Wearing gold track spikes and taking a deep breath, the 200-meter world record holder knelt into position, set his feet in the blocks and carefully placed his hands. Then, just as he had done before coasting to gold and an Olympic record in the 400-meter race three days earlier, he waited for the call and the starting gun’s bang.
Questions loomed at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta over whether the 6-foot-1-inch, 175-pound runner could become the first man to complete a “double” — victories in both the 200- and 400-meter sprints — as he had done at the World Championships in Sweden the year before. He wasn’t a 100-meter sprinter and therefore was sometimes denied the moniker “fastest in the world.” But just days after the world had been rocked by the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, the crowds — and the nation — needed something spectacular. And much like the gold-winged Hermes, the supersonic messenger between the gods of Olympia and the mortal world, Michael Johnson was ready to deliver.
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