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|August 25, 2000||
Magic Mike hopes to cement supremacyMichael Mann in Brussels
Double Olympic champion and world record holder Michael Johnson aims to prove he has fully recovered from the hamstring injury suffered at last month's U.S. Olympic trials at Friday's Brussels Golden League meeting.
Robbed of his chance to defend his 200 metres title at next month's Sydney Olympics, Johnson believes he is even stronger over 400 metres than when he completed his Games double four years ago in Atlanta.
The Van Damme Memorial meeting forms the first part of Johnson's three-race countdown to Sydney, where he bids to become the first man to retain the 400 metres title.
Johnson says he still has room for improvement over the opening section of the one-lap race and is running more aggressively than ever. His confidence could not be higher.
"My only concern is to win these races. A good time would be a bonus. As long as I'm healthy and at my best, and if I can execute correctly, I don't believe I can be beaten," Johnson said.
Meeting director Wilfried Meert said on Thursday only a couple of thousand tickets for the 46,000 crowd event were left and the weather forecast was for a warm, dry night.
"It should be a perfect night for athletics," he told a news conference.
Maurice Greene is expected to continue his hot streak of 100 metres form, while Trinidad's Ato Boldon will be looking to take the 200 metres, where 21-year-old John Capel will be making his first appearance since his surprise victory in last month's U.S. trials.
Algerian Ali Sief Saidi has withdrawn from the 5,000 metres, boosting the hopes of Belgian Mohammed Mourhit.
Mourhit said on Thursday his aim was to beat the three-year-old European record of 12.54.70 set by Dieter Baumann, making him the first runner ever to hold the European records in the 3,000, 5,000 and 10,000 metres.
Meert's said a 10,000 metres had been added to the Brussels meet at the last minute at the request of Kenyan Paul Tergat, who is still seeking to be selected for the event for Sydney.
The women's competition has been overshadowed by the late withdrawal of double Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec of France from the 400 metres in a dispute over her appearance fee.
Brussels should have provided a useful pre-Sydney glimpse of her chances against Australia's Cathy Freeman, her main rival for the Olympic title. Perec may not race again before Sydney.
Perec, who resumed training this season after a year marred by health problems, has taken part in only two competitive races this year, a 200 metres in Lausanne and a 400 in Nice.
In Perec's absence, most attention will be on Marion Jones as she gears up for her attempt on five golds at next month's games.
Jones -- who will compete in the 100 and 200 metres, the long jump and 4x100 and 4x400 relays in Sydney -- runs in the 100 metres in Brussels.
She will also compete in the long jump, arguably her weakest event, where she will face the most severe test.
Spain's Niuka Montalvo will be hoping to prove she has the beating of her American rival even though she will not be able to compete in Sydney after Cuba, her country of birth, vetoed her participation in the Olympics for her adopted country.
Old rivals Heike Dreschler of Germany and Fiona May of Italy will also be hoping to upset Jones's march towards the record books.
Gail Devers, the woman Jones hopes to displace as 100 metres champion, looks set to continue her impressive build-up towards Olympic gold in the 100 metres hurdles.
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