TOKYO -- Michael Johnson came here to do a job. The job accomplished, tears streamed down his face as he stood on the victory platform and "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played for the new world champion in the 200-meter -- last night.
It was his 21st consecutive win. His time, 20.01 seconds, was the fastest in the world this year. His margin of victory over Frank Fredericks of Namibia was 33 one-hundredths of a second, or 3 meters, the widest margin in a 200-meter World or Olympic championship since electronic timing became standard at the '52 Olympics.
Even in the era of hand-timing, when times were rounded off to tenths of a second, one would have to go back to 1936, when Jesse Owens beat Mack Robinson by .4 seconds in the Berlin Olympics, to find a wider margin of victory in the 200-meter dash.
Fredericks was second in 20.34 seconds, and Atlee Mahorn of Canada was third in 20.49.
Usually calm and businesslike, Johnson struggled to contain his emotions during the medal ceremony.
"I've been working for this a long time. I've had this dream for a long time," Johnson said. "I've had a lot of setbacks. There were times when I didn't know if I was going to make it. I don't think a lot of other people believed in me. I always believed in myself, though."
In four rounds at the World Championships this week, Johnson was never challenged. He won his first-round race by .28 seconds. In the quarterfinals, he set a championship record of 20.05 seconds and beat indoor world champion Nikolay Antonov by .15 seconds. In the semifinals, he won by .21. And in none of those races did he sprint all the way through to the finish, opting instead to conserve energy for the next round.
In the final, Johnson exploded out of the blocks and quickly caught and passed Fredericks, who two days earlier had been a finalist in the 100-meter dash.