5 in a relay split and intimates he might of ran sub 19secs for a 200m flat. There is NO WAY he is talking about HIMSELF OR USAIN BOLT GOING SUB 18!!!!! Come on guts 'Switch on!!!!'

  • Comment number 22.

    Either he meant sub 19 secs or he meant a sub-18 secs relay leg with a rolling start. Either sound feasible.


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