19 Jun 2024, 14:37

'Best of the best' to race in new athletics circuit: Johnson

  LOS ANGELES, June 19, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - US athletics great Michael Johnson
on Tuesday announced the launch of a new track league which will see the
"best of the best" compete against each other at four elite meetings every
year from 2025.

Johnson, a four-time Olympic gold medallist turned commentator for the BBC,
said Grand Slam Track would debut in April of 2025 with two three-day
meetings in the United States and two international stops, with prize money
of around $3 million on offer at each meeting.

One US venue will be in Los Angeles, host city of the 2028 Olympics, Johnson

"People love racing. People want to see the best of the best. And at the core
of Grand Slam Track is the best of the best athletes, only the fastest,
competing head to head against one another four times a year," Johnson said.

The meetings will feature track races only, no field events, divided into
categories of short sprints, long sprints, high hurdles, low hurdles, middle
distance and long distance, with men's and women's races in each category.

Each category will feature athletes competing in two events per meeting,
short sprint competitors, for example, racing at both 100m and 200m.

A total of $12.6 million in prize money will be up for grabs across the four
events, in addition to base pay and appearance fees.

The athlete with the best combined results from the two events in which they
are taking part will receive $100,000, and the second-placed finisher
$50,000, with the eighth-placed finisher taking home $10,000.

"It's a little over $3 million in prize money for each one of our Slams,"
Johnson said.

"At the end of the day, you know, these athletes deserve to be compensated
for their talent and and for what they bring and we're doing that."

- 'Step forward' for sport -

The new circuit has won enthusiastic support from another US Olympic legend,
Carl Lewis, who was in Los Angeles for Tuesday's announcement. Lewis said the
venture would help create a more marketable sport by its guarantee of
bringing the best athletes together four times every year.

"If you go to any Grand Slam in tennis or golf, you know the best are gonna
be there so you actually plan to watch," Lewis said. "Right now (in track)
you don't know that."

The league has already signed 400m hurdles world record-holder Sydney
McLaughlin-Levrone, who will be among 48 athletes under contract to Grand
Slam Track and is committed to competing in all four meetings of the season.

"I firmly believe that this is the step forward that track needs to take it
to another level," said McLaughlin-Levrone, saying she relished the
opportunity to race against the likes of Dutch 400m hurdles rival Femke Bol
more frequently.

"That's the whole point of Grand Slam Track -- getting a more regular basis
of the best of the best in each event," McLaughlin-Levrone said of testing
herself against Bol. "I'm sure (Bol) will be a part of that.

"There's a lot of money put behind it and I think it's gonna be very special
for the sport overall and growing Track and Field."

Another 48 athletes will be invited to take part according to "their track
record and current form" and paid appearance fees to take part.

A statement added that Grand Slam Track has already secured more than $30
million in financial commitments from investors and strategic partners for
the new league.

Johnson meanwhile defended the decision not to include field events in the
circuit, saying that restricting each meeting to track racing allowed for
greater focus for fans.

"We are committed to one event at a time," Johnson said. "You will not see
multiple things happening when you're watching a Grand Slam Track event on
television or attending in person.

"With one event at a time in a three-hour window there is no place for us to
fit field events."