Athletics: Campbell's fury at 'ludicrous' Johnson

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Darren Campbell has accused Michael Johnson of making "ludicrous" assertions about the state of British track and field.

Darren Campbell has accused Michael Johnson of making "ludicrous" assertions about the state of British track and field.

The retired American great, who still holds the world records over 200 metres and 400m, has been a fervent critic of British athletes in the past year, most notably when he and the Team GB sprint relay squad had a public row during last year's Olympics.

Speaking at the Laureus Awards, Johnson claimed the likes of Campbell and his team-mates had been "rewarded for mediocrity" after a golden flourish to the Games followed a slow start in the athletics stadium.

Britain won three gold and two bronze medals, although two of the golds went to Kelly Holmes. The men's sprint relay squad won gold against the odds, despite having no representation in any of the individual finals.

Johnson suggested expectations in Britain had fallen since his days on the track and claimed it was far too easy for athletes to get funding. But the 31-year-old Campbell was infuriated that Johnson, who works as a BBC pundit, was again attacking the British system. Not since 1984 had Britain won three athletics golds at a single Olympic Games.

"One of the things I read yesterday - again from Michael Johnson - I think is just ludicrous," Campbell said. "As usual he brings his oar into something that doesn't concern him."

With a touch of sarcasm, Campbell, a 4x100m gold medallist from Athens, added: "But again, that's his opinion and I guess being Michael Johnson, his opinion is the right opinion."

The long jumper Darren Ritchie joined Campbell on the counter-attack, challenging Johnson on the funding issue.

"Michael Johnson, world class athlete, world record holder, multi-millionaire - it is difficult to see his perspective on things," Ritchie said. "I have been continuously funded since 1997, which has allowed me to follow my dream and be a full-time athlete without having to work and I am really grateful for everything that I received.

"But there are pressures put on athletes. You have to reach targets or you get your funding cut. Not only do you have to train, worry about injury and achieving standards, you are always thinking, 'Am I going to have enough money to continue the sport next year?' It is added pressure."