Michael Johnson: athletic competition outshone by Usain Bolt’s stardom
Four-time Olympic champion Michael Johnson believes athletics should be more about genuine competition and less about the obsession with star names such as Usain Bolt. That’s a bit rich coming from MJ (kk)
By Simon Hart in Toronto
Published: 3:07PM BST 12 Jun 2009
The Jamaican triple Olympic champion, who is commanding six-figure appearance fees as meet promoters compete for his signature, put on another one-man-show in the early hours of Thursday morning when he ran away from the field in his 100 metres race at Toronto’s Festival of Excellence.
It followed his embarrassingly easy victory in last month’s 150m street race in Manchester city centre, while another one-sided affair looms at Wednesday’s Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic, where Britain’s Craig Pickering will be among the supporting cast.
Bolt’s winning time in Canada was a relatively pedestrian 10 seconds flat as heavy rain and cool temperatures conspired against organisers’ hopes for the first ever sub-10 100m on the Varsity Stadium track, but it was still enough for a runaway victory. Second-placed Shawn Crawford was four or five metres behind in 10.25sec.
While the sell-out Toronto crowd bought their tickets for one reason alone, Johnson is concerned that building events around one man is not what the sport should be about. [No. They should built it around Two men like they used to when You, Michael, raced Donovan Bailey in that 150m race.kk]]
“The biggest asset of track and field is pure competition, and nobody talks about that any more,” said Johnson. "It’s all about the star athlete. If that’s the case, you may as well send them out there and let them run by themselves in an exhibition.
“But we’re overlooking the greatest thing about the sport which is the most attractive thing to the fan base that you can grow, and that is the competition.”
The problem facing promoters is finding opponents who can give Bolt a run for his money. On the evidence so far, only American Tyson Gay looks capable after clocking 19.58sec for 200m in New York last month – the third fastest in history behind Bolt and Johnson.
“Any competition is good for the sport, whether it’s Tyson or anyone else,” said Johnson. “Am I hoping that Usain Bolt loses? No. I just hope we see competition and that athletes like Tyson Gay are able to step up to his level and run with him.”
Bolt, whose race in Toronto was delayed by two false starts, admitted that he held back on the throttle because of the poor weather conditions, not wanting to risk injury so early in the season.
“That’s the right thing to do,” he said. “You’ve got to be very careful because you have a lot of running to do and you can’t manage to get injured at this time of the season.”