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When it comes to the track and field events at Olympics, there’s little that can match the drama and high-octane action of the 100m, 200m and 400m sprints. The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was no exception, with a golden double from one of the sport’s greatest runners: Michael Johnson.
If Beijing 2008 will always be remembered for Usain Bolt’s incredible feats, the 1996 Games were a precursor, a peek into what can happen when one man can outrun every other on the planet. USA’s leading sprinter Johnson had the unenviable task of trying to win sprint golds in his home Olympics. For an elite athlete, there’s no bigger stage than this. Johnson did that and more, breaking what many considered to be unbreakable limits. First, he won the 400m Olympic gold with a Games Record time of 43.49 second and then set a world record of 19.32 seconds in the 200m to become the first man to win both events at a single Olympics.
This ESPN profile on Johnson’s stunning feat says, “To watch Michael Johnson run was to watch an athlete like no other. He took rapid mini-strides, tickling rather than pounding the track, while his posture was so vertical that he leant fractionally backwards. His chest was proud and to the fore, and he left all in attendance wondering what times he might run if he “put his back into it”.
As if predicting his golden victory in the 200m Johnson had taken the field in a pair of golden Nike shoes that have become etched in the minds of Olympics fans. The shoes are part of the games history, just as much as Bolt’s dominant wins. Following the 1996 double, Johnson would go on to win another gold medal in Sydney to go with the golden brace from Atlanta and the one he had won in Barcelona in 1992.