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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Johnson's Double Quest Highlights Track

ATLANTA -- So maybe Michael Johnson doesn't have a clear path to Olympic gold in the 200 and 400 meters after all. At least he can expect a race, or two, as he attempts a historic feat in what could be the highlight of the men's track and field competition in these centennial Games.


Johnson looked unbeatable at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials last month in Atlanta, winning the 400 in 43.33 seconds -- the third-fastest time ever -- and the 200 in 19.66, breaking a 17-year world record.


That put him on the brink of history -- no man has ever won the two races in the same Olympics. One woman, American Valerie Brisco-Hooks, accomplished the 200-400 double in the 1984 Olympics.


But Johnson was upstaged July 5 by Frankie Fredericks of Namibia at a major meet in Oslo. Fredericks won the 200 in a personal-best 19.82, breaking Johnson's 21-race unbeaten streak.


The last man to beat Johnson in the 200 was Fredericks, in 1994. Fredericks, who like Johnson is 28, took the silver at Barcelona in both the 100 and 200 meters. He also turned in a spectacular 9.86 recently in the 100 -- only Leroy Burrell, at 9.85, has run the 100 faster. Going into the Atlanta Games, Fredericks remained noncommittal as to whether he will attempt both the 100 and 200. He would be the favorite in the 100 and probably second choice to Johnson in the 200.


Johnson didn't celebrate too long at the track and field trials, indicating he knew what he had accomplished would be overshadowed should he not repeat his victories in the 200 and 400 at the Olympics.


"I just want to make a spot for myself in track and field history,'' he said shortly after winning the 200.


For Johnson, it's back to Atlanta and the familiar track at the Olympic stadium, where he will lead a men's team with sprinters who have the best chance of climbing the victory stand in individual races and relays.


From the 800 meters up, an American gold-medal winner would be an upset. But U.S. men hold or share the best time or distance in the world this year in the 100, 200, 400, 110-meter hurdles, 400 hurdles, high jump, long jump (although that jumper, Erick Walder, failed to make the team), shot put, discus and decathlon. Dan O'Brien is the favorite in the decathlon after failing to make the U.S. team in 1988.


A cool wave in Atlanta is more likely than an American winning a distance race. Noureddine Morceli of Algeria is favored in the 1,500, and Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia is a double favorite in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. He will be challenged especially by Kenya's bountiful number of distance runners; Kenya also has been dominating world competition in the steeplechase.


Olympic trials winner Dennis Mitchell will have a rugged field to hold off in the 100, in which he took the bronze medal in Barcelona. Teammates Michael Marsh and Jon Drummond will press him, as well as a powerful foreign contingent, including Fredericks, who attended Brigham Young University; Ato Boldon, who trained at UCLA and who will represent Trinidad and Tobago; Jamaican-born Donovan Bailey of Canada; and 1992 Olympic champion Linford Christie of Britain.


The United States will have the same long-jump lineup it had in Barcelona, when Carl Lewis won, Mike Powell was second and Joe Greene third. At last month's trials, it was Powell, Greene and Lewis, in that order. But Powell, the world-record holder, was beaten by Cuba's Ivan Pedroso at last year's world championships.


Atlanta probably will mark the final Olympic appearance for Lewis. This will be the fifth Olympics for the eight-time overall gold medalist.


Lawrence Johnson of Tennessee bears watching in the pole vault, which he won at the Olympic trials. At age 22, in an event in which competitors usually peak in their late 20s, Johnson will be up against the likes of Sergei Bubka of Ukraine, the greatest pole vaulter in history who won in 1988 but failed to clear a height at Barcelona. Igor Trandenkov of Russia and South African Okkert Brits are among the best pole vaulters who plan to challange Bubka.


But it's Michael Johnson, a Baylor University graduate who lives in Dallas, who will be in Atlanta's spotlight.