Athletics: Awesome Johnson blasts to gold in world record time

MICHAEL JOHNSON, just as he has predicted, last night took more than a tenth of a second off the 11-year-old world 400 metres record as he retained his world title in a time of 43.18sec at the World Championships here.

As the 31-year-old Texan reacted to the information on the clock he raised his arms and produced a dazzling smile the like of which we have not seen from him since he shattered the world 200m record at the Atlanta Olympics. Johnson finished ten metres clear of the field after accelerating to full speed over the final 100m.

Britain's two contenders, Mark Richardson and Jamie Baulch, were run out of the medals in a separate race going on in Johnson's wake. Richardson was sixth in 44.65sec - another massive disappointment for the man who missed out on the European and Commonwealth titles last season - while Baulch was last in 45.18sec.

The rumours of injury surrounding the defending 400m champion, Johnson, when he arrived here have disappeared into a sky as clear as the one above the stadium, to the point where the American - who ran 43.95sec in his semi-final despite appearing to ease down 100m from the end - had rightly predicted a world record in today's final.

"I'm going to give it my best shot," said Johnson, whose previous best of 43.39sec - set in winning this title four years ago - was only 0.10sec outside the mark established by fellow American Butch Reynolds in Zurich in 1988. "I've never run that fast shutting down so far out," he said. "I shut down with more than 90 metres left."

The statistics sheets bear witness to the extraordinary sway he has held in the one-lap event. Before his surprise defeat by both Mark Richardson and Iwan Thomas at last year's Oslo Grand Prix, when he was returning after a hamstring injury, his unbeaten record in major races stretched back to 1989, and he ran under 45 seconds on 58 occasions. Before last night's race, he had compiled seven of the 10 all-time best marks and 13 of the top 20.

Katharine Merry, running in her first championship 400 metres event, finished fifth in the final in a time of 50.52sec as Australia's Cathy Freeman retained her title in a winning time of 49.67sec, the fastest of the season.

Merry, drawn in the inside lane, worked hard to hang onto the pace as the field came around the final bend, but found herself increasingly detached from the leading quartet, of whom Ania Bucker of Germany earned silver in 49.74, and Lorraine Graham of Jamaica took bronze in 49.92.

Merry's time was outside her best of 50.21, established in reaching yesterday's final.

Marion Jones, whose dominance in the 100 and 200 metres has matched that of Johnson over the last three years, confirmed yesterday that she will take no further part in the championships at which she hoped to win four gold medals.

Having been wheeled off the track on a stretcher after collapsing with back spasms 50 metres from the end of Wednesday's 200m semi-final, she has been treated by two US doctors who have accompanied her here, but her coach, Trevor Graham, said yesterday that she would not return to the track to seek a medal in either the 4x100 or 4x400 metres.

"I'm not going to put her out there, no way," said Graham. "We discussed it with her and she's okay with it. She's disappointed, but she's in good spirits. There is a little pain and soreness, but she can walk. She's not dead."

The 23-year-old from Thousand Oaks, California, won the 100m title on Sunday night in a championship record of 10.70sec but had to settle for bronze in the long jump, where her body was repeatedly jarred because of her awkward style. Thus what was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for next year's Sydney Olympics, where she intends to go for an unprecedented five gold medals, has had the curtain precipitately brought down upon it.

She now faces a race to regain fitness in time to contest the Brussels meeting next Friday, where she must win if she is to retain a chance of sharing the $1m jackpot on offer to those athletes remaining unbeaten throughout all seven Golden League events.

For Jonathan Edwards, still trying to come to terms with his disappointment at only getting the triple jump bronze medal, Brussels is not on the agenda.

The 33-year-old Gateshead athlete plans to end his season the following day at the USA versus Britain match in Glasgow - but he confirmed yesterday that he would go on to contest the Olympics next year.

Given his state of mind following his shattering defeat on Wednesday night, however, he was not able to raise much enthusiasm for that prospect yesterday.

"The thought of picking myself up and starting training for Sydney is not a particularly pleasant one right now," he said. "But I will do." He was unable to explain why he had performed so badly in a final, in which he had hoped to jump beyond 18 metres, as he had done in winning this title four years ago.

"I haven't seen the video yet, but I expect it will be a horror story," he said. "I was getting a lot of over-rotation on the board, which manifested itself in the step phase, so I was never in position to get in a good jump."

Britain thought of protesting against the jumps of the winner, Friedrich of Germany, on the grounds that he had taken off outside the lines of the runway.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent