Patrick Johnson, 37, 10.18s

Patrick Johnson forever young
Scott Gullan From: Herald Sun March 05, 2010

AT the age of 37 Patrick Johnson finally believes he has figured out what the sprinting game is all about.

After being written off numerous times in recent years, Johnson continued his impressive domestic season by finishing second (10.42sec) in the 100m (10.33sec) behind Nigerian Bola Lawal, who clocked 10.33sec at Olympic Park last night.

The Australian record-holder believes he has got his mojo back after moving to Brisbane, starting with a new coach and cutting back on his training levels.

“I’ve changed my program, moved to Brisbane and just doing things different,” Johnson said.

"My new coach Anthony Giorgi has a strength and conditioning background and is just a bit more aware of what I have been through and how much training I have done.

"I don’t have to train like a 24-year-old and the problem has been is that I’ve run for the last five years as a 24-year-old. Sprinting is all about neural freshness and for me I’m just happy because I’m working on technique in these races.

“And then when I’m ready, we just whack it.”

Johnson announced his return to the big time by running a blistering 10.18sec - an A-qualifier for the Commonwealth Games and his quickest time since 2007 - at Perth’s new athletics stadium last month.

“It was nice because we have now seen how I can race with a bit more freshness and it allows me to run where I should be,” he said.

“If I run on muscle I run like everyone else and last year showed that I did too much long work, I was running 200s and then only 10.4.”

He said he never thought about quitting and was confident of again getting close to his national record of 9.93sec, set in Japan in 2003.

"I knew it was all about different training. I know I came really close to running quick when I was in heavy training and I have never actually been fresh for a major championships.

“This is the year to do it (in April at the national titles).”

The longevity of Johnson is one of the more remarkable stories of Australian athletics.

He was first spotted in 1996 by then AIS coach Esa Peltola who saw him run in the Australian University Games in Canberra.

Johnson, who was wearing spikes for the first time, easily won the race and was convinced to try his hand at the sport.

The following year he ran in his first national championships where he was the second Australian across the line which earnt him a spot in the world championships team.

In his first taste of the international scene Johnson finished sixth in the quarter-finals of the 200m.

By 1999 he was starting to emerge as a serious athlete running 10.17sec and enjoying some memorable tussles with sprint king Matt Shirvington.

Johnson’s first Olympic Games in 2000 saw him exit in the quarter-finals of both the 100m and 200m.

He then lost his way for a couple of years because of injuries before announcing himself back in the big time at the start of 2003.

On a perfect February evening in Perth, Johnson ran two sensational wind assisted times - 9.90 (+5.7) in a heat and 9.88 (+3.6) in the final.

That was an indication of what was to come and on May 5 in Mito, Japan, his time of 9.93sec made him the 17th fastest man in history at the time and the 38th athlete to break the magical 10sec barrier.

Unfortunately, he has never repeated the time and continually struggled at major titles with his best result a sixth in the final of the 200m at the 2005 world championships.

In other events last night, ACT-based Melissa Breen made a return to form in impressive style winning the 100m easily in 11.41sec (+1.3) - a Commonwealth Games B-standard qualifying time.

In the women’s javelin, national champion Kimberley Mickle won with an A-standard Games qualifying throw of 58.22m.

Jamaican veteran Danny McFarlane overcame a late stumble to win the 400m hurdles. The 37-year-old silver medallist from the 2004 Athens Olympics clocked 49.92sec to defeat Australia’s best hurdler Brendan Cole (50.42sec).

And local veteran Tamsyn Lewis suffered a rare loss on Australian soil, going down narrowly to Perth’s Jody Henry, who ran 52.41sec to win the 400m.