Michael Johnson: ‘You’re going to see athletes protesting the centres of power’

The former Olympic sprint champion and broadcaster is launching Defiance, a documentary-style podcast series that focuses on athletes who have made a stand against social injustice

Michael Johnson had not yet been alive for a year when Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood atop the 1968 Olympic podium in Mexico City with their gloved fists in the air in salute of Black Power, a defining moment of activism in sport and one they proceeded with despite knowing it would cost them so much. As he grew up and began an athletics career that would yield four Olympic gold medals, Johnson initially only had a “vague” familiarity with his Games forefathers.

That changed in his late teens as he began to study all of the great sprinters before him, searching for nuggets of insight he could learn to further himself. His eyes naturally fell on Smith, one of the few sprinters who was special in both 200m and 400m. Studying Smith’s stride pattern naturally led him on to the 1968 Olympics, and what he learned about Smith and Carlos left him “in awe” of the decisions they made a year after he was born.

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