TOKYO >> Michael Norman Jr. is particular.

“Very, very particular,” he said.

Even when it comes to rental cars.

So when the fastest American quarter-miler this century was in Monaco for an awards ceremony in December 2018, he just had to rent a Ferrari 480 Spider.

The color?

“Red, of course,” Norman said laughing.

“I drove it through the tunnel,” he continued referring to the iconic part of the Monaco Grand Prix F1 course. “Drove along the harbor, drove to Nice.”

But when asked how fast he drove Norman, an F1 fanatic, took the Fifth.

“I can’t say, can’t say,” he said. “Fast.”

That’s another thing Norman is particular about — he doesn’t talk about speeds.

So Norman, the heir apparent to Lee Evans and Quincy Watts and Michael Johnson and a decades-long lineage of American 400-meter runners who have dominated the event at the Olympic Games, steadfastly refuses to join the widespread speculation within the sport that the former Vista Murrieta High and USC standout will be the first person to break 43 seconds.

“Not. At. All,” Norman said. “Not at all, seriously, I think our mentality is more of really focusing on training and perfecting our race and becoming the best Michael Norman you can be as opposed to chasing history.”

Said Watts, the 1992 Olympic 400 gold medalist now head coach at USC who continues to coach Norman, “We’ll let track and field decide that.”

Few, however, would be surprised that when the Olympic Games 400 final is decided, Norman, 23, crosses the finish line at National Stadium just past 9 p.m. local time on August 5 he will not only be Olympic champion but have broken the world record of 43.03 South Africa’s Wayde van Niekerk set in winning the Rio de Janeiro gold medal.

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A victory in Tokyo would cap a five-year journey that has seen Norman narrowly miss making the 2016 Olympic team as a high school senior, overcome injuries and doubts at USC to win four NCAA titles and set the collegiate 400 record, flirt with the world record in 2019 only be eliminated in the World Championships semifinals in Doha, undone by a lingering hamstring injury.

When Norman won the Olympic Trials 400 last month in Eugene his father, Michael Norman Sr. was struck by the expression on his son’s face.

“It was something I had never seen before,” the elder Norman recalled. “There was sigh of relief after he crossed the finish line. Like ‘finally.’”

Norman comes to the Olympic Games with two additional burdens. As the child of an African American father and a Japanese mother, Norman is viewed by the host nation as a native son. He is as recognizable in Japan and as he is in Eugene, Tracktown USA, his rock star status confirmed the moment he stepped off a plane in Osaka in 2019, hungry, sleep-deprived, hidden away in a hoody, when a Japanese TV reporter stuck a microphone in his face and asked for an interview.

“Pretty crazy to me,” Norman said laughing. “I was like, ‘I’m not really presentable right now.’”

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Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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