I’ve read that Michael Johnson claims he would beat Usain Bolt over 200 metres if both athletes were at their best from a couple of sources. I am interested to look at the evidence regarding who would win this fantasy race.
|Usain Bolt (left) and Michael Johnson (right).|
I’ll leave the stats for later, but let’s look at the two hyped head to heads that Michael Johnson was involved in during his career. In 1997, after the Atlanta Olympics when Donovan Bailey won the 100 metres and Michael Johnson won the 200 and 400 metres, the pair raced in a unique head to head over 150 metres, where they featured as the only competitors. Donovan Bailey won this race in 14.99 seconds, whilst Johnson pulled up injured whilst clearly behind Bailey. The Bolt versus Johnson clash is over 200 metres though? Let’s skip ahead three years to the 2000 US Olympic Trials over 200 metres. Since 1997, Maurice Greene had dominated world 100 metre sprinting, and had won the gold medal at the 1999 World Championships over 200 metres. This race was to be a clash of the titans, but again injury hit, both athletes this time, whilst John Capel ran away with the victory. My reason for bringing these rivalries up is that I don’t think that either of these athletes would have provided Bolt a serious challenge if he was at his best, yet they were considered worthy opponents for Johnson.
Now for the stats. Firstly, Bolt's best time for the distance is the current world record, 19.19 seconds. Johnson's best is 19.32 seconds, which at the time was a new world record. Perhaps more telling, Michael Johnson has run under 19.7 seconds twice, Bolt has done so a staggering 14 times! Bolt’s two fastest times are quicker than Johnson’s best time, and whilst fairly mild, both Bolt’s runs were into a headwind, whilst Johnson had a slight tailwind. That stat alone suggests to me that Bolt would be a heavy favourite, but I think a closer and more exciting race would be over 300 metres!