It’s all so easy for Lawrence Johnson now. Things should get a lot more challenging in August.
Johnson easily won the pole vault at the U.S. track and field trials Sunday night, completing a spring in which he won his second straight NCAA title and set an American record.
In the Atlanta Games, Johnson will have to face 1988 Olympic champion Sergey Bubka and South African Okkert Brits, both having jumped far higher than Johnson this year.
“Bubka is a great competitor, but he’s human,” Johnson said. “Bubka’s been at the top of his game for a long time, and I think he deserves a challenge.”
Jeff Hartwig was second and Scott Huffman was the third pole vaulter to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.
Johnson had a best of 19 feet.
Kim Batten won the women’s 400-meter hurdles, Bryan Bronson won the men’s 400 hurdles and Todd Riech won the men’s javelin in the other three finals.
In the semifinals of the men’s 400 meters, Michael Johnson slowed 60 meters from the end and waited for some of his opponents to catch up, while Butch Reynolds eased across the finish line.
Both made it to today’s semifinals without expending much energy.
Johnson, the world champion who has not lost a 400 final since 1989, finished second in his heat in 45.11 seconds. Reynolds, the world record-holder and a silver medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was second in his heat in 45.19.
Johnson hopes this summer to become the first man to win the 200 and 400 at an Olympics.
Deon Minor, who ran a 45.10, caught Johnson at the end to win that heat.
Reynolds was second to LaMont Smith’s 45.04.
Also qualifying for the semifinals were 1992 Olympic champion Quincy Watts in 44.76 and identical twins Calvin and Alvin Harrison.
Batten won the women’s 400 hurdles in 53.81, the fastest time in the world this year. Tonja Buford-Bailey and Sandra Farmer-Patrick were second and third to join Batten on the U.S. team.
Bronson won the men’s 400 hurdles in 47.98, the fastest in the world in 1996. World champion Derrick Adkins was second.
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