Wariner dreams of toppling Johnson's record in China

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The Independent Online

It is the perfect scenario for the Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner, a breathtaking image that he has contemplated countless times. The date is 21 August and he is thundering toward the finish line of the men's 400 metres final at the Beijing Games, roared on by a capacity crowd of 91,000 in the Bird's Nest National Stadium.

Leaving his closest challengers trailing in his wake, the 24-year-old American retains the gold medal he won at the 2004 Athens Olympics by breaking the world record held by his manager and mentor Michael Johnson.

"I think about it all the time," said Wariner, who has dominated the 400m for the last four years. "I would love to break the record on the world's biggest stage, knowing millions of people are watching and that memories will be made. A lot of people still talk about Michael's 200 in '96. If I break the world record in Beijing, I would want them to remember it in the same way."

Johnson's world 400m record of 43.18 was set at the 1999 world championships in Seville, Spain and it is a measure of the man that he has been doing his best over the last four years to help Wariner go faster.

"The way Michael [Johnson] looks at it, he knows records are meant to be broken," Wariner said recently. "He wants the record to be broken. With my talent, the way I train and how dedicated I am in that training, he knows I can break it. He's told me: 'You can get it this year, next year or you can get it the year after. When that time comes, you will feel it while you are running.'"

Wariner, whose personal best was the 43.45 seconds he ran to retain his world title in Osaka last September, continues to seek advice from Johnson while being coached by Michael Ford, who this year replaced Clyde Hart as his trainer.

"Michael [Johnson] has never coached me," Wariner said. "He has just given me advice on what he sees in my race. He will talk to my coach about it and they will both agree on what I need to work on.

" Michael has meant a lot to me in my life."