Lewis Makes It by an Inch; Johnson Wins 400 by Plenty
One inch of sand in the long jump pit. Carl Lewis qualified for his record fifth Olympics by that slim margin.
Lewis finished third in the long jump at the U.S. track and field trials Wednesday night, qualifying for the Atlanta Games in an event he has won in the last three Olympics.
Lewis’ best jump of 27 feet 2 3/4 inches was only one inch better than the best of fourth-place finisher Mike Conley. It made Lewis the first American male track and field athlete to qualify for five Olympic teams.
After his final attempt, Lewis bounded out of the long jump pit and walked toward the crowd. He lifted his right hand in triumph, spreading his five fingers and then rolling them into a fist.
Five fingers, one for each Olympic team he has made.
“To me, the most important event is the long jump,” Lewis said. “I’ll be ready to jump even farther because I know I’ll be going to the Olympic Games.”
Lewis failed to qualify in the 100 last Saturday and is a longshot in the 200, so the long jump became his best chance to qualify for the Atlanta Games.
World-record holder Mike Powell, a two-time world champion and twice a silver medalist behind Lewis in the Olympics, won the long jump with a leap of 27-6 1/2 on his last attempt, rallying from sixth place with that jump.
Joe Greene, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, was second with a jump of 27-4 1/2.
In the men’s 400 meters, Michael Johnson’s streak remained intact and so did Butch Reynolds’ world record--just barely.
Johnson won his 53rd consecutive 400-meter final, an unbeaten streak that stretches to 1989, by easily defeating Reynolds to win the final.
Johnson finished in 43.44 seconds--the fastest 400 ever run in the United States and third fastest ever. The only faster times are Reynolds’ 43.29 world record and a 43.39 Johnson ran last year to win the world championship.
Johnson said a poor start prevented him from breaking the world record he has been chasing for years. He spent so much energy in the middle of the race trying to recover he had nothing left at the end.
“I tried to overcome. I’m strong, but I’m not that strong,” he said. “I know I feel confident I can run 43 flat. I tried. The conditions were great, everything was perfect. It’s nobody’s fault but mine that I didn’t break the world record.”
Reynolds was second in 43.91 and Alvin Harrison was third in 44.09. Including the 44.30 run by fourth-place finisher LaMont Smith, they were the world’s four fastest times in the 400 this year.
Quincy Watts, the 1992 Olympic champion, faded to eighth and did not qualify for the Olympic team.
In a race run with a thunderstorm approaching and lightning flashing around Olympic Stadium, Johnson led from the start and had a comfortable lead over Reynolds coming into the final straightaway.
“He’s the only guy who can beat me,” Reynolds said of Johnson, who beat him in the world championships in 1993 and 1995. “I’m getting tired of being second.”
That was the downside. The upside was his time.
“It’s the first time since 1988 I’ve done 43 in the 400,” Reynolds said. “Usually when I crack that barrier, it indicates I’m strong. It’s great to have speed and strength.”
Johnny Gray, the 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, won the men’s 800 in 1 minute 44.00 seconds. Brandon Rock was second and Jose Parrilla third.
American-record holder Lance Deal won the men’s hammer throw with a heave of 249 feet 4 inches. Dave Popejoy was second and Kevin McMahon captured the third spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
Maicel Malone won the women’s 400 in 50.52. Jearl Miles, the 1993 world champion, was second and Kim Graham third.
Mary Slaney, who already has qualified for the Olympics in the women’s 5,000, won her heat of the 1,500 to advance to Friday’s semifinals. Among those also advancing were Ruth Wysocki, Regina Jacobs, Vicki Huber, Lynn Jennings and Suzy Hamilton.