I raised this subject years ago, when MJ was still running. Many of the older track cats that I know (who ran in the 60s) stick by their old school heroes. I still say MJ, not just for the times, but mainly because many of the 60s runners were short on technique and build. 200 or 400m.
1) Lee Evans had the most awful form you could ever see (yes, I know he was a 7-time #1 ranked).
2) Those Tommy Smith/John Carlos lean and lanky builds and high knee lifts get nowhere against MJ. In fact, weren't most of the sprinters/quartermilers lean and lanky back then (except Bob Hayes and John Smith)?
3) Carl Lewis's bad starts (see LA 84, Tokyo 91) may have been his weakness, though he was a great finisher.
Only two guys may have beaten Mike. Jesse Owens (most beautiful technique of alltime) and Bob Hayes (best closing speed ever!)
Yes, let's throw out the training/racing facilities (cinder v. mondo, etc) of each other's era.
Oh, yeah, do you think we'll be talking about an alltime race of Bolt v. MJ???? Peace.
I should rename it "MJ v. all of the great 200m-400 runners". Sorry about that. And I'll take away Carl's "bad starts in LA and Tokyo" (they were 100m) as factors. He had plenty of them at 200m (Seoul 88?). Peace.
>A healthy Tommie Smith in his prime would have
>been competitive with MJ in a 400 meter race. Who
>wins? Probably MJ but give me reasonable odds and
>I'd risk a few dollars on TS!
I wonder if Tommie would have been capable of staying on the home curve with MJ. Something to think about. MJ ran 10.47 on the bend in Stuttgart '93. I wonder if Tommie ever ran the equivalent of that back then. I know, timing technology was not that advanced in the late 60s, so we'll never know. But I could still ask. Peace.
Actually, the most impressive 200 guy I ever saw before MJ was John Carlos in his prime. It was after the '68 Olympics, and he never ran at altitude during those years, as far as I can recall. So he never won a gold or set a WR. But there was a time when he was beating everyone else in the world and doing it very impressively. Could he imaginably have run a 19.32? Nah, but neither could anyone else.
i myself believe that the arrogant man was a drug cheat. no one should be winning so often. and that record-19.32 come on thats not a clean time. it will all come to light when he starts having health issue like a certain female sprinter who did the same thing in 1988
This question is best discussed among a group of wiseguys sitting around a table at a tavern eating potato chips & drinking beer. I've had this type of discussion several times in this setting but usually debating the merits of baseball, NFL football & pro basketball. The safest answer is that you can never compare athletes in any sport from different eras. Circumstances, technology & training regimens all change drastically over time. I'll have some fun & compare the best long sprinter (220/440 yds) from the 1960's in Tommie Smith vs Michael Johnson.
1) If Tommie Jet had been competing during the 1990's he probably would have set world records in both sprints at the same time. The track schedules are more conducive to doubling in the 200/400 meters. He wouldn't have had to retire in his 20's shortly after graduating from college to support himself. His longevity in the sport would have allowed him the opportunity to set those world records & win more championship medals. Tommie would no doubt be more muscular(more weight training) have a better start in the 200 meters(sprinters starts are faster today) & would look stylish in the one piece lycra bodysuits of today. I couldn't speculate on what times Tommie would have reeled off during this era but future sprinters would be aiming to break HIS world records.
2) If Michael Johnson were at his peak in the 1960's things would have also been different. Since he set his world records in his late 20's, he probably would have not had the opportunity to be a world record holder as he would have had to retire in order to support himself. He might have won a gold medal but only in one event. Doubling wasn't possible in those days & other than the annual NCAA & AAU Championships the Olympics was the only big international meet. He would be very thin & non muscular like he was in college & I assure you his start would not be as impressive as it was during his 19.32. Sprinters back then didn't emphase running around the turn; only how they finished in the straight. And last but not least, the coaches would have made Michael miserable trying to get him to "lift those legs high & glide down the homestretch".
Who was the better athlete? Michael of course. In general, athletes in the major sports & including Track & Field are bigger,stronger, faster,eat healthier & train harder than those of the past. Its called evolution of the human species folks. Someday in the future, Michael's incredible 200 World Record of 19.32 will fall. It will be done by somebody who is bigger, faster, stronger & trains even harder than Michael Johnson. Just like Michael vs. Tommie Smith.
