Re: Steffi Graf Admiration Thread Vol 2
Just a brief mention of Steffi getting to go to the men's 100 meters (and they are still asking her who she thinks will win even ten minutes before the race). An article loaded with unintentional alarm bells and foreshadowing about Johnson and his methods, but also important in the Zeitgeist of the 1988 Olympics because I think when they caught Johnson and some of the other "amateur" athletes, many pundits and athletes who were irate about the presence of the tennis professionals realized that "amateurs" were capable of violating the spirit of the Games in worse ways than openly earning money playing sports.
JOHNSON SMASHED LEWIS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR RACE
Sunday, September 25, 1988
Even in repose, Ben Johnson's eyes are agate-hard and feral. His smiles are rare and fleeting. He always seems wary.
In the starting block, he takes his mark like a pit bull in an attack stance. He gives all the outward signs of a man ready to explode.
Here yesterday, in what should have been the best foot race of the 24th Summer Olympics, Johnson blew up a great field in the final of the 100 meters.
The 26-year-old Canadian ran the distance in 9.79 seconds and broke the world record of 9.83 he had established 13 months ago in Rome. He won easily over Carl Lewis, who set an American record running a 9.92, and Linford Christie of Great Britain, who set a British and European record by running a 9.97.
Usually, Johnson wins his races by firing out of the blocks much faster than anyone else. This time, he got away, by electronic measurement, only .04 ahead of Lewis, but by the 30-meter mark, he was in command.
"I eased up over the last three or four meters or I would have run a 9.75," said Johnson, rubbing it in a little.
He does not like Lewis, a 27-year-old who is his major challenger on the international sprint scene.
Lewis has lost seven of his last eight races against Johnson, and in his postrace press conference, Lewis tried to convince listeners that failing to become the first man to repeat as Olympic 100-meter gold medalist really didn't hurt.
"It wasn't my best start," he said, "but after that, it was a pretty good race for me. I'm pleased with my performance. I was able to set the American record, and I'm pleased with the way I ran my race."
Lewis' only reference to Johnson was a brief, "He ran a great race," but he quickly added, "I'm pleased with my time."
Lewis also said the outcome would not affect his efforts in the long jump, 200 meters and the 4x100-meter relay, events in which he also won gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. "The party," he said, "has just begun."
Lewis kept insisting, "I did the best I could do. The Olympics is about performance and doing the best you can. I was pleased I ran the best I could."
Six weeks ago, Lewis' best was enough to beat Johnson over 100 meters in a meet in Zurich. Johnson insisted after the race that he had been hampered by a left hamstring injury.
This time around, there were obviously no physical problems for Johnson. "I was lucky that the Olympic 100 meters was late in September so I could come back and get ready for this race," he said.
There had been some doubt in the 24 hours leading up to the final that Johnson was ready mentally. He had done a couple of strange things in heats -- such as let slower sprinters catch him in the last 15 to 20 meters. He did not break 10 seconds in any of the three races that qualified him for the final.
Lewis, meanwhile, had gotten faster in his heats, running 9.99 and 9.97 in his last two qualifying rounds.
Still, there was the feeling that Johnson had been sandbagging. The word had gotten around that, in workouts, Johnson had been running watch-breaking times.
Tennis star Steffi Graf rushed into Olympic Stadium 10 minutes before the 100- meter final and asked an American newspaperman how she might find her way to her seat. He told her, then asked her to make a choice in the 100.
"I hope it's Lewis," she said, "but I think it's going to be Johnson."
It was . . . smashingly.
The only thing Johnson did slowly this day was provide a urine specimen for the required drug test. He was in doping control, where he drank three post-race beers, for two hours before coming to a press conference nearly 2 1/2 hours after the race.
Johnson said he was not concerned about Lewis' qualifying times. "I think that Carl was just trying to impress me," he said.
"This was my moment. This is the moment that I've waited for the last four years." In 1984 in Los Angeles, Johnson was the bronze medalist in the 100- meter final.
Now that he has won the gold, new financial vistas may open to Johnson. The Canadian magazine, MacLean's, estimated recently that if Johnson were to win the 100 meters in Seoul, it might be worth as much as $10 million to him over the next five years.
He is almost certainly Canada's richest and (now that the Edmonton Oilers have traded Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings) most famous athlete.
Johnson already has a number of endorsement arrangements, but he is not likely to become a television spokesman for any product or service. He speaks almost as fast as he runs, and he occasionally has a slight stutter.
As long as he can run this fast, it won't matter. His speed has enabled him to accumulate enough money to build a $750,000, six-bedroom house in a Toronto suburb. He has on order a $245,000 Ferrari Testarossa. And he now has a firm grasp on the title, "The World's Fastest Man."
In his postrace elation, Johnson said he thought his record might last "for 50, maybe 100 years." It's more likely it will last only until Johnson breaks it again.