Patrick Johnson Can Take The Heat (in Roma)

Johnson loves the Rome heat
By Paul Mulvey
PATRICK Johnson is hoping the heat in Rome will translate into a hot time in Friday night’s Golden League Athletics meeting.

Johnson wants to put behind him the disappointment of running fifth in a slow 10.23 in the first big sprinters’ 100m showdown of the European season in Paris last week.

A familiar hot night in Rome, where temperatures have been in the mid to high 20s, will perfectly suit the Queenslander, who remains the fastest man in the world this year with his 9.93 seconds run in May.

“It’s nice and hot here. When the weather’s a little bit hotter, that’s better for me,” said Johnson. "I seem to run a lot better in the heat.

“I love the heat, probably because it reminds me of Cairns and the Whitsundays where I’m from. I feel comfortable, sort of a sense of belonging.”

Australia’s great hope for a sprinting medal at the world championships in Paris in August admitted he came to Rome a wiser athlete after trying to beat the likes of Olympic champion Maurice Greene and Bernard Williams at their own game last week.

World record holder Tim Montgomery will again be missing on Friday as he stays in the United States with girlfriend Marion Jones and their newborn son.

But Greene and fellow Americans Williams and Justin Gatlin, in-form Nigerian Desi Aliu, who was second to Williams last week, and British pair Dwain Chambers and Mark-Lewis Francis will again put Johnson under serious scrutiny.

Johnson admitted he was overawed in Paris and strayed away from his plan and he was determined to remain focused this week, while keeping the world titles as the major target.

“It’s nice to compete against the best every week,” he said.

"But you can’t afford to get caught up in it, you’ve just got to run your own race.

"The only thing I did in Paris was try to muscle it out with them, I tried to muscle with the guys for 60 and that’s not my running.

"I’ve just got to run relaxed and run my own race.

"You can get caught up a little and become distracted from your own race and from what we’re here for and that’s the world championships.

"The Golden League is not the be all and end all.

"People can get carried away with the Golden League as if it’s the world championship final or Olympic final.

“The long term for us is to get to Paris and it’s also a rehearsal for the Athens Olympics next year.”

Fellow Australian Jana Pittman, the world’s leading 400m hurdler for 2003, will also be out to erase the disappointment of last week when she finished third after leading with two hurdles to go.

Pittman, 20, clipped the second last hurdle and ended up finishing behind American Sandra Glover and Romania’s European champion Ionela Tirlea after winning the opening Golden League meeting in Oslo the week before.