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MJ's ghost returns to Olympics

Athletics legend Michael Johnson bowed out of the sport after winning the controversial 4x400 relay at Sydney but on Monday his spirit will be revived in the form of his protege Jeremy Wariner.
PTI | By Pirate Irwin (AFP), Athens
PUBLISHED ON AUG 22, 2004 06:23 PM IST

Athletics legend Michael Johnson bowed out of the sport after winning the now controversial 4x400 metres relay at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney but on Monday his spirit will be revived in the form of his protege Jeremy Wariner.

The 20-year-old university student looks to be the clear favourite to succeed the great man as 400m Olympic champion and with his pedigree it is no wonder as he is advised by the great MJ and coached by Johnson's former coach Clyde Hart.

His main danger should come from world indoor champion Francique Alleyne of Grenada but the manner in which he has been running suggests that there is only the inexperience factor to count against him.

In sharp contrast, Mozambique's Maria Mutola seems to have been around since the modern day Olympics began and the 31-year-old nine-time world champion, six times indoors and thrice outdoors, goes for her second successive Olympic title at 800m.

However the many miles on the clock appear to be taking a toll on Mutola and she has two genuine rivals in training partner Kelly Holmes and Russia's Svetlana Cherkasova. Holmes recorded the fastest time in the heats and looked like she could crown a distinguished but
injury-plagued career with a merited Olympic title.

The women's 5,000m final should produce a scintillating contest with Turkey perhaps poised to win their first Olympic medal in athletics since naval officer Ruhi Sarialp took bronze in the triple jump in 1948.

However this time it could well be gold thanks to their 21-year-old Ethiopian-born runner Elvan Abeylegesse, who broke the world record earlier this year at the Bergen Golden League.

However two of her former compatriots, world champion Tirunesh Dibaba and the world indoor 3,000m champion Meseret Defar, represent a real threat while the seemingly ageless 37-year-old Edith Masai, the three-time world short course champion and bronze medallist in the 2000 Games at 5,000m, should also feature.

Another athlete who has moved to a different country, Cuban-born Yamile Aldama could take triple jump gold and give Sudan their first ever athletics medal as the 1999 world silver medallist and fourth in the 2000 Games tries to stop Russian Tatyana Lebedeva's bid to win an unprecedented double of triple jump and long jump titles at the same Games.

Aside from those finals the men's decathlon gets underway along with the women's 200m which features exciting young American Allyson Felix and the men's 400m hurdles sees world champion and odds-on favourite Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic start his bid to add Olympic gold to world and Pan American crowns.

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