MonteIt was a steamy night in the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta, and Allen Johnson had just become one of the stars of the show. The American had won the 110m Hurdles in front his home crowd and off he set on a lap of honour. Only with a difference. He carried with him his two-year-old daughter Virginia.
Nine years on, the daddy of the event is still producing performances that turn back the clock.
Here in Monaco, on the second day of the 3rd IAAF World Athletics Final, Johnson, now 34, dipped just in time to secure a superb victory in a brilliant race. He may now be the old man of the field in terms of age, but you would never know it.
Look at him, and since his first major glory when he won the World title in Gothenburg in 1995, his physical stature has hardly changed. He remains slick, with tremendous pace between the barriers, and if anything his slim and never-too-powerful build looks like it could take him even faster.
He won here in 13.09, a World Athletic Final record, ahead of his fellow American Dominique Arnold, who was second in 13.10 with Terrence Trammell assuring a USA clean-sweep by finishing third in 13.17. France’s World champion Ladji Doucouré was reduced to sixth in 13.27.
You can always rely on Johnson to deliver. His record of consistency is remarkable and he has no desire to let up.
“I am as hungry now as I was when I began in the sport,” he said. “Do I think about retiring? Honestly? The only time I do is when you guys (in the media) ask me about it.”
Fellow scribes out there, do not ask Johnson the question for another three years at least because he plans to go onto the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
His bronze medal in Helsinki last month added to the golds he won at the world championships in 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003.
How does he do it? He says: “It is because I still love the sport and I still look forward to coming out to practise and to come to meets and just running. It will continue for a fair while.”
“The hunger is the same as ever. If anything, I am probably a bit hungrier. It is because I know there are fewer tomorrows than yesterdays, so I am appreciating competing now and having a ball and not putting too much pressure on myself in terms of winning and having to run a fast time.
“The plan is to be around for Beijing. My body still feels good and I do not feel any different to when I was 25. I still feel like I can run faster than I have - even though I have not.”
His personal best is 12.92, set when he won the Olympic title in Atlanta, a time that is a mere 0.01 seconds outside of the World record.
He says: “This year I have run under 13.10 probably just as many times as I ever did in my career. I am not showing any signs of slowing.”
As he proved yesterday in the prolific style that we have become accustomed to.
Samuel Peters for the IAAF
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