Johnson ran 19.66 seconds in the 200 m at the U.S. Olympic Trials, breaking Pietro Mennea's record of 19.72 seconds, which had stood for 17 years. With that performance he qualified to run at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and prepared to attempt to win both the 200 meters and 400 meters events, a feat never before achieved by a male athlete.
On July 29, Johnson easily captured the 400 m Olympic title with an Olympic Record time of 43.49 seconds, almost one full second ahead of silver medalist Roger Black of Great Britain. At the 200 m final on August 1, Johnson ran the opening 100 meters in 10.12 seconds and finished the race in a world record time of 19.32 seconds, breaking by more than three tenths of a second the previous record he had set in the U.S. Olympic Trials, on the same track one month earlier—the largest improvement ever on a 200 m world record. Some commentators compared the performance to Bob Beamon's record-shattering long jump at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.