August 6, 2013
The 2013 IAAF World Athletics Championships are just days away.
Laureus World Sports Academy Member and track legend Michael Johnson thrilled the crowds at World Championship meets throughout the nineties. Laureus.com caught up with him to ask about his successes and what he is looking forward to at this year’s event in Moscow, Russia.
You had an amazing record in World Championships – eight gold’s from 1991 to 1999 - was there something special about World Championships that you enjoyed? Can you pick one of those eight wins as the best? And why?
They're all special for different reasons so I cannot pick one. 1991 is special because it was my first world championship. 1993 was special because it was my first 400 championship when people said I would never win a 400 championship. 1995 was special because I made history winning both the 200 and 400. 1997 was special because I was injured and doctors found after I won the championship that my left leg was operating at less than 40% of it's ability. I literally had to almost stop with 120 meters to go, then started running again, and won. 1999 was special because I finally broke the 400 world record. It would be impossible to pick one!
Is there a different feel between the Olympics and the World Championships?
A huge difference. The Olympics are the pinnacle. That doesn't mean the World Championships aren't special because they are. But when you look at the history of the two and the fact that the first World Championship took place 30 years ago in 1983 and compare that with the history of the Olympics, you see the difference and the historical significance of the Olympics.
When you go to an event like the World Championships in Moscow do you still wish you were competing?
Not at all. I was very fortunate to accomplish everything that I wanted during my career and retire on my own terms. I now enjoy my role as a pundit and I really enjoy the opportunity to be a fan.
Which events are you looking forward to watching this year?
I always look forward to all the sprints and relays but any events where there are great rivalries and fierce competition, like the mens 400 hurdles and women's 100 meter hurdles and also great athletes who turn in great performances like David Rudisha.
Who will be the stars to watch?
Of course Bolt and Rudisha, Allison Felix, Shelly Ann Fraser, Kirani James, Lashawn Merritt, Mo Farah, Justin Gatlin, and Ashton Eaton. But I am also interested to see what new stars might emerge.
How do you view the 100 metres as an event after the news about Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell?
It's always the premier event because the event is bigger than a few names. And everyone will want to see the biggest name in the sport, Usain Bolt.
Do you think that might put a negative feel over the whole event?
It will definitely be a negative for the event. I don't believe it will cast a negative shadow over the entire event. But it is news and we will be discussing it and all media will cover the fact that prominent stars in the sport have tested positive recently. And we should be discussing it.
I personally am always equally disappointed with the negative shadow that is cast over the sport when athletes test positive and at the same time pleased that people who might be cheating are being caught.