Related topics

Johnson, Joyner-Kersee Highlight Thursday’s Olympic Action

July 31, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Michael Johnson reaches for Olympic history, something Jackie Joyner-Kersee knows plenty about.

Johnson, already equipped with the gold medal in the 400, takes aim at the 200 Thursday to complete an unprecedented sweep. Joyner-Kersee, forced out of the heptathlon because of a thigh injury, gets going in the long jump.

Other finals are set in the men’s 400 hurdles and the women’s 200.

Joyner-Kersee, perhaps the greatest woman athlete of her time, made only a cameo appearance in the heptathlon before being forced out by her injury. Now she’s back for the long jump, which she won at Seoul in 1988 and was third in at Barcelona in 1992.

``I think she’ll need to jump 7.20 meters (23 feet, 7 1/2 inches) to get the gold,″ said Bob Kersee, coach and husband of Joyner-Kersee. ``She’s capable of doing that under normal circumstances.″

The circumstances were anything but normal when Kersee pulled his wife out of the heptathlon on Saturday after she won her heat in the 100 meters. She was obviously in pain and ran with her thigh heavily taped.

Kersee said the problem goes back to the world championships at Tokyo in 1991, when she suffered a hamstring injury. ``There’s scar tissue in there and sometimes she says, `It feels like it’s weakening.′ ″

The long jump will mark the end of Joyner-Kersee’s Olympic career. She is toying with other athletic ideas, her husband said, adding she might play in a planned women’s pro basketball league. She attended UCLA on a basketball scholarship.

Johnson switches speeds and styles, moving from the 400 to the 200. The races are as different as a limousine and a sports car.

``The strategy is different,″ Johnson said. ``The 200 is a more aggressive race with a different pace. The 400 is more of a strategic race. The 200, you can’t make a mistake. You make a mistake and the race is over.″

That was how Johnson said his streak of 21 straight victories in the 200 came to an end in a pre-Olympic race at Lausanne, when he was beaten by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia.

Just weeks after he broke the world record with a time of 19.66 seconds in the Olympic trials, Johnson finished second to Fredericks. ``I made a mistake at the start,″ Johnson said. ``I will not make that mistake again.″

Fredericks is in the Olympic field, but Johnson is not concerned. ``I feel I can run the best race,″ he said.

Then there is the matter of trash talk, part of the mind game of the 200.

``Guys are always talking about what they’re going to do to me in the 200,″ Johnson said. ``I think I’m more vulnerable in the 400.″

Johnson ran the first heat of the 200 comfortably, advancing with no problem. His time was 20.55, the same time he posted in the semifinals in Barcelona four years ago, when he was recovering from food poisoning and failed to qualify for the final.

The disappointment of those games gave Johnson incentive for these Olympics. ``The past three years are past,″ he said. ``This is a new day. Now I have an individual Olympic gold medal. Nobody can take that from me.″

And he likes it so much, he wants another.

Update hourly