Sprint king Michael Johnson urges athletics chiefs to make the sport more compelling

Sprint legend Michael Johnson has urged track and field chiefs to change the way they present the sport to the world, as it battles to maintain a place at the forefront of broadcasting schedules.

Superstars like Johnson and Usain Bolt ensured track and field athletics retained a prominent position in the sporting landscape, yet the sport's profile has slipped a little in the last decade.

Constant doping scandals have done damage to its credibility, but Johnson suggests athletics could do more to ensure they get the platform they need to promote the sport.

The Professional Triathletes Organisation are bringing the best triathletes in the world together for events around the world, with a set-up similar to the golf or tennis tour.

With big prize money and TV deals in place, the PTO are aiming to take triathlon to a whole new audience and Johnson wants to see something similar for track and field athletics.

"We don't need more superstars in our sport, they are already there," said the track and field great who sprinted to memorable gold medals at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games.

"Someone has to take our sport and put it in front of people. Tell the story and show it in a way that is compelling.

"What PTO are doing with triathlon is what we need in track and field because too many people believe the problem in athletics is we need stars.

"We need the media to tell the stories in athletics and put on events that allow them to display their talents.

"The issue we have is we have too many events, with athletes all over the place and they are not incentivised to have that head-to-head competition we all want to see.

"We have all sorts of problems in track and field and we need to find some solutions because people are going to continue to throw darts at it.

"We had Usain Bolt and there has never been a bigger star in our sport. He was an even bigger star than I was, but he retired and what has that done for our sport?

"That tells you it's not about having stars because if you are waiting for Usain Bolt, that won't work. No sport is built around having one star, that's not sustainable.

"You need people to love the sport first and then they will love the athletes. It's up to the sport to make stars out of the great athletes."

Life after athletics has been kind to Johnson, as he has forged an extended career in broadcasting and used his profile to promote business projects.

That has ensured he has avoid the huge lull that affects so many sporting heroes when their careers come to an end, but he admits it is an ongoing issue for so many who perform on the world's biggest sporting stages.

"Every athlete who reaches that elite level knows that whatever they do when their sports career ends will never reach the height that sport gives you," he adds.

"You are going to retire at a very young age with a lot of living left to do and no matter how successful you are afterwards, it will pale in comparison to standing on the top of a podium at the Olympics. Nothing can compare to that.

"I was okay when I retired. I was very lucky that I sort of got to do all of the things that I really wanted to do in my sport, and very, very fortunate in that way.

"I think most athletes that struggle with that transition struggle because maybe they're forced out by an injury, they had to leave the sport sooner than they were ready to.

"That wasn't my story. I have been a BBC TV pundit for 20 years, I've worked on sports documentaries and I've started Michael Johnson Performance that helps athletes by giving them training services, so I babe kept busy.

"I've won awards for my broadcasting and had some good achievements in my life, but I was right in thinking that nothing compares to the thrill of winning on the track. You can never replace that."

Latest news