Michael Johnson blazed around the same track where he hopes to make Olympic history this summer, Gwen Torrence thrilled her hometown crowd and Carl Lewis proved he isn't over the hill yet.
Two months before opening ceremonies, Olympic Stadium was dedicated Saturday with the Atlanta Grand Prix, an event that brought together an especially strong field for a track meet in the United States and gave the athletes a taste of the 90-degree temperatures they can expect in July.Johnson won his 19th straight race at 200 meters with the fastest time in the world this year, 19.83 seconds. He needed every bit of speed to beat 1992 Olympic champion Michael Marsh, who was second at 19.88.
"Marsh put a little pressure on me," said Johnson, who overtook his closest rival with 50 yards to go and barely held on. "I was just trying to bide my time. I felt like I still had another gear left. I was trying to gradually catch him and pass him."
Torrence, racing in her hometown, won the 100 with the fastest time in the world this year, 10.85, then took a fist-pumping, hand-waving victory lap around the new track before a standing ovation from the crowd of 43,328.
"This helps as far as getting the jitters out of the way," Torrence said of the event, which included a dedication ceremony attended by Vice President Al Gore, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and Atlanta Olympic chief Billy Payne.
Torrence was slow out of the blocks but took command midway down the track and won by several feet over Carlette Guidry. Gail Devers, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist, was a disappointing sixth at 11.20.
Lewis, an eight-time gold medalist trying to make his fourth Olympics at age 35, got off to his usual slow start from the blocks in the 100 but finished second at 9.94. In his best showing of the year, he lost to Dennis Mitchell (9.93) in a photo finish.
"I'm all the way back. This is the first time since 1991 that I've broke 10 (seconds)," said Lewis, who had a dismal indoor season and admits that he would have been retired if the Olympics had not been in his home country. "I've had to rebuild my own confidence. I feel like myself again."
So does Mitchell, who ranked first in the world in 1994 but dropped to ninth last year.
"I want everything to be mine," he said. "I invite the pressure and I've dedicated myself."