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.