"There are a lot of contrasts in me," he would say later. "People see one side, then they seem shocked by any other. A lot of people thought I wouldn't get into it [celebrity], but I'm not a shy person. I like to make people laugh. This Olympic fame might seem all of a sudden, but I've had it in Europe for six years, so that's been good training. There are impositions on my privacy, but for me the trade-off is good. It lets me perform the way I want to on the track." He doesn't even have to say that if his performance starts to suffer, the balance will be adjusted.
As he set out from Atlanta, Johnson was back to exuding his usual sense of control. He plans on going undefeated the rest of this season. He plans on putting his business training to use as a part owner of the Dallas Mavericks. ("I'm going to be figuring out why we're paying one guy $9 million," he said.) There are contracts to renegotiate with his own sponsors.
He plans to run in Sydney in four years. Yet Johnson, 28, has felt no need to form a plan that might enable him to marshal all the conditions that had moved him so in Atlanta, that had contributed to an experience that he termed "almost perfect."
"I have to say," he said with a certain wistfulness, "that all that has happened here just seems impossible to top."
Fates, are you listening?