Nick Davies for IAAF
9 August 2001 – Edmonton - Two years ago in Seville, Colin Jackson came back from the dead to claim his second world title. Tonight, another legend – Allen Johnson – put aside two years of disappointment to snatch his third gold in this event, a victory made even sweeter because it was at the expense of Anier Garcia, the Cuban who won Olympic gold in Sydney last year.
After crossing the line – just inches ahead of Garcia – Johnson was so fired up that he sped around the curve, his adrenaline mixed with relief as he raised his arm in triumph: “I’ve had so many ups and downs, so many people have tried to write me off and said that I can’t do it any more,” said Johnson: “Now I’ve shown a lot of people that if I come into a meet healthy I can still run extremely fast.”
It was a scrappy race, and Johnson hit 8 of the 10 barriers, but there are no marks for artistic impression in athletics. He had the better start, held his form together well, despite intense pressure from the Cuban in the latter part of the race, and fully deserved his victory. Garcia was not particularly gracious in defeat, claiming he was still “still in better shape than my opponents” but credit is due to Johnson, who still ran 13.04 – despite his wood splintering and a slight headwind of –0.3 mps.
Johnson’s triumph was witnessed from the stands by his father, 11 year-old step-brother (also a budding athlete) and his long time coach Curtis Frye, from South Carolina.
“First of all, I’m just happy to have won after what happened in Sydney. I was extremely disappointed then and it is something that I can never get back. I went into that Olympic final with the attitude that it was all or nothing, which is the way I always run. But by trying to win, I made some mistakes in the last part of the race and ended up fourth, and out of the medals. But in the end I let it go, and this year was a new year, and I just wanted to be world champion again. That was the major motivating factor for me this year.”
Still only 30, Johnson is in no mood to consider retirement. Quite the opposite: “I think I have a lot of races left in me, and although it was nice to win this one, I reckon it would also be good to come back for one, two or three more titles. I still train the way I did four or five years ago. I still train hard. I told my coach the other day that I plan for my last race to be at the Olympics … in Beijing in 2008. For the last two years I have been troubled by injuries, ranging from a stress fracture to pulled muscles, and that affected me in Seville and Sydney, but I love hurdling. I’ll carry on as long as I can.”
With Garcia there to push the American along, Colin Jackson’s world record of 12.91, could still be under threat. “I’ve missed that by just 1/100th of second [back in 1996] and I think that with the right conditions, and with Anier pushing me again, I can definitely break it. The world record is definitely another motivation.”