According to IAAF (International Athletic Associations Federation) we are in day 3 of Rio Olympics Track & Field events. Yesterday we experienced the exciting Women’s 100 metres where Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson won Gold in 10.71 secs .Somewhat shy of USA Florence Griffith-Joyner’s records .10.62 secs for Olympics and 10.49 secs World. Tonight’s headline is the prestigious Men’s 100 metres for crown of World’s Fastest Man. However just before that is another exciting event. The Men’s 400 metres where USA’s Michael Johnson World record of 43.18 secs hold focus.
The 400 metres is to me a strange event as while it demands stamina, the sprinters start in blocs. It’s a sprint. Over the years the 400 metres Champions have had an aura of laid back rock stars , with less dramatic media focus than the 100 and 200 metre sprinters, except for Michael Johnson who was champion in both 200 and 400 metres, passing on the 100 metres.
Lee Evans in Mexico City 1968 sets 20 year record of 43.86 secs
Mexico City 1968 is a legendary Olympics for USA athletes , especially African-Americans. Jim Hines won the 100 metres. However after medalling Gold and Bronze respectively in the 200 metres, Tommy Smith and John Carlos gave the black gloved Black Power protest on the medals podium. Lee Evans was the other memorable moment. 43.86 seconds in the 400 metres. Incredibly the mark went unbroken for 2 full decades. Evans also gave a Black Power. Smith , Carlos and Evans were all 3 banned from coaching in USA as retaliation for their bold statements.
Michael Johnson breaks Butch Reynolds’ 11 year record of 43.29 secs
August 1988 at Zurich , a few months out from the Seoul Olympics was the place Lee Evans’ 20 year record was smashed. The man to finally put to rest the shadow of Mexico City 1968 was fellow American Harry ‘Butch’ Reynolds. The time was 43.29 secs. Now this new mark remained unattainable for another 11 years until Seville ,Spain for the 1999 World Championships. After many hopeful efforts, another American Michael Johnson got his mojo and ran a blistering 43.18 secs in fancy gold colored shoes.
A Grenadian, a South African and an American battle for Gold and maybe record time.
Tonight we have an intriguing dynamic with 3 competitors having run before under 44.00 secs. London Gold medalist , Grenadian Kirani James has a personal best of 43.74 secs. At the time he was a mere 19 years old. USA 200 metre sprinter LaShawn Merritt has a personal best of 43.65 secs , and is the leading season’s time worldwide of 43.97 secs. We also have the unpredictable South African 200 metre competitor Wayde Van Niekerk who shocked both James and Merritt in Beijing winning in 43.48 secs. For season 2016 James’ best time is 44.02 secs and Van Niekerk’s 44.11 secs. Sports broadcaster Michal Johnson watched nervously in Beijing 2008 Olympics when Usain Bolt ran 200 metres. The Jamaican did set a new world mark. Will Johnson’s 400 metres time hold sway?