on 1 January 2012
I enjoyed this book but was left with the feeling that, whilst there is no question on Johnson's ability on the track, his writing can seem repetitive. I found this particularly marked during the middle of the book in the chapter about mind games. It is good to know that MJ is as tough in his head as he is on the track, but I don't need reminding throughout the book that his goal is to win. He is one serious dude and it is nice to see that many of the atheletes that MJ respects are British and to read of the back-room tactics that you don't see on the TV or track. Whatever you think about MJ, we need people like him to uphold the values of sport and I take my hat off to him concerning his no tolerance of drugs.
I recommend that you buy it, but skip the winning mantra bits that are ever-present and make it a little tough going (Editor, where were you with your red marker strike-throughs?)
Michael Johnson is one of the greatest Olympian athletes of all time and makes sure that we know it. He talks of his trials & tribulations, his analyses of triumphs & failures, seasons the accounts with interjections from other greats, together with his opinions of them and makes mention of his business developing athletes and sports people generally.
It is interesting, without being exciting. Very like the man himself, when seen on TV commentating on athletics events, his delivery is measured and positive and seldom goes over the top. His fervour is confined to a limited number of topics, which include his hatred of drugs and his amazement at the abilities of Usain Bolt, his successor as the greatest sprinter of all time, while managing to have fun as well!
Mr Johnson has a soft spot for the UK and regards himself as an honorary Brit; which is - to most of us - as nice a compliment as you can get. His book is a very useful technical treatise for any aspiring athlete or administrator; both these categories will find the content fascinating. The reader of (auto)biographies will also enjoy an insight into how those in that elite bracket of athleticism work (and I mean WORK) their way to the top.
With Great Britain taking three golds in the Olympic Stadium this weekend, there could hardly have been a better time to be reading Michael Johnson's Gold Rush. As one the greatest Olympians of all time he is ideally placed to offer an insight into what makes an Olympic champion.
The short answer is talent and hard work. For this book Johnson draws on his own experience and interviews with other great Olympic gold medallists. Usain Bolt, Nadia Commenic and Ian Thorpe all contribute, as do British legends Chris Hoy, Steve Redgrave and Rebecca Addlington.
Perhaps the best thing about this book, is that as you read, you can hear Johnson's authoritative baritone telling you his experiences. The calm and unsensational delivery that makes him such an assured pundit on television, sets the tone for the book. Johnson is a man who knows about being an elite athlete.
The book's opening chapters deal mainly with Johnson's early career and the trials and tribulations up until he won double gold in Atlanta. After that he goes on to talk about remaining focused, coping with the pressures of fame and the temptations of performance enhancing substances (and his abhorrence of them).
The book does have a flaw, and it's one that mirrors elite sport. It's repetitive. Much as athlete training consists of endless repeats of training routines, Johnson's book repeats the same mantras over and over again. Focus, strategy, execute, these words turn up again and again. We hear endlessly about Michael's training programmes, and frankly they are only interesting to read about once. Everybody knows that reaching the pinnacle of a sport is about so much more than talent these days; we've all seen the video montages of rowers exhaling their own lungs as they prepare for the games. Repetition is the nature of the beast and Johnson can be forgiven for falling victim to it in his book. Less forgivable is his continual mentioning of his company Michael Johnson Performance. It all starts to sound like a desperate plug.
It's probably my personality type, but I found the human elements of the book to be the most satisfying. The chapters on cheating and fame are strong, probably because Michael is so passionate about them. All in all this is an interesting book. It details the sheer volume of preparation that goes into competing for an Olympic Medal (for example Michael had two different hotels booked during the Sydney games) and the lengths athletes go to to make sure everything is right.
At a time when we are being wowed by superlative performances in every Olympic event, Johnson's book is a timely reminder of the hard work and commitment that goes into every single one. There is little in this book that will shock or surprise you, but it is a passionate yet understated appraisal of what makes an Olympian.
on 16 November 2011
If you weren't already aware, the Olympic Games take place in London in 2012. This promises two things in the publishing world: i) there will be the usual rush by publishers to pump out books with an Olympic theme; ii) because they're being held on home soil, multiply the usual number of volumes by three.
