Sneaker Moments: The Man With The Golden Shoes

There are certain moments in sports history that will forever be tied to sneakers, moments ingrained in our memories not just because of the events on the court, or field, or track, but also because of what was on the athlete’s feet at the time. The moment that stands head and shoulders above the rest for me didn’t take place on a basketball court as many who know me may expect, but instead on an athletics track in Atlanta, Georgia way back in the Summer of 1996.


Heading into the Olympic games that summer Michael Johnson was the major talking point. Food poisoning had ruined his chances at individual gold four years earlier but everybody knew he was the man to be beaten. On day 11 of the games he lined up for the 400m final and my attention, as a 10 year old boy, was drawn instantly to the single tone metallic gold track shoes provided by Nike. They must have drawn everybody’s eye as I can still clearly remember the announcer on the local TV station declaring, “If you’re going to wear gold shoes you had better be special”. A gold medal and Olympic record time of 43.49 seconds later and it was clear Johnson certainly was.


Fast forward 3 days to August 1st 1996 and I had spent most of the day waiting for the 200m final. My younger brother and sister may have wanted to watch cartoons or something, but there was no way I was missing the race. It’s only now that I’m older that I can appreciate more than just the aesthetics of those golden shoes. Weighing in at just 3.5 ounces each, the shoes featured 3 piece construction to the upper with just left, right and tongue sections stitched together atop a spike plate and spikes themselves crafted from the lightest materials available. As a kid that wouldn’t have mattered to me though, all I really cared about was watching the golden blur as they moved across the tracks surface.

For anybody who may be too young to remember, here’s the race from the Atlanta Summer Games,

19.32 seconds. Atto Boldon, one of the other competitors in the race, remarked afterwards, “19.32, that’s not a time, it sounds like my dad’s birthday.” 19.32 seconds. Not just a world record time. Johnson had smashed his own world record by over 3 tenths of a second, a remarkable feat. 19.32 seconds. A world record time that would stand for 12 years, until a young Jamaican sprinter did something that nobody had thought was possible by going faster. 19.32 seconds, and he did it in those golden shoes.



About weaverthegreat

Sneakers, Hoops and Hip Hop. Representing London, England

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