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the only sprinter in history to be ranked Number 1 in both the 200- and 400-meter events in one year
Michael Johnson at the 1996 Olympic
Michael Duane Johnson was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 13, 1967. He grew up in Dallas, graduated from Skyline High School, and then stayed in Texas to attend Baylor University, where he began his extraordinary track career.
Johnson ran for Baylor from 1987 through 1990, and still holds or is part of six school records. His coach, Clyde Hart, convinced him to concentrate on the 200-meter and 400-meter races in order to make him an even better part of the school's 4x400-meter relay team. The strategy worked, for Johnson broke the school record for the 200-meter in his very first race, with a time of 20.41, and ran his leg of the 4x400-meter relay in 43.5 seconds.
Johnson had hoped to compete in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, but a stress fracture of his left fibula prevented him from making the trials.
At the 1989 NCAA Indoor Championships, Johnson set a record time of 20.59 to win the 200-meter title. At the Outdoor Championships that same year, he set school records in the 100- and 200-meter, and helped Baylor to a second-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay.
In 1990, Johnson won two NCAA titles in the 200-meter -- one for indoor competition and the other for outdoor. He also anchored Baylor's title-winning 4x400-meter relay teams in both indoor and outdoor competition.
Johnson graduated with a Bachelor's degree in business, and then took his amazing speed to the professional circuit.
Johnson won thirteen consecutive 200-meter races in his first season as a professional, and set six of the fastest 200-meter times recorded for 1990, so it was no surprise that he was ranked No. 1 in the 200-meter by the end of the season. It was, however, a surprise that he was also ranked No. 1 in the 400-meter, which made him the first sprinter ever to be ranked No. 1 in both events in one season. He would go on to accomplish this feat a total of four times in his career.
At the World Championships in Tokyo, Johnson took the gold in the 200-meter with a margin of .33 seconds over Frankie Fredericks, the largest margin of victory in the event since Jesse Owens won the gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Johnson ended the 1991 season once again ranked No. 1 in both the 200- and 400-meter events.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials, Johnson set a trials record of 19.79 seconds in the 200-meter. Unfortunately, a bout with food poisoning prevented him from competing for an individual medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, but he did get a gold medal as anchor of the 4x400-meter relay team, which also set a world record on its way to the win.
Johnson took the 400-meter title at the U.S. National Championships in Eugene, Oregon, and then went on to score some impressive wins at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. There, he took the gold in the 400-meter with a personal best time of 43.74 seconds (which also happened to be the fastest time ever run in this event on American soil). He then ran what was probably the fastest ever leg of a 4x400-meter relay (42.94 seconds), which helped the team set a world record of 2:54.29 and capture the gold medal.
Johnson won every 400-meter race he ran this year, including a gold medal-winning race at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia. For the third time in his career, he ended the season ranked No. 1 in both the 200- and 400-meter events.
At the U.S. National Championships in Sacramento, California, Johnson won all six of his races, and became the first sprinter since 1899 to win both the 200- and 400-meter U.S. Championships in the same year. He also became the first ever to run both the 200-meter in under 20 seconds and the 400-meter in under 44 seconds in the same meet.
At the World Championships in Goteborg, Sweden, he set a record by running nine races over nine days. In so doing, he also became the first sprinter ever to win gold medals in both the 200- and 400-meter events at the World Championships in the same year. He also won a gold medal as part of the 4x400-meter relay team.
By the end of the season Johnson had compiled 50 consecutive victories in the 400-meter. He also claimed No. 1 rankings in both events for the last time in his career.
At the Olympic Trials, Johnson broke a 17-year record for the 200-meter with a time of 19.66 seconds. He then beat his own record at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, by running the 200-meter in 19.32 seconds. He also set a new Olympic record for the 400-meter with a time of 43.49 seconds, making him the first sprinter ever to win both events in one Olympics.
His biographical/motiviational book Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats was published soon after his Olympics accomplishments.
Injuries kept Johnson from participating in the U.S. National Championships, but not from successfully defending his 400-meter title at the World Championships in Athens, Greece.
Johnson earned a No. 1 ranking in the 400-meter when he anchored the 4x400-meter relay team that set a new world record at the Goodwill Games in New York.
At the World Championships in Seville, Spain, Johnson broke his own 400-meter record, with a time of 43.18 seconds, as well as a new record for the largest margin of victory in that event. He ended the Championships with two gold medals, giving him a total of nine World Championship golds over his career, surpassing Carl Lewis on the all-time leader board.
Johnson took the gold in the 400-meter at the Sydney Olympics, making him the first ever Olympian to win consecutive golds in this event. He also secured yet another gold medal for anchoring the 4x400-meter relay team.
Johnson retired from competition following the 2000 season. He now lives in Mill Valley, California, with his wife, Kerry, and son, Sebastian. Far from idle, he spends his time running a sports consulting company, doing television commentary, writing a regular newspaper column, acting as agent for several track stars, and giving motivational speeches at and for various corporations.
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This page was last updated on June 16, 2017.