The 53-year-old remains a household name in the UK, both for his exploits on the track and his charming, authoritative manner in the BBC commentary box. At this year’s Olympic Games, which are being held in Tokyo, Michael has continued to engage with viewers as one of the main pundits on the BBC’s athletics coverage. He has been featuring alongside fellow gold medallists Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis-Hill, offering his analysis of how the events of track and field have unfolded.
Michael, who won four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championships gold medals across his career, is often blunt in his examination of competitors – and is equally forthright when it comes to his own running capabilities.
Prior to Tokyo 2020 – which was rearranged from last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – Michael discussed the most iconic moment of his turn as an athlete, when he represented the US at the home Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.
Around 25 years ago, Michael had the hopes of Americans resting firmly on his shoulders, as he went into the 200m and 400m races as favourite.
But in typical Michael fashion, he admitted to making a “risky” decision by deciding to wear gold Nike boots for his races – and feared he could get backlash if he did not win.
Speaking to the Daily Mail in June, Michael said: “I had to appeal to the Olympic Committee to change the schedule to make the 200/400 double possible to allow me to do something that had never been done before.
“After that you have got to deliver on it because let’s face it, I have gone there with gold shoes.
“Had I got a silver or bronze, I would have had to stand there on the podium with those gold shoes. I’m glad it worked out.”
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But his entire attitude, and ability, changed by the time Atlanta rolled around four years later.
With the massive expectation, though, came intense media coverage – the likes endured by megastars such as Usain Bolt and Cathy Freeman.
Michael added: “The entire three weeks of the Olympics I was either at the track or in my hotel room because of the scrutiny
“I actually flew into Atlanta from my training site in Dallas for the opening ceremony and then flew back until two days before my first race so I could be out of that environment.”
The sprinter could have ended up with five Olympic golds but instead decided to hand back his champion medal from Sydney 2000 after Team USA became embroiled in a drug scandal.
He was part of the team that won the 4x400m relay, but after it emerged a team-mate had used performance-enhancing substances, Michael gave his medal up.
Across athletics Michael was applauded for his voluntary decision, describing the medal as “tainted” and “dirty” following the accusations aimed towards his teammate.
A year after his retirement he took up a punditry role at the BBC and has since remained at the forefront of the broadcaster’s athletics coverage.