Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Michael Johnson works with China's Olympic team

AFP , BEIJING

Five-time Olympic gold medal winner Michael Johnson started work yesterday in his bid to make China's athletes more competitive, but admitted that miracles would not happen overnight.

The low-profile American track legend, who holds world records in the 200m and 400m, is giving talks and trackside guidance to China's Athens-bound Olympics team until Friday in a program sponsored by Nike.

"As the first foreign coach to help train in China I don't have the ability to transform Chinese track and field overnight," he said.

"This is a long process, but I hope to establish relations with the athletes and to maintain these.

"I hope I will be able to come back to China before the 2008 Games [in Beijing]. I hope that my experience will give something new to Chinese athletes. I hope I can make a contribution."

Johnson will give lectures in the mornings then move to the training ground in the afternoons.

"Mainly we want to listen to the athletes' and coaches' ideas and exchange views with them, to find out what they need and want they want from us," he said.

"I'm not here to give them spiritual inspiration, I want to give concrete ideas on how to improve themselves."

China acknowledges there is a huge gap between the country's top level athletes and the world's best, but with the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 it wants at least to be on a more competitive footing.

Its main medal hopefuls in Athens are top hurdler Liu Xiang, who recently broke the Asian 110m hurdles, and women's long distance runner Sun Yingjie, a world championship 5,000m bronze medallist.

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