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Michael Johnson Unsure What to Expect in First Race

April 24, 1996

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Anyone with an idea what Michael Johnson might run in his outdoor debut this weekend will be one up on Johnson.

The reigning world champion in the 200 and 400 meters, Johnson will run the 400 at the Drake Relays on Saturday. He says he’s in good shape and expects to run a good race but insists he has no idea what his time might be.

Nor does he seem to care.

``My objective going out in any race is first of all to win the race and then I’ll go from there,″ Johnson said Tuesday. ``I can’t say exactly what you’ll see. It’s the first race.″

The race starts Johnson in his quest to become the first man to win both the 200 and 400 in the Olympics. He’s already the first to do it at the World Championships and he got the break he wanted last month when the International Amateur Athletic Federation changed the time schedule in Atlanta so the 200 and 400 wouldn’t overlap.

Now Johnson has to contend with the pressure and the scrutiny that will dog him everywhere he runs. He said that won’t be a problem.

``Those are the kind of things that I think make me perform better,″ he said. ``I think I perform better when I’m expected to perform well and when expectations are high and there’s a little pressure. So I really look forward to that and I welcome the pressure.″

Drake will be the first of five meets for Johnson before the Olympic trials, which begin June 14 in Atlanta. He ran only twice indoors this year and is eager to compete again, but he’s not sure what to expect.

``If I had done two or three races already, I would be able to better say what it is that you’ll probably see,″ Johnson said. ``All I can say right now is that any time Michael Johnson goes out to run, you can pretty much expect to see him doing his best. That’s what I plan to go out there and do.″

Johnson’s competition at Drake will include Baylor’s Marlon Ramsey and former Drake sprinter Kevin Little, both of whom ran sub-45-second 400s last weekend.

Little won the 400 at the Mt. SAC Relays in 44.77 seconds, a personal best. He beat 1992 Olympic gold medalist Quincy Watts, who ran 44.96. Ramsey broke Johnson’s meet record at the Baylor Invitational, running 44.92.

Johnson has won 51 straight finals in the 400.

``I’m excited after opening up the paper and seeing some of those times,″ he said. ``It’s exciting for me that some of the guys out there are running really fast. That means I’m going to have to really get ready for this year. So I’m looking forward to it.

Johnson will run in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after Drake, then return for meets in Atlanta, Portland, Ore., and one that he hasn’t decided on yet. He feels those meets will be exactly what he needs before the trials.

``You mix it up and you want to run some races where you don’t have too much competition,″ he said, ``where there’s so much hype built up that you can’t focus on what it is you need to be working on in those races.

``But you always needs to get into some races like that where there is a lot of competition and there’s a lot of hype surrounding you because that prepares you for what you’re going to have to be ready for at the trials.″

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