Greene, Johnson hurt in 200 finale

Status uncertain

Williams misses bid

July 24, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A new debate began at the U.S. track and field trials for the Olympic Games last night.

What's the biggest flop in the history of American marketing: "Ishtar," a 1980s Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman movie; New Coke; or the 200-meter showdown here between Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene?

The world's two best sprinters each said they would win three gold medals in Sydney, but, due to injuries, neither will have that chance after failing to qualify in the 200.

Johnson didn't make it through the turn; Greene stopped churning on the straightaway, and the trials ended with a thud.

Johnson had iced his right quadriceps after the preliminary and semifinals, and a cramp in his left quad stopped him at 50 meters in the final. Greene pulled up lame coming off the turn when he strained his left hamstring, which could jeopardize his Olympic hopes.

"I don't know if I tore it," said Greene, who celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday. "You never know how long it takes for an injury like that to heal."

Afterward, Johnson graciously made his way to the interview tent. He alluded to his mano a mano sprint a few years ago over the trumped-up distance of 150 meters with Donovan Bailey, the reigning Olympic champion in the 100. Johnson pulled up in that race, too.

"We all should learn a lesson from this," Johnson said. "I said after Toronto, let's stop these two-man races. Michael-Maurice, Michael-Maurice, that's all that was talked about. All you did was [anger] the other guys ... and they went and ran fast."

If only Greene and Johnson's legs had held up as well as their mouths. For two months, Greene, the world's fastest human with a 100 best of 9.79, and Johnson, the world-record holder in the 200 at 19.32, had traded barbs and boasts. Daily at Cal State Sacramento's Hornet Stadium, crowds of more than 23,000 had anticipated their climactic duel.

Marion Jones' third victory here, a few minutes earlier in the women's 200, was met with a shrug. Many didn't even notice how the men's 200 Olympians were decided.

But Bernard Williams was painfully aware of the 200 finish. The graduate of Carver High posted his third personal best in the event in 30 hours, but his 20.03 was only good for fourth, behind John Capel, Floyd Heard and Coby Miller. At the make or break U.S. trials, the top three go to the Olympics.

"I'm all right," said Williams, who was too distraught to talk after he had finished seventh nine days earlier in the 100. "Basically, this weekend was a matter of me relaxing."

Williams, who said he will leave college and turn pro, still has a chance to go to Sydney as an alternate in the 4x100 relay.

John Chaplin, the head coach for the U.S. men's team, will decide who will be included in the relay pool. He was stationed in a photographer's area beyond the finish line when Greene and Johnson ran 2-3 behind Capel in the first semifinal.

Before the race, Chaplin had said, "Don't get hurt." His fear was prophetic.

Their 200 semi opened NBC's two-hour prime-time telecast, and the final closed the show. On Saturday, Johnson said he hoped his 32-year-old legs would hold up over two races staged in a little over 100 minutes under a searing California sun.

"It's tough, it's not easy," Johnson said of the made-for-TV schedule. "If we were running [the final] tomorrow this might not have happened."

Johnson suffered cramps in his right quadriceps Saturday, and in his left yesterday.

"I don't believe it's a [muscle] tear or pull; I don't know if any damage is done," Johnson said. "I cramped up in my right quad [Saturday]. I tested it [in the semis], and it felt good. What happened in the final is something of a surprise. I'm disappointed, because it [another Olympic double] was a goal of mine."

Johnson owned the Atlanta Olympics four years ago, when he became the first man to win both the 200 and 400 at the Games, but his international career in the 200 has some ugly bookends. He was floored by food poisoning in Barcelona in 1992, and now he'll be limited to the 400 and 4x400 relay in Sydney.

Greene began to close on Johnson last year, when the Kansas native won the world championship. The major figure in the HSI camp in Los Angeles, he will run in the 100 and 4x100 relay in the Olympics if his injury allows.

So instead of the two most visible American men's stars, Trinidad's Ato Boldon and Namibia's Frank Fredericks will be tested by a U.S. entry that consists of Capel, who's 21, 34-year-old journeyman Heard, and Miller, who just completed his NCAA eligibility at Auburn.

Cue the promos for Jones, the woman who will attempt to win an unprecedented five gold medals.

Johnson was asked if it was the most bizarre week of his career.

"Yes," he said.

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