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The Eh Game

Ben Johnson races again, wins at Toronto International Track and Field Games

Eh Game

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Ben Johnson blasts from the blocks at the Olympics in 1988. (CP)

Dalton McGuinty, meet Ben Johnson. Your inspiration, perhaps.

Ontario's ex-premier is riding off into the sunset today.

Well, more like running towards the horizon, furiously flapping his hands behind him, trying to douse the flames of scandal that roast his backside on the way. Already done as preem, he's now resigned as a member of the Ontario legislature, his former party trying to glue itself back together as he bolts.

Will he ever come back?

For inspiraton, McGuinty needs only to cast his gaze a block or so north of Ontario's legislature, to Varsity Stadium, where another comeback was just attempted.

Johnson, who once ran so fast that you'd have thought his keester was on fire, blazed a trail at the Toronto International Track And Field Games on Tuesday night.

'Blazed' may not exactly be the term.

Anchoring his pro/am team - who even knew there was such a thing as pro/am sprinting? - Johnson left the others in his wake and sailed through the finish line tape some 30 metres ahead of the runners - up, according to reports.

Wow. Still got it. At age 51 and now a grandfather, Johnson can still amaze. Apparently, a near-capacity crowd in the wee grandstand (capacity at Varsity is around 5,000) rose to its feet to applaud this bit - and I do mean bit - of history.

Could it be? Might Johnson, who'd attempted a number of comebacks after the disgrace of the Seoul Olympics before retiring 20 years ago, be ready to attempt a return to competition?

“I haven’t trained properly for months and months,” Johnson told reporters. “I’m in good shape but my cardio is really bad, my breathing is pretty bad. My running style is OK, just the breathing, I have to get back used to it again."

Um, come again? Get 'used to it again?' Is the most notorious sprinter of the last century ready to wipe the slate clean in this one?

Nah.

“I’ve got nothing to prove. I don’t want to hurt myself, you know?” he said. Seems Ben Johnson no longer has any delusions of a grand return. Just a lark, a little something to give himself and fans a smile.

This was not a calculated endeavour, not even as premeditated as his race with a car and two horses, or his decision to mock himself in a commercial for an 'energy' drink ("I cheetah all the time," he famously uttered in that beauty).

No, this was just for fun and to his credit, Johnson was fairly self-deprecating in his post race interview session. The invitation was proffered just a couple of weeks ago and he decided to give it a go even though he trains only sparingly now.

As for the haters and anyone who'd roll their eyes at the mere mention of Big Ben's name?

“I’ve got lots of fans, it’s just a few people in track and field who don’t like me,” Johnson told Canadian Press. “I’ve got great fans everywhere. It’s good for the young generation to recognize me and know who Ben Johnson was, a little bit of history.”

Something else for Ontario's outgoing premier to ponder. Should he decide to ever, you know, run again.

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