Aug. 29, 2003
Being the best isn’t good enough for Johnson
Story from the USATF
PARIS – Aside from the world record, Allen Johnson has achieved everything in the men’s 110m hurdles except the one goal he seeks above all others.
He believes the perfect race is attainable, and striving for that goal is what has driven him to the 1996 Olympic gold medal and three world outdoor championships. He will attempt to win his fourth world crown Saturday night in Paris. Should he succeed, he will become the only man ever to win four world titles in the event, surpassing the three titles owned by Greg Foster and himself.
Johnson owns the American record time of 12.92 seconds, and for years what he most wanted was to surpass Colin Jackson’s world record of 12.91 and take it all the way down to 12.70, which for him would be the perfect race. The world record, however, is no longer his focus. It is winning races. Period.
A multi-talented performer, Johnson was recruited out of high school by the University of North Carolina as a decathlete. As a Tar Heel, Johnson concentrated on the long jump (best of 8.14m/26-8.5) and the hurdles. Former hurdle great Charles Foster, an assistant coach at UNC, led Johnson through the fundamentals of the hurdles, and while watching the 1992 Olympic Games on television, Johnson correctly predicted that he would win the gold at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Johnson, who already this season has won the USA Indoor 60m hurdle title (7.39), World Indoor hurdles crown (7.47) and his sixth USA Outdoor title (13.37), owns the fastest time in the world this year of 12.97 seconds with his win at the Gaz de France Golden League meeting.
Especially with 2000 Olympic gold medalist Anier Garcia not competing in Paris, Johnson is a heavy favorite in Saturday’s final of the hurdles. In fact, his own teammates might be his stiffest competition.
Few athletes are as supportive of their teammates as Johnson. At the 1997 World Championships in Athens, when Team USA’s 400m runners were banged up, Johnson ran a round of the 4x400m relay after winning his second world 110m hurdles title to help get the U.S. to the final of the relay and to give other runners a rest. His two gold medals in Athens helped earn him the 1997 Jesse Owens Award as the country’s top track and field athlete.
In addition to his exploits on the track, Johnson believes in giving of himself away from the sport. In April 1998, he sponsored the Allen Johnson High School Invitational at his high school alma mater in Burke, Va., and he also led a drive for a new track surface at Lake Braddock. Those acts contributed to him being named USATF’s 1999 Visa Humanitarian of the year.
Johnson, who resides in Irmo, S.C., and would like to run his own business some day, still has business remaining on the track. His business is winning races and collecting medals. Expect him to add one more to his collection this evening at Stade de France.