Johnson sizes up 200m record

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The Independent Online
Michael Johnson, according to his agent Brad Hunt, is here for two reasons, writes Mike Rowbottom from Lausanne. The first is to parley with the president of the International Olympic Committee over altering next year's Olympic schedule to allow him an attempt at both 200 and 400 metres. The second is to break the 200m world record.

Rarely can there have been a better opportunity for Pietro Mennea's 16- year-old mark of 19.72sec to be beaten. Speaking after Monday night's 200m in Paris, which he won in 19.92, Johnson said he needed more races to reach his best form. As for taking the world record, he said, it required a field who could push him to his limits.

He may not have the benefit of altitude here - as Mennea did in setting the longest-standing track world record - but the quality of opposition could not be better. Frankie Fredericks, the world champion; Carl Lewis, who won here inspirationally over 200m two years ago and whose presence is still a major factor in promoting meetings on the Continent; John Regis; and Linford Christie, the world indoor record holder who will be competing just 65 minutes earlier in the 100m.

If the weather is clement - and it was scorchingly hot here yesterday - then the Stade de la Pontaise may witness its second successive sprint world record following Leroy Burrell's winning 100m mark of 9.85 last year.

This year's 100m sees Christie facing all the main contenders for his world title with the possible exception of Canada's Bruny Surin. Dennis Mitchell, who beat Christie in last year's Grand Prix final, is there, as well as Mike Marsh, who won the US trials. Donovan Bailey, who leads the world rankings this year with 9.99, also runs, as does Fredericks who, like Christie, is doubling up.

Christie has always said that he wants to run 200m in under 20 seconds, and this looks like being one of his best chances to do it. He will have a good sight of Johnson, two lanes outside him in lane five.

In the 400m, Roger Black returns after the knee injury which kept him out of last Sunday's Gateshead meeting to face a field which includes Darnell Hall, one of the three US qualifiers for the World Championships next month, and Derek Mills.