Summer Olympics: Michael Johnson tops list of most successful male 400m runners

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson

The 400 metres event comes under the Athletics category at the Summer Olympics.

While the men's 400m event has been part of the Summer Olympics since the first edition in 1896, the women's 400m event was introduced in 1964.

With the Tokyo Olympics fast approaching, let's look at the most successful male 400m runners at the Summer Olympics.

We shall see where legendary American Michael Johnson features on this list and whether reigning Olympic gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk made the cut.

(Note: Ranking is based on gold medal count. If athletes have equal number of gold medals, the number of silver medals followed by bronze medals has been used as the deciding factors for the rankings)

(*: Total Medals won here refers to total medals won by the respective athlete only in the individual 400m Olympic event)


#5 - LaShawn Merritt (USA)

Total Medals Won*: 2 (G - 1, S - 0, B - 1)

2008: Gold, 2016: Bronze

Lashawn Merritt at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Lashawn Merritt at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

LaShawn Merritt won the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing with a timing of 43.75 seconds.

Merritt was unable to pick up a medal in London due to a hamstring injury.

Back at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Merritt picked up the bronze with a timing of 43.85s.

Merritt has also won gold medals at the 2008 and 2016 Summer Olympics as part of the American 4x400m relay team.


#2 - Steve Lewis (USA)

Total Medals Won: 2 (G - 1, S - 1, B - 0)

1988: Gold, 1992: Silver

Steve Lewis at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.
Steve Lewis at the Seoul Olympic Stadium in Seoul, South Korea.

Steve Lewis is one of three runners to be tied at No. 2 on this list, with all of them having won 1 gold and 1 silver each in the 400m individual event.

The American struck gold at the 1988 Summer Olympics with a timing of 43.87s and won a silver medal four years later at Barcelona with a timing of 44.21s.

Lewis has also won gold medals at both those Games as part of the American 4x400m relay team.


#2 - Jeremy Wariner (USA)

Total Medals Won: 2 (G - 1, S - 1, B - 0)

2004: Gold, 2008: Silver

Jeremy Wariner
Jeremy Wariner

American Jeremy Wariner is also tied at the No. 2 position on this list.

Wariner won gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens with a timing of 44.00s. Four years later in Beijing, the American's timing of 44.74s garnered him the silver medal.

Like Merritt and Lewis, Wariner also owns two gold medals as part of the American 4x400m relay team.


#2 - Kirani James (Grenada)

Total Medals Won: 2 (G - 1, S - 1, B - 0)

2012: Gold, 2016: Silver

Kirani James at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games
Kirani James at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Kirani James created history by becoming the first ever medal-winner from Granada in the history of the Summer Olympics as he won gold in the 400m in London with a timing of 43.94s.

"It means a lot. Grenada will be going crazy right now,” James said after that win. “This is a huge step for our country in terms of stepping up to the plate in track and field, just going out there and putting us on the map.”

James also picked up a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio with a timing of 43.76s.

Since Rio, James has been diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, a condition that leads to an overactive thyroid. He has not competed since late 2019 and his fans remain hopeful he will be back on the track in Tokyo later this year.


#1 - Michael Johnson (USA)

Total Medals Won: 2 (G - 2, S - 0, B - 0)

1996: Gold, 2000: Gold

Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is regarded by many as one of the greatest 400m runners in history.

Johnson's incredible career includes a seven-year unbeaten stretch starting in 1993 during which he won a staggering 58 consecutive 400m races.

The American won gold in the 400m at the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics with timings of 43.49s and 43.84s respectively.

Johnson could very well have picked up another medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in the individual 400m but his chances were hampered by a food poisoning fiasco.

The American has also won two other gold medals in athletics at the Olympics.

Johnson broke the 400m world record in 1999 when he ran the distance in 43.18s, a record that stood until the 2016 Rio Games.


South African Wayde van Niekerk won the gold medal at the 400m at the Rio Olympics with a world-record timing of 43.03s.

van Niekerk's time smashed Michael Johnson’s longstanding world record from 1999 and is still the current 400m world record. The South African is hoping to beat that record later this year in Tokyo.

If van Niekerk can win another medal at the Tokyo Games, he could very likely change the order of this list post Tokyo 2020.

(With inputs from the official Olympic website)


Also Read: Top 5 Most Successful American Male Sprinters At Summer Olympics

Quick Links

Edited by Rohit Mishra