Discussions like these are all fun. And sport fans will keep endlessly debating until the end of time. And thats why Track and Field News has an online chat room.
The only one who may have had a chance at 400 meters would have been a healthy John Smith, because of his build and technique. Other than that, hardly anyone touches MJ. Good points, though, Steve (Orange). Peace.
It may be that I came to track consciousness in the summer of 1968, but I refuse to believe that anyone could have beaten Lee Evans that summer. Larry James, full of grace, was a bigger talent, but Evans did whatever it took to beat him in two of the most brilliant 400 races in history, at Echo Summit and Mexico City. His will to win was second to none that year. He never quite got to the level again, but for that period of time, I really believe he would have beaten a Michael Johnson of that era.
everyone loves to talk of Evans' "will to win" and I agree, it was great ! But I think our memories color that a bit because of how angry he could look when he occasionally lost. I think specifically of losing to Curtis Mills ( Mills ran a 440 WR ) and to Martin McGrady indoors in the 600 ( another WR I think ). If looks could kill, he would have done them both in !
But Lee Evans at his peak, versus MJ at his ? Sorry Lee, but MJ wins that race. That's no knock on Lee, instead it illustrates just how good MJ was.
I too remember Evans' incredible will to win, but also remember that Smith just ate him alive in their famous 400 WR match race in '67. That's why I think Smith might have been the best ever; even in a race he'd only run a handful of times, he went up against mr. gritty and shrugged him off like a fly.
I respect your opinion Garry, but I think you might be slightly enamored with the grace of Tommie Smith. Arguably, he was the most graceful sprinter of all time. Ran like a cheetah down the homestretch with his long thin legs pumping high.
In a theoretical 220/200 matchup, Tommie would always be trailing heading into the straight as his start & curve running was definitely not on the level of Michael's abilities. I think Tommie would have gained some in the homestretch but Johnson was always pretty strong in that part of the race also. I do believe Tommie would have been in the neighborhood of Johnson's best sea level times of 19.66,19.76 & 19.79 twice but for the reasons above I don't see him approaching the world record of 19.32 (10.12,9.20)
I agree with you on the 440/400 matchup. Johnson was just so strong & had several races during his career which approached his world record of 43.18. Tommie really didn't run the open 440 all that often despite setting the world record in 1967.
Why did he not compete in the 400 meters in the 68 Mexico City Olympics? Because he was very intelligent & knew his competition. I don't know if the schedule precluded a 200/400 double but Tommie probably realized that the 400 meters was loaded (Evans,James, Freeman & Mathews) while his only true opponents in the 200 was Jimmy Hines (who did not compete) & John Carlos who he knew he could beat despite losing to him at the trials.
Given the proper training I could fathom seeing Tommie dipping into the 43 second range several times. Like I said earlier two tremendous talents from different eras. And both gentleman set world records in both events.
Answer me this: What was Evans' best sea-level time? Definitely not astonishing in its era (off the top of my head I'm thinking 45 and change). He never held a low-altitude WR, and with four straight years at #1, he certainly had his chances. I don't know what that means in the context of this discussion (as MJ didn't set a 400 WR until relatively late in his career) but it's a point that no one has brought up.
It's really hard to compare times when the sport was so different, but let's play around with Smith's 19.5 on a straightaway. Add 0.3 to convert it from 220y straight to 200m on a curve (according to the McWhirters, and empirical evidence backs it up) and you have 19.8. Add 0.24 to convert it from MT to AT, and you have 20.04. Finally, take away 0.4 to convert it from cinders to a synthetic track (shaky guess indeed!) and you have 19.64. These conversions are horrendously cloudy, but you get the idea that Smith was a very fast man.
Oh, and by the way -- that Atlanta track must have been a great track for sprinters. The fastest Johnson ever ran on any other track was 19.77, while Fredericks broke his PR by 0.13 seconds in Atlanta (and Bailey by 0.07 in the 100).
When I walked on it, it felt as hard as a pool table. Add in the altitude (and maybe Rich Karlgaard's formula for "density altitude") and you'll see that as awesome as MJ was, the 19.32 isn't a "real" time.
"Only two guys may have beaten Mike. Jesse Owens (most beautiful technique of alltime) and Bob Hayes (best closing speed ever!)"
