Work in Sports
Johnson dismisses Greene in sprinters' war of words
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Michael Johnson is ready mentally and physically for Maurice Greene in their highly anticipated showdown in the 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials.
Johnson fired back at Greene's trash-talking Tuesday, calling it "immature" and said he was not getting as excited about facing him as he did running against Carl Lewis.
"I dislike a lot of the things Maurice has said about me in an attempt to elevate himself by using my name," Johnson said. "Some things he's said are totally untrue. I don't like that. I think it's unnecessary.
"He said the track was fast when I broke the world record. Please, that's ridiculous. Then, two weeks later he's saying he respects me. Then he's saying this is a prelim, and then he says he's going to get Michael. ... Please."
The simmering feud between the two world-class sprinters began festering at last year's USA Championships at Eugene, Ore., where they were supposed to meet in the 200 meters. After Johnson withdrew late because of an injury, the fast-talking Greene accused Johnson of ducking him.
Johnson insisted that he was injured and said reassuredly that he doesn't duck anyone. After all, he is the Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in the 200, as well as the 400, and already he has won the 400 at the trials. The 200 final is Sunday, the last day of the trials.
Greene is the 100 world record-holder, a two-time world champion and the trials 100 winner. He was last year's 200 world champion -- in Johnson's absence -- and has been verbally badgering Johnson since the 1999 nationals.
The potshots have accelerated during the trials.
"Get Michael Johnson, that's what I want to do," the excitable Greene said after winning his opening heat in the 100.
He repeatedly has proclaimed he will win the 200, despite Johnson's best of 19.32 seconds and his best of 19.86.
Johnson countered Tuesday by saying he would "not guarantee a victory."
But he added, "I feel I can win the race. I'm not going to accept anything less. This is not a prelim. This is the Olympic trials. People have paid a lot of money to see a good race and that's what I'm going to give them.
"No, this doesn't matter for Sydney," he said. "This is the Olympic trials, Sydney is the Olympic Games.
"But I'm going to go out and feel capable I can win. I don't think if I win it will be a psychological advantage [for Sydney]."
Johnson said he was not overly enthusiastic about facing the precocious Greene.
"Since Carl Lewis left the sport, there is not an athlete I get excited about running against," he said. "There are no personalities I get excited about running against. I was excited running against Carl because I wanted to be No. 1 in the sport. I'm there now, so I don't have to get excited."
Johnson said much of the trash-talking in the sport was among the 100-meter runners, not among the 400 runners.
"There's mutual respect in the 400," he said. "We work harder, it's a tougher race, we've been around longer, we're a lot more mature. The trash-talking in the 200 has built up over the last year and I don't like it.
"I've been defending myself. I've been pushed by Maurice and his coach [John Smith]. I have a reputation to defend. I will not make a personal attack. I've promised that to my family and friends. I'm not going to stoop to that level."
Johnson said Greene was taking the wrong approach to the race if he thought he could break him down mentally.
"If he depends on me shutting down or breaking down ... he's not going to win the race, Johnson said.
Johnson, who has won 88 of 103 races in the 200 since 1989 -- he also is 75 of 79 in the 400 -- suggested that perhaps Greene was using the trash-talking to pump himself up for the big showdown.
Johnson and his coach, Clyde Hart, said they wouldn't let Greene's mouth affect the race.
"I prefer to do our talking on the track," Hart said. "But you have to defend yourself. I don't like to be the aggressor in anything. I don't want the sport to become like wrestling. I don't think it's good. I'm guess I'm old-fashioned."
The feud between the men's sprinters is similar to the one between women sprinters Marion Jones and Inger Miller, with Miller having trashed-talked Jones since the beginning of the trials. Jones, however, beat Miller in the 100 finals and they are expected to meet again Sunday in the 200.
Johnson did praise Greene, saying he deserved to be ranked No. 1 in the world last year because he won the world championship. Johnson was No. 2.
The two have met twice, with Johnson winning in 1997 and Greene in 1998, each time at Eugene in the Prefontaine Classic.
With all the commotion being created, Johnson thinks the race will be great for track and field.
If he were not competing, Johnson said he would watch it on television "because of what's been made of this -- it's huge.
"I know I'm mature enough to go out and run my race. He can't beat me mentally."