Monday, August 30, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Athletics saves face
Michael Johnson: Awesome display and the athlete of the 90s
By the BBC's Harry Peart in Seville
The seventh World Championships ended with the traditional blaze of noise and colour, typical of any big-event closing ceremony.
The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, officially declared the championships closed and the president of the International Amateur Athletics Federation, Primo Nebiolo said they had been an extraordinary success for Seville, for the province of Andalucia and for all of Spain.
The organisers can rejoice that there were no high profile positive drug tests coming out of the IOC accredited laboratory in Madrid, or any problems with the heat that had caused some concern when Seville was selected as host city in 1997.
Qualifying races are often regarded as inconsequential for the stars, but to see Michael Johnson slow up to a walk in his 400 metres semi-final was awe-inspiring - a phrase too often used, but in this case perfectly apt.
He ambled to a time below 44 seconds - only a handful of runners have broken that barrier and it was too fast for lesser mortals. His disdainful look at the clock said it all.
In the final his world record run of 43.18 was a privilege to watch. Even the uninitiated in the packed crowd sensed it was something special.
This man, whose style has been described as a man running with a broom handle welded to his spine, smashed the record of Butch Reynolds that had stood for 11 years.
Johnson, now holder of the 200 and 400 world record, the Olympic double and now the World Championships double, is undoubtedly the athlete of the 1990s.
Strange though that the United States is still a parched desert for athletics - top of the medal table table, but unable to sustain even a Grand Prix meeting or television exposure.
For the British team it was the youngsters who saved the day. Most pundits had pencilled in four titles - only Colin Jackson turned lead into Spanish gold with a sharp performance which underlined his class over the sprint hurdles.
Triple Jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards was under par and brought home a bronze. Paula Radcliffe, a silver medallist, had no answer in the 10,000 metres when Gete Wami of Ethiopia ran well above the form book. And Denise Lewis, widely promoted by her sportswear company here, had to settle for second place in the heptathlon.
The other huge potential talent on display was another 21-year-old, Dwain Chambers. He gave 100 metres world record holder Maurice Green a fright in the final, finally winning the bronze in under 10 seconds, and repeated the dose on the anchor leg of the 4x100 metres final.
To come away from Seville with two bronze medals from the most fiercely contested distance of all bodes well for the future.
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