I would have top add to that list Quincy Watts in his '92 form. He destroyed the 400m field by a mile (43.50 and I think Steve Lewis was 44.3? for second) to win the Olympic final - and looked amazing in doing so. And it wasn't just the Oly final - I believe he recorded many fast times at or under 44 flat that year. Talk about picking the right year to be "on". Not sure what happen to Q.
>When I walked on it, it felt as hard as a pool
>table. Add in the altitude (and maybe Rich
>Karlgaard's formula for "density altitude") and
>you'll see that as awesome as MJ was, the 19.32
>isn't a "real" time.
Was Atlanta's track as hard as Tokyo 91? Many people complained about that track, with:
1) Carl's four 29 footers, a 28-7 out the hole and a 28-11 v. Powell's 29' 4 1/2".
2) The high jumpers starting at 7-7!!!!.
3) Or the 6 men under 10 seconds in the 100m.
Note on the high jump: the competition started at 7-2 1/2: Dalton Grant of Brtain didn't open until 7-7 (!). I believe that remains the highest opening height ever made. In fact, wouldn't surprise me that nobody has tried such a thing since!
>"Only two guys may have beaten Mike. Jesse Owens
>(most beautiful technique of alltime) and Bob
>Hayes (best closing speed ever!)"
>have top add to that list Quincy Watts in his '92
>form. He destroyed the 400m field by a mile
>(43.50 and I think Steve Lewis was 44.3? for
>second) to win the Olympic final - and looked
>amazing in doing so. And it wasn't just the Oly
>final - I believe he recorded many fast times at
>or under 44 flat that year. Talk about picking
>the right year to be "on". Not sure what
>happen to Q.
Barcelona 92 would have been a good battle. MJ v. Q. But the schedule didn't allow MJ to run 400 and 200. So he picked the 200. Also, the food poisoning knocked MJ out of the Barcelona open events (did recover for the 4x4). Quincy was unstoppable.
Stuttgart 93 would have been good, too (93), but Quincy's Nike shoes (and career) unglued in the final. He hasn't been back on the scene since.
Excuse my ignorance, but I wonder if Quincy is the last collegian to be ranked Number 1 in the World (senior at USC in 1992). Just asking. Peace.
I've always wondered what happened to Q and Kevin Young. For both to be that great, then both disappear around the same time, seemed very odd. I watched Q training again with Smith at UCLA about 2-3 years ago. Never saw anything to suggest he raced again though.
Thanks for your explanations DF.
And by the way Carl's series of jumps were;
(in no particular order)
29-1 (8.87m) -0.2m/s
29-0 (8.84m) +1.7m/s
I cannot remember his one other jump.
I agree/ Smith was 23 years old at the time and as we have seen over the last 15 years that many sprinters and quarter-nilers don't reach their prime until they are betwen 27-32 years old (that's an estimate). I doubt if Smith lifted evry many weights or utilized supplements (Meaning vitamins) the way competitors do now. I truly believe with all thinsg being equal and in their primes Smith would get the nod. He may have ran a 19.2 for all we know.
the greatest LJ ever
Powell - 25 something
Lewis - 28'5.75
Powell - 28'0.25
Lewis - f (long)
Powell - low 27
Lewis - 28'11.75w
Powell - f (very long)
Lewis - 29'1.25 legal
Powell - 29'4.5 legal
Lewis - 29'1.25 legal
Powell - f
Lewis - 29'0 legal
>the greatest LJ ever
Powell - 25
Lewis - 28'5.75
Lewis - f (long)
Powell - low 27
Powell - f (very long)
Powell - 29'4.5 legal
Powell - f
Lewis - 29'0 legal
I still, to this day, shake my head over all of those Powell fouls, the "25 feet" out the hole (May not have won some HS state titles with that one!!!!) and the one big enchalada leap (the 29'4").
I was at the WC Trials in Randall's Island, New York (the pit was right there, adjacent to the stands!). And Powell's series of jumps (at least his technique) were much better than in Tokyo (I know Powell's LJ form wasn't great to begin with, but...).
I know this has turned into a Lewis/Powell 91 thread, but....
For all those who think I might idolize Smith too much, i just pulled this from the '68 Relay thread, as posted by Dave Johnson:
<<I remembered a 4x1 team with Carlos and T.Smith on it beating the US OG team. Or at least I thought I did, so I looked it up. Annoying habit, that.
