Johnson eyes repeat of 200-400 double gold

New racing suit hits water in a pool of controversy

Notebook

Olympics

April 02, 2000|By PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

It's another Summer Olympics year, and that must mean it's time for Michael Johnson to run really fast again. The U.S. gold-medal winner in Atlanta is planning to reprise his 200- and 400-meter double and then some at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

"I want to do that again and be healthy enough to run the relay," Johnson told Reuters news agency. "I feel like right now I'm basically picking up where I left off in 1996."

He proved it by setting a world record in the 300-meter run as he opened the outdoor season in Pretoria, South Africa, last week. It is a seldom-contested distance, but since Johnson owns the 200-meter and 400-meter world records, he thought he might as well have the 300 as well. The record time was 30.85 seconds.

Johnson broke the world record in the 200-meter run twice during the 1996 season. His current mark is 19.32 seconds. Last year at the world championships, he took the 400-meter record from Butch Reynolds with a time of 43.18 seconds.

Johnson, 32, who will celebrate another birthday two days before the torch is lit, feels he can approach record times in the 200-meter race if he continues to improve, but puts his real focus on the 400-meter event.

"I still think 42 seconds is possible," Johnson said. "And I don't think it's that difficult to do."

Pool sharks

The swimming world is abuzz over a new Speedo racing suit that purports to be "faster than skin." The neck-to-ankles, long-sleeved suit has been approved by FINA, the international swimming federation, and will be used in the Sydney Olympics -- but not without controversy, of course.

Australian freestyler Kieren Perkins said the new bodysuits give a swimmer added buoyancy and, therefore, provide an unfair advantage. Other top swimmers (i.e., those being paid to wear some other company's suits) are also grumbling and threatening potential legal action.

Sensing trouble ahead, the Australian Olympic Committee has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport -- which would decide any future protest -- to investigate the suits and make a ruling now on their legality. AOC president John Coates thinks it is possible that FINA may have misread its rules when it approved the suit, a view that has put the swimming federation in quite a foul temper.

Speedo has cheerfully offered to make the Fastskin suits available to all Olympic swimmers, the prospect of which has done nothing for the mood of suppliers like adidas and Dolfin, which don't relish the idea of a poolful of competitors wearing nothing but the other guy's togs.

But the big question on Traction News is whether the suit gets you through the water faster. Apparently it does, although how much faster is unknown.

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