Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1, 1996: Golden Shoes

ATLANTA - He laced up his custom-made golden shoes. The left one was a half-size smaller than the right to account for his unique feet. They weighed only three ounces. This was only the second time he'd wear these shoes, and he'd never wear them again.

He stood behind the block, slightly bouncing, staring straight ahead. When his name was announced, he waved both his arms, but didn't stop staring. Called to the block, he stepped forward and crouched down, slowly and precisely lining up. He looked up, not moving, not blinking, waiting.

The gun sounded, and he was off, standing out partially because of his short strides and upright posture, unique among sprinters. But also standing out because of his speed.

By the top of the turn, Michael Johnson had already made up the stagger built in to the 200-meter run. The race was in essence already over. He was going to cruise to the gold and become the first man to win the gold medal in both the 200 and the 400 meter runs. And then, only then, did Johnson really start running.

Looking like he was shot out of a cannon, Johnson shifted to another, heretofore unseen gear, leaving the best sprinters of his era in the dust. With 80 meters to go, he already had a commanding lead. Now the only thing to question was the world record. As he crossed the finish line, he glanced over his left shoulder and saw the sign: 19.32. He opened his arms and screamed. He hadn't just broken the world record, he had annihilated it.

Johnson's breathtaking run in the 200-meter final might have been the most breathtaking moment of the Atlanta Olympics. People had expected him to have a legitimate chance at hitting the unprecedented double gold medal in the 200 and 400, but nobody had expected that.

His record time in the 200 lasted for 12 years before getting broken twice in Beijing by Usain Bolt. Attending the Beijing games as a commentator for BBC, Johnson was among the first to congratulate Bolt on breaking his record

The race: (No embedding for some reason)

August 1, 1978: ATLANTA - There was only one man left to catch. After a summer spent chasing Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Pete Rose singled in the top of the sixth inning in the Reds' game against the Braves, brining his own streak to 44 games and tying the National League record. There was nobody else between him and DiMaggio. Well, except Larry McWilliams and Gene Garber. Those were the two Atlanta pitchers who held Rose hitless in five plate appearances on August 1, ending his run at DiMaggio. Rose gave it a good shot, though, hitting two hard line drive outs among his five plate appearences. But when Garber struck Rose out to end the game, the streak was over 12 games short of the ultimate prize. It remains the closest anybody has come to DiMaggio since he set the record in 1941.

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