Month Day
August 01

Michael Johnson brings home second gold

On August 1, 1996, sprinter Michael Johnson breaks the world record in the 200 meters to win gold at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Three days earlier, Johnson had also won the 400 meters, making him the first man in history to win both events at the Olympics.

Four years earlier at the Barcelona Olympics, Johnson had been the clear favorite to win the 200 meters until he came down with food poisoning 12 days before the race. Ten pounds lighter, Johnson didn’t recover his strength in time for the competition and lost in the qualifying rounds, a major disappointment for both him and the U.S. team. (Johnson did win gold, however, as a member of the world-record breaking 4 x 400 relay team in Barcelona.)

At the 1996 Olympics, things got off to a much better start. On July 29, sporting his now-famous thick gold chain and gold track shoes, he ran the 400 meters in a remarkable 43.49 seconds for a gold medal and a new Olympic record. And, as the reigning world record holder, Johnson was the heavy favorite for gold going into the 200 meter final despite a fast field. His two toughest were Frankie Fredericks of Namibia and Ato Boldon from Trinidad and Tobago. Johnson lined up in lane 3, and Fredericks, who had broken Johnson’s 22-race winning streak in the 200 on June 5, was positioned in lane 5, to Johnson’s outside. Boldon, who won bronze in the 100 meters in the 1992 Olympics, was in lane 6. At the gun Johnson stumbled slightly, but recovered quickly and passed Fredericks as they entered the first turn. Johnson then kicked it into high gear, beating his closest competition to the finish line by four strides.

After seeing his time, Johnson dropped to his hands and knees in disbelief, while Ato Boldon, who came in third behind Johnson and Fredericks, walked over to Johnson and bowed in awe. Analysis of the race later revealed that Johnson had run a 10.12 for the first 100 meters, and then blew away the field with a stunning 9.20 seconds for the last half of the race. His official time of 19.32 seconds shaved three tenths of a second off his own world record of 19.66–set six weeks prior at the Olympic trials–which had broken a 17-year-old mark.

On the same night that Johnson became the first man to win both the 200 and 400 meters in the Olympics, Marie-Jose Perec of France became the second woman to accomplish the feat. American Valerie Brisco-Hooks had won both races at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. 

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.


Anne Frank writes her last diary entry

Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl hiding out in Nazi-occupied Holland whose diary came to serve as a symbol of the Holocaust, writes her final entry three days before she and her family are arrested and placed in concentration camps. Frank, 15 at the time, received the diary on more

Columbus lands in South America

Explorer Christopher Columbus sets foot on the American mainland for the first time, at the Paria Peninsula in present-day Venezuela. Thinking it an island, he christened it Isla Santa and claimed it for Spain. Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. Little is known of his more

Warsaw Revolt begins

During World War II, an advance Soviet armored column under General Konstantin Rokossovski reaches the Vistula River along the eastern suburb of Warsaw, prompting Poles in the city to launch a major uprising against the Nazi occupation. The revolt was spearheaded by Polish more

First World War erupts

Four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Germany and Russia declare war against each other, France orders a general mobilization, and the first German army units cross into Luxembourg in preparation for the German invasion of France. During the next three days, more

The first Six Flags opens in Texas

On August 1, 1961, amusement park lovers “head for the thrills” as Six Flags Over Texas, the first park in the Six Flags chain, has its soft opening. 5 days later, on August 5, the park had its grand opening. Located on 212 acres in Arlington, Texas, the park was the first to more

MTV launches

On August 1, 1981, MTV: Music Television goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words (spoken by one of MTV’s creators, John Lack): “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable more

Helsinki Final Act signed

The United States, the Soviet Union, Canada and every European nation (except Albania) sign the Helsinki Final Act on the last day of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The act was intended to revive the sagging spirit of detente between the Soviet Union more

Joseph Priestley discovers oxygen

On this day in 1774, dissenting British minister Joseph Priestly, author of Observations on Civil Liberty and the Nature and Justice of the War with America, discovers oxygen while serving as a tutor to the sons of American sympathizer William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne, at more