Which is why the headline came as a bit of a shock. The underlying news report covered his short run with a group of schoolchildren to mark two years to go to the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games last week, on a temporary 100m track laid especially for the occasion in the Olympic Stadium.
Bizarrely, Boris Johnson (no relative; Mayor of London) commentated on the event, donning the requisite over-sized headphones while London 2012 Olympic mascot Wenlock busily officiated at the finish line. Michael finished in the middle of the pack.
It wasn't always like this. Michael starting running at his school in Texas, USA. Those around him must have realised there was something special about this young sprinter with the short fast strides, when at his very first race he broke his school's 200m record.
Talent and speed led to an accelerated rise through the rankings, but those on their own do not make an Olympic champion, let alone an Icon. Icons often have to overcome adversity. Just as Michael was looking to qualify for the Seoul Games in 1988, he suffered a stress fracture which made him pull out – his Olympic debut would have to wait. But his ascent continued, and in 1990 he became the first man to be the world No. 1 at both 200m and 400m.
All was looking good for the Barcelona Games in 1992, but this time he suffered food poisoning and didn’t reach the final of either individual distance – although he did get his first team Gold medal as part of the winning US 4x400m relay.
His appetite for individual Olympic glory must have been all the more stoked and after the Games had closed, like before, he bounced back. The next year he would run the fastest 400m in history in the 4x400m relay, clocked at 42.91 seconds (no one else has ever run under 43 seconds).
This of course set the stage brilliantly for the Atlanta Games in 1996. All his achievements until this point now look like a warm-up to Atlanta, his 'home' Games.
After the disappointments of '88 and '92, there were now high expectations, immense pressure, but also massive public and crowd support. He came out cocky and exuberant – assuming the moniker of 'The Man With The Golden Shoes' for fairly obvious reasons. Hopes were high, and it was clear his ghosts were banished when he finally became 400m Olympic champion in 43.49 seconds, out in front in the final by almost a whole second, and securing an Olympic record to boot.
But the icon-making moment for me really happened in the 200m final, which he stormed in just 19.32 seconds, breaking the previous world record by more than three tenths of a second (that previous record was his too). It would take another 14 years before that other showman, Usain Bolt, would finally overtake him at this distance.
At the Sydney Games, Johnson cemented his place in Olympic history by snatching another gold – his fourth – in the 400m. He still holds many of the fastest 200m and 400m runs of all time, and that 400m relay leg of 42.91 seconds remains unchallenged, 17 years later.
So, an Olympic Icon? I think so. Those kids who beat Michael last week in London's Olympic Stadium have no idea how much they've achieved by reaching for that finish line just in front of him.