Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Track Heroes: In Lanes 3 and 2...

Well, here we are in the last two weeks of My Track Heroes blog series. Sorry I am posting a little late. It is finals week here at OSU so I have been quite busy. Anyway, it has been a lot of fun to discuss and take a closer look at some of my favorite track athletes of all time. My Track Heroes this week feature a pair of 400 meter runners. Sticking true to my roots in the quarter mile, these two men had to be near the top of my list.

In lane 3, a King in the Quarter, Baylor University graduate, and Olympic medalist, Jeremy Wariner. Ever since I began running the 400 meter as a sophomore in high school, Wariner has been a runner I have always looked up to. I would study his races and running form, tried to emulate how he did things in practice the next day, go home, and repeat. Wariner is exciting to watch in every race he runs because you never know if/when he will be breaking the 400 meter world record, still held by Jeremy’s agent, Michael Johnson. Wariner is a man that any sprinter, of any age, can idolize. The quarter miler strives not only to be the best 400 meter runner of this generation, but the most decorated quarter miler in the history of the event. He craves championships. Once Wariner’s eyes are set on a prize, he gives his all to get there.

The stats: Wariner was a high school state champion in Texas in the 200 and 400 meter sprints. After enrolling at Baylor, Jeremy instantly became a collegiate sprint star. (From Wariner’s website) Jeremy Wariner is the only athlete to ever win the following in the same year: Gold medals at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the 400m and 4x400m relay, gold at the US Olympic Trials in the 400m, and gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens in the 400m and 4x400m relay. Since then, Wariner has won 5 gold medals (3 in the 4x4, 2 in the 400) at World Championships and a silver in the 400 at a World Championship, a gold medal in the 4x400m relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Wariner’s personal best time of 43.45 seconds in the 400m is a mere .27 seconds behind Michael Johnson’s world record of 43.18 seconds. Jeremy’s personal best is the third fastest of all-time.

Unfortunately, due to a plague of injuries, not much has been seen of Wariner since 2008. He ran quite a few races in 2010/2011, but none were near his best times. I have high hopes that we will all be seeing Wariner’s return in full effect in this Olympic year. We can all hope that come July/August we will be watching Wariner sprinting his way to gold yet again.

In lane 2, it could be none other than Jeremy Wariner’s mentor and agent, Michael Johnson, once thought to be the fastest man in the world. Johnson is a man that I have heard/read about and admired for what seems like my entire life. The sprinting sensation was an American hero in the Nineties being titled, “the world’s fastest man”. Johnson has been an idol for sprinters around the globe for about two decades now. As I would study tapes of how Wariner raced, I would do the same with Michael Johnson. Both men are extremely talented sprinters and can teach other runners so much even if it is merely by watching them on film. Michael Johnson is without a doubt, one of the greatest track athletes of all-time.

The stats: Johnson won 4 gold medals in 3 different Olympic games, 1 in the 4x400m relay in Barcelona in ‘92, 2 in the ‘96 Atlanta Games in the 200m and 400m, and 1 in the 400m at 2000 games in Sydney. World Championships: Johnson won gold in the 200m in ‘91, golds in the 4x400m relay and 400m in ‘93, golds in all three events in ‘95, gold in the 400m in ‘97, and gold in the 400m in ‘99. In 2004, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame and his 200 meter race at the ‘96 Olympic Games was named the greatest track & field moment in the last 25 years. Johnson still holds the world record in the 400m at 43.18 seconds and in the 4x400m relay at 2 minutes 54.29 seconds.

Not only is Michael Johnson an amazing 400m runner, arguably the best of all time, but he is a stand-up guy as well. Michael Johnson voluntarily returned his 4x400m relay Olympic gold medal from the 2000 games in Sydney because he believed it was not earned fairly. On August 2, 2008, the International Olympic Committee stripped the 2000 Olympics U.S. 4x400m relay team of their gold medals because Johnson’s teammates Antonio Pettigrew, Alvin and Calvin Harrison, and preliminary round runner Jerome Young all admitted to or were tested positive for performance-enhancing supplements and some were involved in the BALCO scandal. Johnson never was or has been implicated in any drug scandal. He is also an amazing person for willingly giving up an Olympic gold medal because he knew it had not been won fairly. Kudos Mr. Johnson, that is why you are a hero to so many.

Join me next week for My Track Hero in lane 1. Also the following week I will be adding a special addition to My Track Heroes series. I hope you are enjoying my blog. I will continuing updating fun and interesting track & field stories, bios, workouts, memories, etc., every week. So be sure to check out my blog Runnin’ Down a Dream every Sunday/Monday. Thank you all! See you next week!

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