Born August 4, 1967 in Los Angeles, Ca 5-10/1.78m 165lbs./75kg Hawthorne HS, Hawthorne, Ca '85 UCLA '89 PRs (outdoor): 100 9.93 '92 (9.89w '95) 200 19.73 '92 (AR, low-altitude WR) 400 45.46 '94 PRs (indoor): 50 5.73 '90, '95 55 6.26 '95 60 6.56 '95 Major Meets: 1986 3h)NCAA 100 3h)NCAA 200 3)USA Junior 100 3)USA Junior 200 2)Pan-Am Junior 100 1987 3)NCAA 100 5h)USA 100 1988 4)NCAA 100 6)Olympic Trials 100 1989 9)NCAA 100 7)NCAA 200 =5s)USA 100 1990 7)GP Final 100 4)USA 100 5s)USA 200 1991 7)USA 100 5)USA 200 1992 3)USA Indoor 60 4)Olympic Trials 100 2)Olympic Trials 200 1)Olympic Games 200 1993 6)USA 100 1)USA 200 4)World Championships 200 1995 3)USA Indoor 60 1)USA 100 6)USA 200 5)World Championships 100 1996 3)USA Indoor 60 2)Olympic Trials 100 3)Olympic Trials 200 5)Olympic Games 100 8)Olympic Games 200 Major Relays: 1986 1)Pan-Am Junior 4 x 100  dq-f)World Junior 4 x 100  1987 3)NCAA 4 x 100  1988 2)NCAA 4 x 100  1991 1)World Champs 4 x 100 [4-heat] 1992 1)Olympic Games 4 x 100  1995 dnf-h)World Champs 4 x 100  1996 2)Olympic Games 4 x 100 
Michael Marsh has done it all at the Olympics. In 1984, as a high school junior, he worked as a parking attendant at the Long Beach venue for fencing and volleyball. In 1988, he placed sixth in the Olympic Trials, winning selection as a relay alternate; that led to nothing because the U.S. team was disqualified in the first round. In 1992, Marsh won two gold medals.
Last year, he ran a solid 10.00 in the 100, but anymore, 10-flat doesn't win much in the big meets. It got the Santa Monica star fifth. In the 200, he ran a lackluster 20.48 for last. It was no consolation that the 19.73 Olympic record he ran in Barcelona would have barely held up for bronze in Atlanta. However, Marsh didn't leave the Games empty-handed: He ran the third leg on the runner-up 4 x 100 relay.
The son of a real estate agent and a CPA, Marsh set his sights early on going to UCLA and joined his first track club in sixth grade. His high school achievements -- he won the California state 200 title in 20.82 -- landed him a place on the UCLA team, but he never made the national impact he had hoped for. Though he sped 10.07 and 20.35 as a Bruin, his highest-ever NCAA finish was a third in the 100 in 1987.
In his first two years after college, Marsh found himself able to make USA Championship finals and rank among the top Americans, but he failed to improve. His choice of a career as a sprinter looked ill-advised until he moved to Houston to work with coaches Tom Tellez and Mike Takaha. The resulting improvement shocked the world. Marsh sped 9.93 in April and 19.94 in early May.
"I haven't arrived anywhere," he told Track & Field News. "It's only two races. I still have to go up against gold medalists and world rankers in pressure situations." He would soon have his opportunity. At the '92 Olympic Trials, he finished a disappointing fourth in the 100, earning only a relay position.
Marsh came back in the 200 ready to run. He placed second to Michael Johnson at 200, running a personal best 19.86. Only five humans had ever run faster, and Johnson arrived in Barcelona still suffering the effects of food poisoning. Though few realized until the semis, Marsh was the favorite.
In the third of four Olympic rounds, Marsh cruised a relaxed 19.73, an Olympic record and only 0.01 short of the World Record. Many observers felt he could have easily broken the World record had he realized he was that close. Ironically, many felt the same about Santa Monica teammate Carl Lewis, who let up and also missed a probable World record at the 1983 USA Championships.
Knowing relaxation was the key to the effort, Marsh tried it again in the final. "I relaxed so much," he told T&FN's Dave Johnson, "I didn't even drive out of the blocks." He had to play catchup with Namibia's Frank Fredericks and eked out the win in 20.01. That "certain" World record would never be as achievable again.
Since his Olympic triumph, Marsh hasn't been the same man on the track. In 1993 he clocked 10.20 and 20.04. He won the USA 200 title but missed a medal at the World Championships by 0.19. The following year he avoided the national championships altogether and clocked 10.00 and 20.48 in a season lacking any triumphs.
In 1995, Marsh won the 100 at the USA Championships in a close race over Maurice Greene and Dennis Mitchell. The three all clocked the same time, 10.23. Then in the 200, touted -- probably unrealistically, considering his 20.32 seasonal best -- as a possible challenger to heavily-favored Johnson, Marsh and his camp conceded the win after he drew disadvantageous lane one in the final. He would have gotten a prime lane had he been able to win his semi, but Johnson easily topped him there. In the final, Marsh ran 20.35 for sixth, more than half a second behind Johnson.
At the World Championships, Marsh sped 10.08 -- his fastest time of the year -- in the semis. He had the slowest reaction time out of the blocks in the final and finished only fifth in 10.10. Not since 1896 had the top American man fared so poorly in a championship 100. He said afterwards, "I gave up too much at the start. I closed well, but I was too far out. I've got to do some work. I made simple mistakes. Too bad they had to come in a meet like this."
Echoing the view of others, Marsh added, "We have to go back to the drawing board. We don't have a younger talent base. It's the same old talent getting older and older. We aren't developing the athletes."
Last year, Marsh started out with the legs of a champion. He opened up at the Mt. SAC Relays with a stirring 9.95, 19.98w double. Then, at the Atlanta Grand Prix, his 19.88 pushed Michael Johnson to the line. He might not be able to beat Johnson, observers thought, but he's going to win a medal.
At the Trials, Marsh ran a solid 100 in second, saying, "I had a horrible start, but I didn't give up. Coming in, I knew I didn't have to run my absolute fastest. I just had to be there at the end." In the 200 a week later, he was again there at the end, finishing third in 20.04 as Johnson ran his first World record.
Marsh ended the season with a global ranking of six in the 100, number seven in the 200. Still just 29, he showed he can still compete with the best internationally, as long as he's at his best. Can he last as long as training partner Lewis?
We'll know in 2004.