Twenty years later, he remains the only man to do that in the Olympics.
In a recent speech at a United Way luncheon in Dallas, reported by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Johnson reflected on the 20th anniversary of the Atlanta Games, which he remembers fondly for the history he made and for the support and energy of the crowds at the Olympic stadium.
“That was a great time,” Johnson, now 48, said. “I was fortunate to have that time and that performance take place in the Olympics here in the U.S., which was significant to me, being an American athlete.
“Most athletes, no matter how many Olympics you make, won’t get an opportunity to participate in an Olympics on their home-country soil.”
Wearing his famous gold Nike track shoes, Johnson completed his historic sweep before a crowd of 82,884 and a prime-time TV audience. He won the 200 by obliterating his own world record of 19.66, set earlier that summer in the Olympic trials, and running away from Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks — the silver medalist — and the rest of the field.
From the AJC’s report on the race: “A delirious Johnson fell to his knees and kissed the track after crossing the finish line. Fredericks offered a warm embrace. Best summing up the night, Cuba’s Ivan Garcia bent at the waist and bowed in the winner’s direction.”
The 200/400 double had been Johnson’s grand goal for the Atlanta Games. He had successfully lobbied the international track federation to have the schedule changed so he could attempt it.
Johnson retired from track and field in 2001. His world record in the 200 stood from 1996 until 2008, when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt broke it. But Johnson continues to hold the 400-meter world record, which he set in 1999.
He is founder and president of Michael Johnson Performance, which trains athletes, and is a commentator for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), for which he’ll provide analysis from this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He lives near San Francisco.
And as he made clear at the recent United Way luncheon in his native Texas, he sometimes marvels that 20 years have passed since he made history in Atlanta.
“(I)n some ways, I look at it and I think, ‘God, it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago,” he said, according to the Star-Telegram. “And sometimes it seems like it was eons ago.”