And there it is, in Vancouver, B.C., on September 28 '68, following the USFOT and before the Games.
US B beats US A, both in 39.1. The A team was the same foursome in the same order as at the Games: Greene, Pender, R.R. Smith and Hines. The B team was Charlie Mays (#3 long jumper), Larry Questad (#3 200), Carlos and T.Smith.
From the T&FN story: "Ronnie Ray tool the baton with a healthy lead over Carlos, but Carlos gobbled it up and Tomkmie beat Hines on the last leg."
The story also mentions that Smith won what must have been the easiest 45.2s in history, as he beat a distant second-placer, 47.7. Smith shut down in the last 35 yards, nearly walking across the finish. The story said he was trying to run his way onto the 4x4 team.>>
So let's see if I have this right: in one afternoon Smith eats up the upcoming Oly 100 champ and runs "the easiest 45.2 in history." Is it any wonder I say he beats M. Johnson at 200m? In an idealized race, MJ comes off the curve w/ a 2-3m lead but Smith eats him up in the stretch for a 1m win.
And for all the talk of Michael Johnson v. Tommie Smith, there's still not one word written about Henry Carr. Carr was the prototype for the 200/400 runner, his was the example that Smith followed. (Unless you want to dig deep into history and cite Eric Liddell as the prototype.)
Carr was much in the same position as Smith, everyone wanted him on the relay team. It's just that in '64, the coaches were allowed a little more say than in '68 as to the composition of the team. You didn't have to run the open 400 to get on the relay team.
Bob Giegengack wanted Carr to lead off the team in '64 and take a shot at putting the WR out of sight. The team said they wanted to make certain of the win and put their best man last. That meant Carr anchored instead of the WR=, OG gold medalist Mike Larrabee. And instead of the silver medalist, Carr's ASU teammate, Ulis Williams. Williams would have been instrumental in insisting Carr run last, as Carr always anchored the ASU teams, not Williams.
Anyway, don't want to dwell on it, but I'll keep talking Carr for as long as people keep ignoring him.
And another thing: what was it about the great 200m runners of the '50s and '60s. The best of them were wearing wraps in their biggest races: Smith, Carr and Andy Stanfield.
I'm sure I mentioned this in another thread, but my high school coach had athletes in Tokyo and was talking to Arthur Lydiard at the training track after Carr had won the 200 and said, roughly, "Give him to me for two years and I'll give you the world's first sub-1:40 halfmiler." (Wonder if he ever said that in Snell's presence?!)
I say gh is right... run Tommie Smith against MJ while they were both in college and Tommie wins. Smith ran fast enough to win, whatever that might require. Some of the things we old timers saw him do on relay legs were absolutely jaw-dropping. And if Tommie had kept training after college with the same rigor that MJ applied, TS would have kept winning.
Nah, I disagree. MJ's WR races had nothing to do with winning, they were races to shatter records and they were pretty damn awesome, really, MJ was racing himself and the clock. Smith wasn't that type of personality. We'll never know if Tommie could really have been competitive with those times, but some of us who saw TS in his prime will never be talked out of the idea that, given equal training circumstances, Tommie just might have been able to hold his own against MJ.
"given equal training circumstances, Tommie just might have been able to hold his own against MJ." You probably are dead right about this statement but the fact is MJ ran (and won) all the big races over a 10 year span while Tommie's peak career was limited to 3-4 big years and he won relatively few majors. Not necessarily TOmmie's fault but you have to compare achievements in addition to talent and MJ wins. Kind of like Gale Sayers, his talent was comparable to a Walter Payton or Barry Sanders but he didn't put up the career numbers and titles that they did and can't be ranked as high!
Something else to remember about Smith: he ran in an era where the good guys didn't always get the good lane draws. His "surprising" loss to Carlos in the OT final in '68 came with him drawn out of lane 1.
Note also that Smith never ran on the big-radius tracks that are so common today. The thought of how fast he could out of lane 8 with those long legs is frightening.
I saw Tommie Smith run several times back in the 1960's and he was a pleasure to watch. I can't imagine what he would run with today's tracks, shoes, and training. Another great runner I loved to watch was Henry Carr. I often think about how fast and "smooth" a runner he was.