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Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermilers

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  • Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermilers

    I raised this subject years ago, when MJ was still running. Many of the older track cats that I know (who ran in the 60s) stick by their old school heroes. I still say MJ, not just for the times, but mainly because many of the 60s runners were short on technique and build. 200 or 400m.

    1) Lee Evans had the most awful form you could ever see (yes, I know he was a 7-time #1 ranked).
    2) Those Tommy Smith/John Carlos lean and lanky builds and high knee lifts get nowhere against MJ. In fact, weren't most of the sprinters/quartermilers lean and lanky back then (except Bob Hayes and John Smith)?
    3) Carl Lewis's bad starts (see LA 84, Tokyo 91) may have been his weakness, though he was a great finisher.

    Only two guys may have beaten Mike. Jesse Owens (most beautiful technique of alltime) and Bob Hayes (best closing speed ever!)

    Yes, let's throw out the training/racing facilities (cinder v. mondo, etc) of each other's era.

    Oh, yeah, do you think we'll be talking about an alltime race of Bolt v. MJ???? Peace.

  • #2
    Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

    I should rename it "MJ v. all of the great 200m-400 runners". Sorry about that. And I'll take away Carl's "bad starts in LA and Tokyo" (they were 100m) as factors. He had plenty of them at 200m (Seoul 88?). Peace.

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    • #3
      Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

      A healthy Tommie Smith in his prime would have been competitive with MJ in a 400 meter race. Who wins? Probably MJ but give me reasonable odds and I'd risk a few dollars on TS!

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      • #4
        Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

        >A healthy Tommie Smith in his prime would have
        >been competitive with MJ in a 400 meter race. Who
        >wins? Probably MJ but give me reasonable odds and
        >I'd risk a few dollars on TS!

        I wonder if Tommie would have been capable of staying on the home curve with MJ. Something to think about. MJ ran 10.47 on the bend in Stuttgart '93. I wonder if Tommie ever ran the equivalent of that back then. I know, timing technology was not that advanced in the late 60s, so we'll never know. But I could still ask. Peace.

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        • #5
          Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

          other than Mexico City , has anybody seen Video ofTS uin anything? That would be nice to see him in a 440 step for step.

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          • #6
            Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

            Actually, the most impressive 200 guy I ever saw before MJ was John Carlos in his prime. It was after the '68 Olympics, and he never ran at altitude during those years, as far as I can recall. So he never won a gold or set a WR. But there was a time when he was beating everyone else in the world and doing it very impressively. Could he imaginably have run a 19.32? Nah, but neither could anyone else.

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            • #7
              Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

              i myself believe that the arrogant man was a drug cheat. no one should be winning so often. and that record-19.32 come on thats not a clean time. it will all come to light when he starts having health issue like a certain female sprinter who did the same thing in 1988

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              • #8
                Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                This question is best discussed among a group of wiseguys sitting around a table at a tavern eating potato chips & drinking beer. I've had this type of discussion several times in this setting but usually debating the merits of baseball, NFL football & pro basketball. The safest answer is that you can never compare athletes in any sport from different eras. Circumstances, technology & training regimens all change drastically over time. I'll have some fun & compare the best long sprinter (220/440 yds) from the 1960's in Tommie Smith vs Michael Johnson.
                1) If Tommie Jet had been competing during the 1990's he probably would have set world records in both sprints at the same time. The track schedules are more conducive to doubling in the 200/400 meters. He wouldn't have had to retire in his 20's shortly after graduating from college to support himself. His longevity in the sport would have allowed him the opportunity to set those world records & win more championship medals. Tommie would no doubt be more muscular(more weight training) have a better start in the 200 meters(sprinters starts are faster today) & would look stylish in the one piece lycra bodysuits of today. I couldn't speculate on what times Tommie would have reeled off during this era but future sprinters would be aiming to break HIS world records.
                2) If Michael Johnson were at his peak in the 1960's things would have also been different. Since he set his world records in his late 20's, he probably would have not had the opportunity to be a world record holder as he would have had to retire in order to support himself. He might have won a gold medal but only in one event. Doubling wasn't possible in those days & other than the annual NCAA & AAU Championships the Olympics was the only big international meet. He would be very thin & non muscular like he was in college & I assure you his start would not be as impressive as it was during his 19.32. Sprinters back then didn't emphase running around the turn; only how they finished in the straight. And last but not least, the coaches would have made Michael miserable trying to get him to "lift those legs high & glide down the homestretch".

