Michael Johnson reignites echoes of Lewis-Bolt row after Amusan triumph
It was the legendary boxer and activist, Muhammad Ali who screamed "I shook up the world! I shook up the world" after beating the World Heavyweight champion Sonny Liston with a first-round knockout on February 25, 1964, in Miami, Florida.
That famous quote came to mind as Nigeria's Oluwatobiloba Amusan stunned the entire athletics world by breaking the 100m Hurdles record of 12.20, held by Kendra Harrison, with an incredible new time of 12.12s in her semi-final of the World Athletics Championship held in Oregon, USA.
As if that wasn't astonishing enough, the 25-year-old Nigerian followed up her historic feat with another jaw-dropping time of 12.06s, albeit wind-assisted (+2.05m/s) to clinch her country's first ever World Championship gold medal barely two hours later
Born in Ijebu, Amusan had fired warning shots at her competitors two days earlier by running the fastest ever heat time at a global competition, after clocking 12.40 to break her own 12.41 African record.
Just after 01:00 Nigerian time on Monday, she whistled past the former world record holder, Harrison, and the rest of the track to put herself into history books and left the world in absolute bewilderment.
Former men's World Record holder in 200m and 400m, Michael Johnson, who was on BBC Sports commentaries for the championship couldn't hide his shock.
Johnson remarks after the race: "You don't beat Keni Harrison by that much. So, yeah, it's crazy.
I was watching the race and thinking...the way she's pulling away from Keni Harrison, the best that's ever been, the previous world record holder is just astonishing."
Okay. That seems a fair comment, considering everyone was equally surprised. But the athletics
legend didn't stop at that, he followed shortly after with a couple of tweets to suggest the clock
had been rigged.
"I don’t believe 100h times are correct. World record broken by .08! 12 PBs set. 5 National records set. And Cindy Sember quote after her PB/NR “I thoroughly I was running slow!” All athletes looked shocked. Heat 2 we were first shown winning time of 12.53. Few seconds later it shows 12.43. Rounding down by .01 is normal. .10 is not." Johnson tweeted.
The American triggered the wrath of Nigerians and followers of athletics, some of who accused him of xenophobia and racism. Johnson later tweeted to put his suspicions into perspective well after Amusan ran an even faster time of 12.06s to win Nigeria's first gold medal in the competition. However, the legal wind limit meant the time couldn't stand as a record.
"As a commentator, my job is to comment. In questioning the times of 28 athletes (not 1 athlete) by wondering if the timing system malfunctioned, I was attacked, accused of racism, and of questioning the talent of an athlete I respect and predicted to win. Unacceptable. I move on."
Johnson, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and eight-time World Champion may rightly claim his queries were not out of place, but his remarks brought a reminder of the criticisms Usain Bolt suffered following his stunning 100m win at the Beijing Olympics.
Another former US Olympic legend, Carl Lewis had cast doubts over the Jamaican's feat a few weeks after Bolt broke the world record in 9.69s in 2008.
"When people ask me about Bolt, I say he could be the greatest athlete of all time," Lewis told The Telegraph. "But for someone to run 10.03 one year and 9.69 the next, if you don't question that in a sport that has the reputation it has now, you're a fool. Period."
The Jamaican sporting icon fired back at Lewis after Bolt lowered his Olympic time with a stunning 9.58s performance barely a year later at the World Championship in Berlin in 2009 and his record remained untainted until now.
“I think he is just looking for attention really because nobody really talks much about him. It was really sad for me when I heard the other day what he was saying, it was upsetting," Bolt fired back at Lewis in 2012 after repeating his Beijing Olympic success in London.
“So, for me, I’ve lost all respect for him, all respect," Bolt added, according to Reuters.
Amusan has not commented on Johnson since her victory on Monday. The African and Commonwealth champion must focus on herself, and like Bolt, she can continue to prove her doubters wrong with consistent performances on the track.