This early entry - on what it takes to make an Olympic champion - comes from one of the greatest Olympians of all: Texan, Michael Johnson.
I would contend that Michael Johnson is not only the most articulate and intelligent broadcaster on athletics in the UK, he's the most articulate and intelligent of any sports broadcaster in this country, period. So, then `Gold Rush' should be very good - and indeed, largely it is.
In this book, he shares his own experiences and philosophy on what worked for him - identifying natural ability, hard work, focus, physical conditioning and the right mental attitude among other key factors. Oh, and of course, the help of a great coach. He has also spoken at length to, and supplies quotes from, a dozen other Great Olympians to provide examples on how they achieved greatness. Naturally, as an `adopted Brit' and mindful of his target audience, a good half of these athletes are British.
Much of 'Gold Rush' naturally concentrates on Michael's own brilliant career. He explains how food poisoning cost him the 200m gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics, and gives us the inside story behind THOSE famous gold running spikes. He also mentions that while he was perceived by other athletes and the media as stand-offish, he was merely mentally preparing himself for his races. Amusingly, he also reveals how his detractors disparaged him for his 'funny' upright running stance, but after two days of bio-mechanical analysis, it emerged that his style was the most efficient running position!
And of course, it also provides the inside story behind his stunning 200m and 400m gold medal double at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and how throughout his career he never feared anyone.
There's no false modesty - he knows he was great - and what emerges is a full and frank examination of the methodology behind his own career performances, bolstered by examples from other greats.
For instance, Michael was astonished to find that in his early years, our very own great, Chris Hoy, received no coaching - taking a degree in sports science to better understand his own body and identify the correct training techniques for his event. He reveals Daley Thompson's massive self-belief (no surprise there, then!), how Rebecca Adlington swims `too high' in the water, and despite possessing great shoulders, is rubbish at lifting weights, and the laid back attitude of the magnificent Usain Bolt, and how at 6ft 5ins he shouldn't be able to run a quick 100m.
He also includes chapters on drug use - and other forms of cheating - and the financial rewards, and levels of celebrity that come with being an Olympic champion. He then rounds the book off with some nicely judged conclusions.
In short, there's some fascinating stuff in here.
There are negatives: the book is both repetitive and gramatically mangled at times and the publishers have upped the font size to bulk out the length of the book. The number of photographs is also a bit disappointing, as are the constant advertisements for his own Michael Johnson Performance consultancy firm.
But these are relatively minor considerations; it's worth reading for the insight into what made a great Olympian - and indeed his chosen interviewees - tick.
Four-time Olympic Champion (having to hand one back still rankles) Michael Johnson tries to understand what makes an Olympic Champion.
He uses his own experiences and also talks to the likes of Daley Thompson, Rebecca Arlington, Ian Thorpe, Seb Coe and Nadia Comaneci to understand the drive, focus and effort that goes into achieving that accolade.
Now, I love athletics, think Johnson was an incredible runner, so have a vested interest in this topic. Initially, the book is really interesting. Johnson's experiences are revealing and he sets out what got him there.
Unfortunately, after a while, the book seems to repeat itself. In spite of interesting anecdotes from the likes of Steve Redgrave or Daley Thompson, there are only so many ways of telling you that to win you need to focus, train hard and never back down from your goal.
This book is an interesting precursor to next year's London Olympics, but not the stellar read that the Gold Rush title might indicate.
Michael Johnson was a truly brilliant athlete. As a broadcaster on athletics his comments are always valuable. Sadly his writing in this book is not as consistent.
The book's subtitle is "What makes an Olympic champion". The answer is genes, a commitment to hard work, and the right mental attitude and focus. This can be expanded to say an athlete needs to choose the right sport for his physical attributes and learn good technique. This can be said in two sentences.
Moreover the answer is known or can be guessed before staring the book. It is a struggle to pad it out for nearly 300 pages. The consequence includes much repetition which eventually becomes tedious.