                Who was the better athlete? Michael of course. In general, athletes in the major sports & including Track & Field are bigger,stronger, faster,eat healthier & train harder than those of the past. Its called evolution of the human species folks. Someday in the future, Michael's incredible 200 World Record of 19.32 will fall. It will be done by somebody who is bigger, faster, stronger & trains even harder than Michael Johnson. Just like Michael vs. Tommie Smith.
                Discussions like these are all fun. And sport fans will keep endlessly debating until the end of time. And thats why Track and Field News has an online chat room.

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                • #9
                  Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                  My vote would be Tommie (the Tommie-jet gear!) over MJ in the 200, MJ in the 400. That's based on Smith running very few 400s. If he concentrated on it, think he'd probably beat MJ in the 400 as well.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                    The only one who may have had a chance at 400 meters would have been a healthy John Smith, because of his build and technique. Other than that, hardly anyone touches MJ. Good points, though, Steve (Orange). Peace.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                      MJ never lost a major 200 or 400 (save 92 when he was ill), throw in his amazing times, I don't see how Tommie Smith could have been MJ in his prime!

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                      • #12
                        Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                        It may be that I came to track consciousness in the summer of 1968, but I refuse to believe that anyone could have beaten Lee Evans that summer. Larry James, full of grace, was a bigger talent, but Evans did whatever it took to beat him in two of the most brilliant 400 races in history, at Echo Summit and Mexico City. His will to win was second to none that year. He never quite got to the level again, but for that period of time, I really believe he would have beaten a Michael Johnson of that era.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                          everyone loves to talk of Evans' "will to win" and I agree, it was great ! But I think our memories color that a bit because of how angry he could look when he occasionally lost. I think specifically of losing to Curtis Mills ( Mills ran a 440 WR ) and to Martin McGrady indoors in the 600 ( another WR I think ). If looks could kill, he would have done them both in !

                          But Lee Evans at his peak, versus MJ at his ? Sorry Lee, but MJ wins that race. That's no knock on Lee, instead it illustrates just how good MJ was.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                            I too remember Evans' incredible will to win, but also remember that Smith just ate him alive in their famous 400 WR match race in '67. That's why I think Smith might have been the best ever; even in a race he'd only run a handful of times, he went up against mr. gritty and shrugged him off like a fly.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Michael Johnson v. All of the great sprinters/quartermil

                              I respect your opinion Garry, but I think you might be slightly enamored with the grace of Tommie Smith. Arguably, he was the most graceful sprinter of all time. Ran like a cheetah down the homestretch with his long thin legs pumping high.
                              In a theoretical 220/200 matchup, Tommie would always be trailing heading into the straight as his start & curve running was definitely not on the level of Michael's abilities. I think Tommie would have gained some in the homestretch but Johnson was always pretty strong in that part of the race also. I do believe Tommie would have been in the neighborhood of Johnson's best sea level times of 19.66,19.76 & 19.79 twice but for the reasons above I don't see him approaching the world record of 19.32 (10.12,9.20)
                              I agree with you on the 440/400 matchup. Johnson was just so strong & had several races during his career which approached his world record of 43.18. Tommie really didn't run the open 440 all that often despite setting the world record in 1967.
                              Why did he not compete in the 400 meters in the 68 Mexico City Olympics? Because he was very intelligent & knew his competition. I don't know if the schedule precluded a 200/400 double but Tommie probably realized that the 400 meters was loaded (Evans,James, Freeman & Mathews) while his only true opponents in the 200 was Jimmy Hines (who did not compete) & John Carlos who he knew he could beat despite losing to him at the trials.
                              Given the proper training I could fathom seeing Tommie dipping into the 43 second range several times. Like I said earlier two tremendous talents from different eras. And both gentleman set world records in both events.

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