SEOUL: Reuter; Ben Johnson confronted | Carl Lewis and the record books on Saturday, beat them both and vowed to go even faster ‘
In an electric 9.79 seconds at the Seoul ‘Olympic Stadium, the Jamaican born Canadian shattered his own world record and Lewis’s dream of an unprecedented second gold medal in the 100 metres. ‘
“I wasn’t surprised. I knew I was ready to go,” the new Olympic Champion said.
‘I eased off the last maybe three or four metres and if had gone through I would maybe have got 9.75. But I’m saving it for next year.”
The battle of speed and concentration between Johnson and the U.S. defending Champion, Athletics’ equivalent of the clash of Boxing rivals Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, was the most eagerly awaited moment of the ‘games.
‘And as Johnson looked to his left before the line, saw Lewis behind and raised his right arm in victory, memories of last year’s World Championships in Rome flooded back.
Johnson, 26, first beat Lewis in 1985 but it was his triumph in Rome in a world record 9,83 seconds that made the world hold its breath and take notice.
“I just kept cool and did the same things I did in Rome last year,” Johnson said of the Olympic final in Seoul.
“The most important thing is to win the Olympic Gold Medal and to do that I had to beat Carl,” he said.
Johnson, began running in 1977 when his older brother Edward, the main influence in his life, took him to a local track in Toronto to meet a part time coach and Insurance underwriter called Charlie Francis,
Francis, who has coached Johnson ever since, describes him then as a “scrawny 15 ‘year old” without the stamina to make it round the track.
Today Johnson is a powerhouse of bulging muscle, able to rocket off the starting blocks faster than any other sprinter and control the race for the first 60 metres
Johnson’s explosive start contrasts to the explosive finish of Lewis, who had turned the tables on him nine times in their 15 outdoor clashes prior to the Seoul games,
Johnson said he had worked on his endurance especially for the Olympics and the battle with Lewis in the final. “Carl tried to impress me but it didn’t work,” he said,
“He said he was the man to beat…But in the first 30 metres I came out first and 1 didn’t see anyone at about 80,” Johnson said.
The Canadian, Bronze Medalist behind Lewis at the 1984 Los Angeles games, last faced the American in Zurich in August when he trailed in third again.
On Saturday he described that race as necessary to his return to race form after a hamstring injury.
Rivalry with Lewis, the only man in his class, has dominated Johnson’s track career since he first raced him and lost at the Pan American games in 1980.
‘They are said to dislike each other off the track as much as on and their lifestyles could not be more different.
Johnson went to Canada from Jamaica in 1976, with his brother Edward, four sisters and his mother Gloria, to whom he dedicated his Olympic Gold Medal.
Gloria was in the stands of the Olympic stadium, but closed her eyes and prayed rather than watching him win.
“I closed my eyes and said a little prayer. I didn’t see it, I didn’t see anything, But I knew he won, I just had a feeling,” she said.
Johnson bad said before the race he would dedicate his medal to his mother if he won,
“We are a close family. My mother has been through a lot. She always taught us to do right,” he said.
Johnson has retained his Jamaican accent and a childhood stutter. Short, Staccato answers dominate his news conferences while Lewis’s are self-assured exercises in smooth prose,
Johnson prefers T shirts and jeans to the designer outfits of Lewis, although he did buy a shiny silver suit after his victory in Rome to wear on special occasions.
Success on the track has brought riches to both men,
Johnson will return to Toronto to a new house he is having built, with room for his collection of custom made fast cars,
Now he has Olympic Gold to add to his wealth,
“The Gold Medal is the most important thing. Anybody can break a world record but the Gold Medal is mine,” he said.
“I don’t agree that whoever gets second place is disappointed,” said Lewis.