Johnson's 200m world record named Top Moment of last 25 years


Jill Geer
Director of Communications
USA Track & Field
317-261-0478 x360

PORTLAND, Ore. - Michael Johnson setting the men's 200m world record at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta has been named the greatest moment in U.S. track and field in the last 25 years. USATF President Bill Roe counted down the Top 3 Moments Wednesday at the Opening General Session of USATF's 26th Annual Meeting.

Joan Benoit winning the first-ever Olympic women's marathon in 1984 was named the second greatest moment, while Edwin Moses' 122-race win streak came in third.

To help mark the 25th anniversary of USA Track & Field, fans joined USATF in selecting the Top 25 Moments in American Track & Field during the past quarter century. Fans voted for what they consider to be the top moments in the sports of track & field, long-distance running, and race walking by voting online at USATF's website,

Johnson, who broke the long-standing 200m world record earlier that summer at the 1996 Olympic Trials in Atlanta with his blistering 19.66, was looking to make history as the first man ever to win the 200m and 400m gold medals at the same Olympics.

Having won the Olympic 400m gold medal earlier in the competition, Johnson placed his golden shoes into the blocks for his eighth race in six days, the men's 200m final.

When the gun sounded Johnson had a slight stumble out of the blocks and still completed the first 100m around the curve in an amazing 10.12. The 83,000 fans on hand stood and screamed as Johnson covered the second 100 meters in a ridiculous split of 9.20, burying a tremendous field in the Beamonesque time of 19.32. Johnson's winning margin of nearly four meters was the widest in an Olympic 200m final since Jesse Owens' victory at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Nobody, including Johnson, could believe the time, which according to the IAAF's decathlon scoring tables equates to 9.72 for 100 meters. Johnson's 200m race in Atlanta is believed by many to be the single greatest track and field performance in history.

Joan Benoit entered the 1984 Olympic women's marathon in Los Angeles knowing that Norwegian all-time greats Grete Waitz and Ingrid Kristiansen were the favorites to win. The hot conditions convinced Waitz and Kristiansen to run a slower than usual pace when the gun sounded, while Benoit chose to ignore the conditions. Running aggressively from the beginning, Benoit covered the distance between 10 km and 20 km in a brisk 33:08, which gave her a 400m lead she would never relinquish. At 30 km her lead increased to close to two minutes over the world-class field.

Benoit crossed the finish line some 400 meters in front of Waitz to become the first women's Olympic marathon champion in history and instantly inspiring millions to take up distance running. Her winning time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, 52 seconds was then the third-fastest ever.

A two-time winner of the Boston Marathon and the first woman ever to win both the Olympic and Boston Marathons, Benoit Samuelson will join Michael Johnson in being inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame December 3 in Portland.

A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Edwin Moses is recognized as one of the greatest track and field athletes in history. Moses set the 400m hurdles world record four times and won the AAU Sullivan Award in 1983. The dominant intermediate hurdler in the world for more than a decade, Moses will always be remembered for his remarkable consecutive race winning streak that lasted nearly ten years.

After winning the 1976 Olympic 400m hurdles gold medal with a world record performance and setting an additional world record in winning the 1977 U.S. title, Moses lost a race in August of that year to West German Harald Schmid in Berlin. Who could have guessed then that nine years, nine months and nine days would pass before Moses would again experience defeat.

During that time span Moses won 122 races overall (107 finals races) and on his birthday (August 31, 1983) he set a world record of 47.02 seconds that would last nine years. During the streak he also won five U.S. and U.S. Olympic Trials titles, three World Cup titles and another Olympic gold medal in 1984.

The remarkable win streak finally came to and end when worldwide headlines announced that Danny Harris had defeated Moses in Madrid on June 4, 1987. Moses, who will always be remembered for his unprecedented 13 steps between hurdles instead of the customary 14, went on to win the bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1994.

Suggestions for USATF's Top 25 Moments were taken through February 22, 2004. Fans voted for their favorite moments beginning February 28 and ending on June 20.

For more information on USATF's Top 25 Moments, visit

USATF Top 25 Moments

25. Jackie Joyner-Kersee breaks 7,000-point barrier in the heptathlon

24. Khalid Khannouchi sets men's world marathon record in 2002

23. Alan Webb sets U.S. boys' high school mile record

22. Kevin Young breaks Edwin Moses' world record

21. Lynn Jennings wins third World Cross Country title

20. Alberto Salazar wins third consecutive New York City Marathon

19. Flo-Jo sets women's 200m world record

18. Gail Devers successfully defends Olympic 100m women's title

17. Evelyn Ashford defeats two world record holders at 1979 World Cup

16. Michael Carter sets national prep shot put record.

15. Valerie Brisco wins three gold medals at 1984 Olympic Games

14. Stacy Dragila wins first ever women's Olympic pole vault

13. Maurice Greene wins double sprint gold at 1999 World Outdoors

12. Decker wins two gold medals at 1983 World Outdoor Championships

11. Batten, Buford better world record at 1995 World Outdoor Championships

10. Flo-Jo shatters 100m world record

9. JJK breaks heptathlon world record at 1988 Olympic Games

8. Lewis wins fourth consecutive Olympic long jump gold medal

7. Jones wins five medals, three of them gold, at 2000 Olympic Games

6. Michael Johnson breaks 400m world record

5. Powell breaks long jump world record

4. Lewis wins four gold medals at 1984 Olympics

3. Edwin Moses completes win streak of 122 races

2. Benoit wins first-ever women's Olympic marathon

1. Michael Johnson sets 200m world record at 1996 Olympics