Johnson's Willing to Take Double-or-Nothing Chance

Article excerpt

Although most athletes dream of winning one Olympic medal, Michael Johnson won't be content unless he takes home two from Atlanta.

"First of all, I wouldn't be happy to go into the Olympics running in one event over the other," said Johnson, referring to the risk of trying to grab for gold in the 200 and 400 meters and coming up empty in both. "That's the point . . . I'm going to be happy. If there was no risk to [doubling], then everyone would be doing it. It's the risk that makes it exciting."

Johnson was speaking during a news conference last night at George Mason University, where he will headline the 400 meters in tomorrow's Mobil Invitational track and field meet.

Should the 28-year-old Johnson successfully double in Atlanta, it would be unprecedented. No Olympic athletes - even those with the speed for the 200 and the strength for the 400 - have been able to handle the rigors of the schedule with its series of trials, many on the same day.

Johnson, however, is likely to receive a huge break from a most unlikely source: the usually inflexible International Amateur Athletics Federation. The IAAF is expected to announce next month that it is altering the schedule of events to allow Johnson some relief during two critical days.

The current schedule calls for him to compete in the preliminaries and quarterfinals of the 200 between the preliminaries and quarterfinals of the 400 on one day and to run the 400 finals and 200 semifinals on another day. The proposed new schedule has Johnson running four rounds of the 400 before he has to run the first 200-meter race.

"I wasn't surprised by the decision [considering] as much work as I put into it, with meetings and writing letters last year," said the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Johnson, who nailed the double at last summer's World Championships in Goteborg, Sweden. "But I was always optimistic that [IAAF president] Primo [Nebiolo] would see it as a benefit for the IAAF, for me and everyone else involved."

Victories at Atlanta would ease the disappointment Johnson carries from the 1992 Barcelona Games, where he was favored to win the gold in the 200. …