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DOUBLE DOUBLE // Memo to Michael Johnson: Ms. Perec was there first

The only person to beat Michael Johnson at these Olympics is Marie-Jose Perec.

Fifteen minutes before Michael Johnson pulled off his historic double Thursday night, winning the 400 and 200 meters at the same Olympics, the Frenchwoman nicknamed "The Gazelle" already had accomplished the feat.

With a great finishing kick, the long-legged Perec won the women's 200 in 22.12 seconds, beating out Jamaica's Merlene Ottey, who picked up her second silver of the games.

"I bet on my finish because I know I'm very strong at the end," Perec said. "At the beginning I was far behind, but I was not afraid. The race was really won in the last 10 meters. It's the last 10 meters that make the difference, not before."

Perec was only the second woman to win the 200 and 400 at the same Olympics, but her accomplishment was more impressive because the world's top runners all were in Atlanta. When Valerie Brisco-Hooks accomplished the double at Los Angeles in 1984, two of her chief rivals did not participate because of the Soviet-led boycott.

Ottey led by a couple of feet coming off the turn while Perec bunched together with four other runners. But Perec, her beautiful strides never wavering while the others began to struggle, overtook Ottey in the final 20 meters and won by at least 5 feet.

Ottey was second in 22.24 seconds, while Mary Onyali of Nigeria took the bronze in 22.38.

"Everyone was thinking it was finished for me," Perec said, "except for myself."

Monday night, Perec won her second straight Olympic gold in the 400, setting an Olympic record of 48.25 _ the world's fastest time in 10 years.

Perec has been as dominating on the women's side as Johnson has been among the men _ especially in the 400. She took gold at the 1991 and 1995 world championships in addition to the 1992 Olympic title.

In 1993, Perec skipped the 400 at a major meet in order to run the 200. She finished fourth and decided to start focusing on both events.

Now, she's already pondering the possibility of adding another event to her repertoire before the 2000 Sydney Games.

"Maybe one day I will race at 800 meters," she said. "Maybe in four years, when I'm older, people will see me at that distance, because I'm sure I have not used all of my potential."

Double time

Unusual multiple victories in Olympic track and field competition:

MICHAEL JOHNSON, U.S., 200 and 400 meters (1996)

MARIE-JOSE PEREC, France, 200 and 400 meters (1996)

VALERIE BRISCO-HOOKS, U.S., 200 and 400 meters (1984)

ALBERTO JUANTORENA, Cuba, 400 and 800 meters (1976)

TAMARA PRESS, Soviet Union, shot put and discus (1964)

FANNY BLANKERS-KOEN, Netherlands, 100 and 80-meter hurdles (1948)

BABE DIDRIKSEN, U.S., 80-meter hurdles and javelin (1932)

EMIL ZATOPEK, Czechoslovakia: 5,000, 10,000 and marathon (1932)

PAAVO NURMI, Finland: 1,500 and 5,000 meters and individual cross country (1924)

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