US Olympic Legend Michael Johnson Reveals How a Sudden ‘Food Poisoning’ Case Ruined His Hopes at Barcelona 1992

Published 10/12/2021, 1:01 AM EDT
World champion sprinter Michael Johnson of the U.S. speaks during the Doha GOALS forum in Doha December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad/Files


Before Usain Bolt rose to prominence, the athletics world saw Michael Johnson dominate the track competitions remarkably. The sprinter won four gold medals in three different Olympic Games and continued his reign in the field for over a decade.

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However, while heading into the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the sprinter did not win his signature 200-meters race. It was reported that he got food poisoning from a restaurant in Spain, which tampered with his hopes of winning gold in that race. He also opened up on the mental stress that followed.

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Michael Johnson had food poisoning

The young talented sprinter was in the form of his life, heading to Barcelona. Notably, the 1991 World Championship in Tokyo saw his arrival at the big stage as he won the gold medal in the 200-meters race. However, things went down south soon after, as the sprinter revealed the problems he had with food poisoning.

“In my early 20s in 1992, I was the world champion. I was on top of the sport, two years undefeated, a heavy favorite to win that Olympics and that 200-meters. Then I got food poisoning right before the games. I didn’t think that the food poisoning illness had affected me to a point where I wasn’t going to be able to compete as normally as I do.”

“I didn’t realize that until the first round of the 200-meters. When the gun goes off and I start running and I don’t feel like myself. I feel like I am running in someone else’s body,” said Johnson.

This caused a lot of pain for the talented sprinter, as his dreams were shattered.

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Johnson opens up on the road to recovery

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The race saw him getting knocked out in the heats after finishing sixth. Understandably, Johnson had a difficult time coping up with his washed-up dreams. In his hopes of recovering better, he also met a sports psychologist regarding the matter. He spoke about it being a huge issue, as many athletes would be in a slump, facing the loss he did.

Johnson also revealed how he talked to his dad about his problems, as that helped him to regain his confidence. Thus, he later won two gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics 1996 in the 200-meters and 400-meters competitions.

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Gymnastics – Artistic – Women’s Team – Final – Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan – July 27, 2021. Simone Biles of the United States wearing a protective face mask gestures. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

Notably, Johnson praised Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for taking decisions that helped them to ease out their anxiety. With mental health issues no longer a taboo, it is important for athletes to make decisions that would benefit them in the future.

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Jacob Gijy

485 articles

Jacob Gijy is a US Sports and NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Gijy finished his Masters in Counselling Psychology and worked in a hospital for 2 years before his passion for sports compelled him to find his way to sports journalism. A fan of the great Tim Duncan, he is always ready to pick up a debate with anyone who does not offer the center the respect he deserves.

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