How Data Helped Me On My Journey To Winning Olympic Golds

By Michael Johnson, Sprinting Legend, and Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist

When you think of a sprinter, you think that they start, run as fast as they can and keep turning left until they hit the finish line. And while some of that is true, there’s so much more science and analysis that goes into it.

I ran countless miles on my journey to winning four Olympic golds and nine World Championship golds. That training, from every second I ran to how I prepared in advance, was all informed by data. Speaking to Joe DosSantos for the Data Brilliant podcast brought home just how much data has played a fundamental role in my career both in athletics and in business.

From my college days at Baylor University under the expert coaching guidance of Clyde Hart, to that special experience of winning four Olympic Golds for my country, data has been a powerful analytical tool. In fact, as Joe and I discussed – and as people may remember – I have quite a unique running style which many people questioned. However, this upright style proved, under scientific analysis, to be the most physiologically efficient for me. It was my secret weapon. It was data that showed the U.S. Olympic Committee how I beat their perfect running model and became their model.

Helping To Remove The Guesswork

The role of data within the sporting world cannot be overlooked. All the developments in technology over the last 30 years, and in particular the last 10 years, have taken a lot of the guess work out of training and coaching. If I look to my work today with my coaching academy, Michael Johnson Performance (MJP), we use data every single day to help prepare the world champions of tomorrow. Whether it be at our HQ in Dallas, or anywhere in the world, we are now able to validate a lot of what we thought we knew much faster and with greater accuracy thanks to data. Not just for track and field but across a very wide range of sports from NBA & NFL to Formula One, pro-bull riding and ballet and, of course, the Paralympics, too.

During the podcast, Joe and I talk about winning, and we talk about losing – believe me, I remember all of the losses, too. We talk about some of my heroes in the sport, people like Tommie Smith who bravely gave the world his Black Power salute. And we talk about how my training as an athlete enabled my rapid recovery from a stroke, methods for recovery which I am sharing with other stroke victims now.

Most days now I am busy at MJP, but I am also working on a new initiative, a digital, virtual fitness personal coaching business, which will launch soon for all you weekend warriors. And, of course, I am very much focused on the great work going on at Michael Johnson Young Leaders, where we use the power of sport to change young peoples’ lives and help turn them into leaders of the future, and into some great coaches, too.

Data undoubtedly helped shaped my career on the track and off. To win, you need talent, determination, perseverance, and a strong mindset, but you also need data. You need to be able to track your performance, identify anomalies and look for areas for improvement. Without this element, you can’t become world class.

Tune in now to hear @MJGold and @JoeDosSantos discuss the vital role data has played in Michael’s record-breaking career


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