The deal was finally set only the day before the meet. "They both knew they'd run a 100 here," said Johnson's agent. Larry Heidebrecht. "But whether it'd be against each other was an open question."
The quarter of a million that Lewis and Johnson each probably received in Zurich is more than double what Zola Budd and Mary Slaney received for their 1985 London rematch after Slaney's 1984 Olympic fall. But Lewis and Johnson put on 10 times the race.
They were in adjacent lanes. Lewis was the last to finish stretching and musing and to take his marks. The starter said, "fertig" ("set"), there was a photographer's flash, and Johnson jumped the gun. When he was charged with a false start, he complained that he had been drawn off by the flash. Because no one else had moved, the charge stood. One more jump and Johnson would be disqualified. "Once he was in the hole like that," said Heidebrecht, "he had to be conservative."
The next time the gun fired, Lewis and Johnson moved as one. Johnson displayed a good measure of his old acceleration, but Lewis never let the gap grow to the full meter it had been in Rome. "I knew his lead at 50 meters wasn't enough." Lewis said.
Even so, Johnson looked good until 80 meters, when his lack of racing sharpness showed in his arched back. Lewis passed him with 10 to go and won in 9.93, equaling his best. Johnson, when he saw he was beaten, simply shut down. He was actually braking as he finished. Calvin Smith rushed past in Lane 8 to take second with 9.97. Johnson was third in 10.00.
"My coach [Tom Tellez] will be pleased." said Lewis, hoarse from a head cold. "I ran my own race. Smooth as glass."
It had been a promoter's dream. Both men emerged healthy and able to fight lucratively again. "There are five weeks to Seoul," said Heidebrecht. "And Ben will improve more than Carl will."
Lewis, a genuine artiste, has seldom felt the need to be one of the guys, but he has admitted to envy of one aspect of the old days—the Lee Evans-Tommie Smith-John Carlos-Bob Beamon old days, now so nearly obsolete—and that is the sense of social mission those sprinters enjoyed. Yet, by engineering such a bonanza for themselves, Lewis and Johnson may have unified modern athletes more than they know.
Banks held a meeting to sound out the feelings of men like Linford Christie of Great Britain, who was fifth in the 100 in 10.07, for which he reportedly received a princely $5.100. Even Reynolds received only about 10% of Lewis's haul.
Brugger defended Lewis's and Johnson's deal as being fresh TV money. It didn't cut into what he could pay the others. The athletes understood that, but lamented that track has no athletes' union. They must take what promoters offer, and they will suffer that arrangement until they attain solidarity. "There will be further meetings." said long and triple jumper Mike Conley.