The book has openly been written for a British market in advance of the London Olympics. To widen the appeal the book includes extracts from interviews with other well known Olympic gold medallists. But in some ways these detract from the narrative. Mostly they simply endorse the fairly obvious reply to the question of what makes an Olympic champion. This increases the tedious repetition. But there are some interesting variations such as Mark Spitz stating he only trained when he felt like it. Or Usain Bolt's lack of deep mental focus. Michael Johnson doesn't analyse why some athletes have been equally successful with a very different approach to at least one aspect. His conclusion, at least implied, is that they might have performed even better if they had behaved more like he did. That may not be true.
The book is at its best when it is simply Michael Johnson's autobiography, and for this reason starts and ends better than some parts in between. Just like some races.
Michael Johnson writes with the incisive precision and intellect we have come to expect from this charming laid back American superathlete. His methods of training and motivation call to mind the meticulous stop-watch timing and persistence of seven-times gold medallist (who held the title of most Olympic Gold medals for running) Paavo Nurmi of the 1920's, a poor boy from an ordinary home who by sheer strategy, peristence and bucketloads of talent, together with Finnish sisu, became one of the most admired and celebrated long distance runners ever. There is something about runners that is heroic (think Zatopek, for example) and Michael Johnson, no less heroic himself, captures the essence of this elusive quality in this book.
I bought tickets from TIMES Events club to see him in discussion with a panel and to my amazement, the place was absolutely packed out (at the Institute of Education in London) as well as being broadcast simultaneously live to cinemas throughout the UK.
Golden boy, indeed. I found his book riveting (sorry it has taken me so long to review it). I found it highly motivating and directly applicable to my accountancy studies (a huge number of very difficult exams to get through, each a module in their own right and often highly mathematical). You have a plan, tactics & strategy, timing is critical (1.8" per question) aim to improve incrementally (half an hour a day studying over three months is far more producitve than a pre-exam 72-hour swot, for example). Staying motivated through the wind, rain and shine when everybody else in the world, it seems is tucked up snuggly under their duvet is key. Johnson describes the key and the golden rules to get there to the finish line. And in record time!
A most enjoyable read. You don't need to be a runner to glean soemthing from it. I'm a dull chartered accountant and it helped me!
I've not read Johnson's `Slaying the Dragon' from 1996, but the blurb on that book makes it sound as if this is just an up to date rehash of that earlier offering.
The problem with athletics (and particularly the Olympics) is that there is only one man involved; the rest are just a side order. When Usain Bolt appears at London 2012, everyone will expect him to break the world record each time he runs and will feel cheated if he doesn't at least get to within a whisker of doing so. `Gold Rush' isn't about just athletics though; it's the Olympics as an event, or rather, what it takes to win the ultimate accolade. Alongside luminaries of their time such as Daley Thompson, Ian Thorpe, Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci, and Bolt himself, Johnson questions why they chose the events they did and what drove them to become the best in their field. All this is interspersed with his own background on how he managed to rise to become the most feted athlete of his time.
The problem is, when Johnson, who it has to be said is a first rate analyst on the BBC, gives his side, he does have an annoying habit of repeat himself. Yes, Michael, we know you won four Olympic Gold medals and still hold the 400m world record because you told us early on, so there's no need to keep reminding the reader. There are a few surprises within the 291 pages; Bolt preferred cricket and appears to be too tall at 6' 2" to be a sprinter; Muhammad Ali agreed to meet Johnson only because his sister-in-law liked him. But that's about it.
The most interesting, and depressing section is that which concerns performance enhancing substances. To think that the media still seek out serial drug cheat Ben Johnson for his opinion on the matter is sad , as is the punishment meted out to those caught with the UK being the only IOC member that bans the guilty from competing in any further Olympic or Commonwealth Games. It does make you wonder whether anything we do witness is `clean'.
If you're interested in aiming for Rio de Janeiro in 2016, you might glean something from this but for anyone else, it's all rather tedious.
on 4 January 2013
If you are hoping for a warts-and-all autobiography from Michael Johnson, you're going to be disappointed (there's a solitary mention of having dated supermodel Tyra Banks, for instance), as this is more an extension of his first book, the excellent "5-star" SLAYING THE DRAGON: both have a biographical blueprint while dealing primarily with the pros and cons of getting the best out of yourself. As for the pros and cons of GOLD RUSH, while the book suffers somewhat from being written as a premise to the 2012 Olympics (and is therefore in parts dated), and while I agree with the other reviewers who mentioned its repetitiveness ("Clyde, who is now in his late seventies" turns into "Clyde, who is 76 years old now" twelve pages later), I didn't find either of these such a bugbear...unlike MJ's inability to get his historical facts fully correct. In SLAYING THE DRAGON he affirms that no man ever won a major 200m from lane eight, even though in GOLD RUSH he admits to having "watched repeatedly" Calvin Smith's 1987 200m World Champs win, which was from lane eight (as was Pietro Mennea's 1980 Olympics victory). In GOLD RUSH this trait continues when he tells us of his 1996 200- and 400-metre double, claiming that "No male athlete had ever attempted to run both", which is far from the case bearing in mind Eric Liddell bagged the 400m gold and 200m bronze in 1924, and Herb McKenley came second (400m) and fourth (200m) in 1948. He also suggests Olga Korbut appeared in the 1980 Olympics (she didn't). But these are minor irritants when we consider the bigger picture. GOLD RUSH gives us the Michael Johnson we all know and love: an analytical clinician who wears his heart on his sleeve, not least when he pulls no punches in 'No Shortcuts', a chapter dedicated to cheating: "...every time I am introduced as a four-time Olympic gold medallist I feel anger towards Antonio," MJ tells us of the relay partner whose steroids admission led to the whole team having to give back their winning medals. "My anger remains as potent today," he continued, even though Antonio Pettigrew had committed suicide. Powerful stuff. The rest of the book consists of MJ's take on all aspects of what goes into getting the best out of yourself and the physical, genetic and mental side of being a champion, in addition to chapters on things like handling fame (something that we lesser mortals will never have to encounter, yet is made interesting by Johnson). All of which is backed up with quotes from Olympic greats such as Usain Bolt, Seb Coe, Nadia Comaneci, Daley Thompson and Chris Hoy, amongst others, and while these luminaries don't give us anything headline grabbing, it all adds to a book I found well worth reading. In summation, GOLD RUSH isn't Michael Johnson's greatest non-track hour -- that honour goes to the inspirational SLAYING THE DRAGON -- but as a runner up it's certainly worth it's weight in silver.
This review has been written with some highly objective input from my daughter who, for a number of years, has competed regularly in triathlon events and, last year, successfully completed three half Ironman events plus, for charity, the 26.2 mile Kielder marathon. Although an amateur athlete she's a highly experienced amateur athlete.
Michael Johnson is, of course, a world-class athlete with an impressive record of competing in both the Olympics and numerous international events. Unfortunately, as other reviewers have observed, the continual repetition of his successes becomes, all too quickly, both boring and unnecessary. Everyone knows and accepts his athletic prowess...
'Gold Rush' does, however, bring out a number of valuable points. Michael Johnson's training regime, plus that of other world-class athletes he interviewed during the writing of 'Gold Rush', highlights the fact that an innate ability is no guarantee of success at any level of athletic competition.
An equally important requirement is to develop an utterly dedicated mind-set that will accept - and encourage - the routine of getting up, day after day at an utterly uncivilised hour, in order to spend many hours pushing physical and mental boundaries beyond what had been achieved yesterday.
Sally Gunnell succinctly commented that 70% of athletic success involves the mind, understanding yourself, putting yourself in physically stressful situations and learning about yourself. And, of course, working out how to cope with such situations.
In addition, the mind-set must be developed to a level that is capable of dealing with negative thoughts. It is inevitable that, in physically stressful situations both during training and on the track, such thoughts will develop.
Michael Johnson addresses these issues both through his own experiences and through interviews with other Olympic-class athletes. However, 'Gold Rush' would have been vastly more appealing to lesser mortals had we been spared the repetition of Mr Johnson's many successes.