There's no business like shoe business

Sydney 2000

The old sparkle was certainly missing from Michael Johnson on the final day of the trials for the United States' Oly-mpic track and field team in Sacramento last Sunday. It was evident long before the Texan pulled up clutching his left thigh 80 metres into the 200m final. You just had to look at his feet on the start line. His shoes did not glitter with their usual gold.

The old sparkle was certainly missing from Michael Johnson on the final day of the trials for the United States' Oly-mpic track and field team in Sacramento last Sunday. It was evident long before the Texan pulled up clutching his left thigh 80 metres into the 200m final. You just had to look at his feet on the start line. His shoes did not glitter with their usual gold.

The man with the Midas touch was sporting a shoe colour chosen by votes cast on Nike's website. Having "made waves" in his first- round heat in Aqua and "burned up the track" in his semi-final in Fire, Johnson, according to his shoe sponsor, was "ready to erupt" in Lava in the final. And erupt he did, ripping hamstring fibres and blowing his chances of retaining the Olympic 200m title he won inAtlanta four years ago.

He still has his Olympic 400m crown, of course, and this week he will start preparing for the defence of it - and not just on the training track. Johnson takes his shoe business quite seriously, as well he might given the £2m he reputedly receives each year for his high- speed advertising of the Nike swoosh logo. He works on the design of his running spikes with a special product-development team headed by the former Surrey miler Tony Bignell at the company's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

The upper section of the gold shoes the Johnson team created for the world championships in Seville last summer were made of parachute nylon. It was hardly surprising that the superman of the track flew through the 400m final in world- record time, but the model under construction for his Olympic appearance incorporates a different form of innovative material.

Precisely what it is, Nike are not prepared to reveal as yet, though it can be confirmed that the old colour will be back on Johnson's feet when he runs in Sydney. He will be going for gold in gold.

Mo's zippy answer

Jade Johnson is no relation of Michael, but she also has a rather special pair of running spikes. They were given to the colourfully named British long-jump international by the other sprinting superman who crashed to earth in Sacramento last Sunday. "They're really nice," Johnson said. "They're red, black and silver and they've got this stretchy material that zips up at the front so you can't see the laces. They've also got the letters 'MO' inscribed on the side."

Johnson got to know Mo Greene - Maurice Greene, that is - when she competed on the indoor circuit earlier this year. "He's a really nice guy," the 20-year-old Herne Hill Harrier said. "We were in Helsinki and I asked him, 'Where did you get those shoes from? I really like them.' And he just gave them to me.

"They're size nine-and-a-half. I'm eight-and-a-half, but with my orthotic shoe inserts I go up a size, so they fit me quite well."

As specialist sprint spikes, they are not suitable for use in long-jump competition, but Johnson, aiming for Sydney selection at the British trials in Birmingham on 11-13 August, wears them for her speed-training sessions. Judging by her form in the European Cup a fortnight ago, a little of their original owner's fleet-footedness has rubbed off on her. The trouble was she went so fast on the Gateshead runway she struggled to hit the take-off board.

Size matters

Jade Johnson was only four when Chris Maddocks first competed on the Olympic stage, at Los Angeles in 1984. At the age of 40, the Plymouth race-walker is getting ready for his fifth Games, a feat never before achieved by a male British track-and-field athlete. The trouble for him is the feet of a race walker do not happen to be in great demand by shoe manufacturers.

After featuring without a logo in sight in Athletics Weekly last month, Maddocks confessed that his att-empts to secure a shoe contract had come to nought. "I did get one complimentary pair of racing shoes from Asics, but they were too small," he said at the time. "I sent them back." A correctly fitting pair has since arrived. Remember, you read it here first: five-time Olympian gets a free pair of shoes.

Going back to Asics

It was a pair of Asics shoes that got Lasse Viren into trouble at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. On the eve of the 5,000m final, Viren was called before the International Olympic Committee's technical committee and asked to explain why he had carried his spikes aloft on his lap of honour after winning the 10,000m. He stood accused of contravening Olympic rules in place at the time concerning commercialism. The Finnish policeman fought a successful defence, though. He maintained he had simply been suffering from blisters.

Sponsors in split

And finally... Quincy Watts was not slow to exploit commercially his winning 400m run at the Barcelona Games in 1992. Soon afterwards he was starring in a Nike television commercial in which a Viking king offered to swap his "super-cushioned wife" for a pair of the American's "super-cushioned Air Max shoes". Watts took one look at the woman before sprinting off at full speed.

A year later, Watts was sprinting at full speed in pursuit of Michael Johnson in the world championship 400m final in Stuttgart when the sole of his left shoe came away and was left flapping like a barn door. After trailing across the line in fourth place, he lifted up his split shoe to show the crowd - to the considerable embarrassment of the Nike executives in attendance. For all concerned, it was truly sole-destroying.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas