SEVILLE, Spain -- Nothing that happened in the men's 60-meter final of the world indoor track-and-field championships last night should surprise anybody.
Andre Cason has been running well throughout the season, and Ben Johnson, bearing more than the average man, has struggled. And so it was again, when they finished a remarkably close race in which only 12 hundredths of a second separated first place from last.
As he had in his two preliminary races earlier in the day, Cason, an American who trains in Tampa, Fla., cruised as if airborne, crossing the finish line in 6.54 seconds and raising an index finger to anoint himself world champion.
Linford Christie, a 30-year-old Briton who is nearly nine years older than Cason, missed victory by a lean at the line, finishing in 6.55, with Chidi Imoh of Nigeria next at 6.60 and Johnson after that in 6.61.
One could easily read so much symbolism into the race: a young upstart moving among the giants; a fallen hero, falling still. It may be premature to draw conclusions in ink, but the evidence is building.
Cason won the world junior outdoor championship in 1988 and steadily improved within the shadows of Carl Lewis, Leroy Burrell and several other talented Americans. He beat Johnson in Los Angeles two months ago and won three more races before reaching here with something to rectify.
He qualified for the United States team as the leading American finisher at the indoor nationals last month, but losing his focus in the middle of the race, he finished second to Andres Simon of Cuba. This time, Cason stayed focused and Simon, the 29-year-old defending champion, was fifth (6.61).
"Basically, this was a business trip," said Cason, a serious-looking, no-nonsense speaker. "I came here to perform well and take care of business. It was a matter of getting back and staying focused."
For the 29-year-old Johnson, running in his first world event since his two-year suspension for drug use ended, failing to win was not so bad as his finishing placement. The Canadian desperately wanted to win a medal, to demonstrate just how far he has come in his return.