Johnson Can't Punch His Ticket to Beijing

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 6, 2008

EUGENE, Ore., July 5 -- Allen Johnson's Olympic career might have ended in the cruelest way.

Johnson, the gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1996 Olympics, aggravated a left-leg injury after the fourth hurdle during the preliminary heats at the Olympic track and field trials Saturday before 20,834 at Hayward Field. Running in Lane 8, Johnson stepped to his right and pulled out of the race.

"After the first hurdle, I felt it," Johnson said, "and as I kept going, the pain just got progressively worse. I didn't know what to expect. It didn't heal. It didn't hold up."

Johnson, 37, a 1989 Lake Braddock graduate and seven-time U.S. outdoor champion, said he had injured the posterior tibialis tendon in his lower leg in March. After the Adidas Track Classic in Carson, Calif., in May, however, the "sharp pain" became increasingly intense, he said.

Johnson said he knew he was running in a precarious position because the injury could act up at any moment.

"I was hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst," Johnson said. "It's real disappointing, but this is what sports is all about. I've had some great days and some bad days, and this is one of the bad days."

Johnson said he would like to avoid surgery at all costs, preferring to heal by rest. He said, though, that he has certainly run his last race of 2008.

When asked about his Olympic future, Johnson did not admit this was his last chance, but acknowledged that trying to qualify for the 2012 Games at age 41 would be a long shot.

"I doubt it," he said. "I'd like to do it, but if that's not possible, I can live with it."

Gay's Loss Is Their Gain

With Tyson Gay's leg injury preventing him from qualifying for Sunday's 200 final, no longer is one of the three spots on the U.S. Olympic team a foregone conclusion.

"It opens up a spot," said Walter Dix, who was the runner-up to Gay in the 100 earlier in the week and also advanced to the 200 final. "Everyone's fighting for a spot. It's anyone's game now."

Yet, as the two semifinal heats unfolded, several runners said they had Gay in the back of their minds, and were admittedly worried about how suddenly an injury can appear.

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