Work in Sports
Twice as nice
Greene, Johnson to face each other in semifinals
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The celebrated, trash-talking showdown between Michael Johnson and Maurice Greene will come sooner than expected in the 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials.
After the two won their opening-round heats Saturday, they were drawn into the same heat alongside each other for Sunday's semifinals.
Off the track, their confrontation was a draw.
Johnson, the world record-holder and Olympic gold medalist, won his opening-round heat at 19.89 seconds, the second-fastest in the world this year, behind only his 19.71, despite experiencing a slight cramp.
Greene, the 200 world champion, had to struggle to win his heat at 20.29.
The two combatants exchanged stares in the warmup area before entering Sacramento State's Hornet Stadium, but no words were exchanged. While neither would discuss that meeting after their races, sprinter Brian Lewis did.
"Michael was walking by Maurice and Maurice stared at him and Michael stared back," Lewis said. "They laughed at each other. They were doing it for pride, I guess.
"It was entertaining."
While the two have been bad-mouthing each other since the trials began last weekend, only Johnson had something to say after the first round. Greene said he would not comment until after Sunday's final.
Johnson, however, did not talk about the heated rivalry that has turned into real bitterness. He only discussed his race and the small problem he had with his right quadriceps.
He said he felt a cramp in the quad coming around the curve, "but it went away down the straightaway."
"I think it will be OK," Johnson said. "This has happened before, but it did go away.
"I was able to keep on running today. I was able to finish the race and that was encouraging. I hope it's nothing, but we'll have to see. There's no way of knowing right now.
"[Sunday] I hope the schedule won't be a problem, but I don't know."
Johnson's coach, Clyde Hart, said Johnson would test the injured leg before Sunday's semifinals, and that the sprinter would not race if there is a problem. Hart said there was no sense in jeopardizing a possible two gold medals (in the 400 and 1,600 relay) for three.
The semifinal and final will be run about 1 hour, 45 minutes apart.
To protect and ease the pain, Johnson was treated with a wrap.
The first-round heats probably enforced the Nevada odds that favored Johnson in this rare track and field event that has attracted national betting.
The two have met twice, with each winning once, Johnson in 1997 and Greene in 1998, both times at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore. They were heading for another showdown at the USA Championships at Eugene last year, but Johnson withdrew at the last minute because of injury.
That's when the trash-talking truly began. Greene said Johnson was ducking him, Johnson claimed he was legitimately hurt.
In his heat Saturday, Greene had to fend off Ramon Clay, the runner-up at 20.37.
Johnson was given a strong challenge by John Capel for the first 180 meters, before Capel slowed, finishing second at 20.14.
Marion Jones, who had not run a 200 since crumbling to the track with back spasms in the semifinals at the World Championships at Seville, Spain, last year, returned to the event by winning her opening-round heat in 22.62.
Jones, already the winner of the 100 and the long jump at the trials, looked smooth in her first 200 of the year while running into a headwind of nearly 3 mph. She coasted to victory, slowing only in the final 50 meters as instructed by coach Trevor Graham, in heading toward an apparent showdown against rival Inger Miller, winner of the world title in Jones' absence.
Miller, who has insisted she will thwart Jones' bid for a record five gold medals at the Olympics, won her heat at 23.15. Just like Greene and Johnson, Miller and Jones have shown little liking for each other.
Jones said she hasn't engaged in any trash-talking with Miller, who has been the more vocal of the two.
"You never heard me say a bad thing about any other person and I'm going to continue to do that," Jones said. "Sometimes my name gets linked up in that. As far as all that trash-talking, people should just put up.
"What I like to do is run fast on the track. All the people that are talking I just want them to show up and give me a race. I'm tired of all this.
"I've never been one to trash-talk and I'm not going to start now. If you're going to talk, come out and be ready to run. That's all I'm asking."
In Saturday's finals, Angelo Taylor, the former NCAA champion from Georgia Tech, won the men's 400 hurdles at 47.62, the fastest time in the world this year; Nicole Gamble took the women's triple jump at 45 feet, 9 3/4 inches -- 7 1/2 inches short of the Olympic "A" standard; and Tim Seaman won the men's 20-kilometer walk at 1:25:41.00, short of the Olympic "B" standard.
Gail Devers, the three-time world champion in the women's 100 hurdles and the 2000 world leader, won her opening-round heat in a sizzling 12.57, the fastest first-round heat ever by an American.
Devers, trying to atone for missing the team in the 100 and not getting an opportunity for a record third straight gold medal in that event, skimmed over the hurdles with flawless precision.
Allen Johnson, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion in the men's 110 hurdles, was among those qualifying for Sunday's final on the last day of the trials. Johnson eased through his heat in 13.42, finishing second to Dominque Arnold, the fastest qualifier at 13.36.
World champion Anthony Washington led the qualifiers for the discus final, throwing 219-7.