Johnson to quit after Goodwill Games

DALLAS, JUNE 16. Five- time Olympic gold medallist and World record holder Michael Johnson will retire after running the final leg of the 4x400 relay at the Goodwill Games in Brisbane in September.

Johnson reiterated that he would not compete at the U.S. Nationals as a pre-requisite for entry to the World championships in Edmonton later this month.

Johnson, in a teleconference call from Dallas, never actually said he would retire. But a public relations spokesman for the Goodwill Games asked him to tell reporters ``why you decided to conclude your career at the 2001 Goodwill Games.''

Johnson said: ``I decided earlier in the year that I would put together a tour that would not be focused on competition this year. It would be focused on interacting with the fans a lot more and doing a lot of kids' clinics and things with kids.''

Johnson had hoped to run at the World championships in August. But despite lobbying by Johnson and other athletes, U.S. Track and Field officials have held fast to their long-standing rule that every U.S. athlete hoping to compete at the Worlds must first participate in an event at the nationals later this month.

And if Johnson, who holds World records in the 200 and 400 meters, were to compete at the nationals, he would have to run in an individual race.

In addition to the five gold medals, Johnson has nine World championship gold medals. Johnson's World records are 19.32 seconds in the 200 meters and 43.18 In the 400.

Johnson is staging a ``golden victory lap tour'' as part of his effort to ``keep kids involved in track and field, especially in America.''

Asked whether his competitive juices would lure him out of retirement after a while, Johnson said he ``was very'' sure he could stay away.

``There are no more realistic goals for me. Everything I do from this point on is something I've already done. In 2003, I'll be 36-37 years old. I'll understand then I hope that a comeback there means I won't come back at at the same level of competition that I had at 32 or 33.''

Johnson said in retirement he would be ``spending more time with my son and trying to be a good parent. I know that doesn't come automatically, it take a lot of work.''

A spokesman for the Goodwill Games said that the competition, from September 4-7, will include 24 Sydney Olympic gold medalists. In addition to Johnson, they include Marion Jones - a five-time medallist in Sydney - and 100-meter gold medallist and World record holder Maurice Greene.

- Reuters