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Golden Greene seeks happy endings

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Tom Fordyce | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 8 October 2010

When Dai Greene settles on his blocks for the 400m hurdles heats here in Delhi on Saturday, his thoughts might be thousands of miles away in Melbourne.

While the Welshman starts these Commonwealths as newly-crowned European champion and favourite for gold, his miserable experiences at the last Games four years ago will be inspiring him here.

"I was selected as the fifth or sixth man for the 4x400m relay team," he explains. "Six of us became five, and then four, and then three, until I was informed on the morning of the first heats that I wouldn't be running because we no longer had a team.

"I was devastated - I'd been over there for a month, tapering down, and it would have been the biggest competition of my career to date. We even had a chance of a medal.

"They are very bad memories, and I'm here in Delhi to make amends."

Dai Greene

Should Llanelli-born Greene take gold, he will join an elite group of Welshmen (Lynn Davies, Colin Jackson and Iwan Thomas) who have won the European and Commonwealth titles in the same season. For a man voted Welsh athlete of the year a few weeks ago, and who missed out on the chance of competing in his country's vest four years ago, it's a big deal.

"Those three are great names with great careers. Last time I didn't get the opportunity to run for Wales, and the chance only comes round once every four years - there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity this time. To pick up a Commonwealth medal now would make it a dream season for me."

Greene is perhaps the highest-profile of the home nation athletes in India. He has enjoyed a fabulous season - taking a first major title, proving his global class on the Diamond League circuit and going second on the all-time British lists ahead of luminaries like David Hemery - but it has been at a price.

"It's been difficult mentally to keep myself going," he admits, when we meet at the athletes' village two days before his heats. "In my event you have to push yourself to the limit on a regular basis, and if you're not there mentally it's very hard to do that on a regular basis.

"Before Delhi, we were at a holding camp out in Doha. It was 40-something degrees every day - perfect weather to prepare us for India - but things didn't go entirely to plan; I got a tummy bug which set me back a few days.

"But the staff around me were great. They attended to every need I had, and I'm definitely over it now. I've got a great coach in Malcolm Arnold, who knows exactly what he needs to do with me, and I've had some great sessions since I came to India. I'm looking forward to kicking it all off on Saturday."

Greene, like many athletes at these Commonwealths, has had to structure his training carefully to ensure he can peak at a time in the year when he would normally be returning from holiday and starting his 2011 base-work.

The added complication in his case was his form at the end of the summer season. With the exception of a below-par performance at Crystal Palace ("if the meet hadn't been in London, I probably wouldn't have done it, but I wanted to turn up for the fans and try to put on a good show") he was getting faster with every outing.

"After Barcelona [the Europeans] I didn't think I could get much faster. I thought I'd hit the ceiling there. But I seem to have got quicker and quicker with every race.

"When I set that new PB in Split, I actually thought it was a shame there were no more races after Split, because I was desperate to race. I can't wait to get out on the track."

Alongside him in Delhi will be Rhys Williams, European silver medallist, compatriot and training partner.

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With so much superficially in common, you'd expect the two to be best friends. In fact, the enmity between them is what in part drives them on.

"It's no secret that we're not great friends or anything," says the 24-year-old, matter-of-factly. "We don't socialise together off the track, our coach doesn't like us racing against each other in training, and we have completely different training programmes.

"Some people say it's a bit dysfunctional, but at the same time we brought back the gold and silver from Barcelona with personal bests, so something clearly works there. Maybe other people should hook up with their rivals a little bit more. It works for us, and there are plenty of other guys on the team for us to socialise with."

One of the most notable aspects of Greene's displays in Barcelona was his unshakeable confidence. When I spoke to him a fortnight before the heats, he was quite happy to state that he would and should win. There was nothing cocky about it, just a logical assessment of his own abilities and those of his rivals.

"I don't really feel the pressure," he says. "I was very proud to receive the Welsh athlete of the year award - it's a great honour - but the only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself to achieve.

"I've set myself the target of the gold medal in Delhi, but the way things have gone in the build-up I really shouldn't be aiming for anything else.

It would be settling for second best if I said I just wanted to get on the podium. That would be underselling myself."

In Delhi he expects his main challenge to come from South Africa's reigning Commonwealth champion LJ van Zyl ("he's in decent form this year, and he'll be a real danger) and compatriot Williams ("he did fantastically well in Barcelona - I do hope that he's up there on the podium").

Beyond that, could Kris Akabusi's 18-year-old British record finally go? In Split last month, he was just six hundredths of a second away.

"Medals first, times second in my mind," Greene says firmly. "That's my priority - I do the sport to win medals.

"It would be fantastic if I were to dip under that standard but I just want that gold medal first. If it does come, it'll just make it that little bit sweeter."


  • Comment number 1.

    CW 400m hurdles have always thrown up some memorable characters (Hemery, Samuel Matete, Akabusi, Chris Rawlinson, Llewelyn Herbert, Matt Elias) and this rivalry between Greene and Williams is intriguing!

  • Comment number 2.

    Moved up to world class athlete this year. The only thing that would stop him winning is if he fell over. Top athlete and has the right mentality, one of our best hopes of Gold in 2012 as he seems to just get faster and faster.

    I didnt know he didnt get along with Rhys Williams, probably for the best as it will drive him on to beat him by even more than he does now

  • Comment number 3.

    Well seems like the most probable candidate to break Akabusi's 20 odd year record - that will be something to look forward to tomorrow (I hope)!!

  • Comment number 4.

    Am confident that Dai will break Akabusis British record but I'm not sure it will be in Delhi. I think it's more likely to be in a better field, hopefully at next year's world champs whilst winniong a medal.

    I thought it was obvious that he & Rhys Williams didn't get on when Rhys didn't join him on the lap of honour at the European Champs. At the moment though they are not in the same league - Dai is the better athlete by far and unless he falls over I can't see anyone else winning.

  • Comment number 5.

    Is it necessary for BBC to send large number reporters to cover the event
    when there recession going on
    2. child benefits slashed for middle class .
    3.budget for BBC is very tight and under threat fee increasing to 10K,
    5.lots of AE department closed ,
    6.pensioners could not put the heating on etc etc
    7.Armed forces reduced to historic low levels

    I am just thinking about moral values ....

  • Comment number 6.

    I'd agree with Tiger. I can't see him breaking the British record here. Although his first (and only, to date) sub-48 second run was in a competition 5 weeks ago (and would suggest he's in the form of his life), the field at the CG is unlikely to push him to run such a time.

    As for his rivalry with Rhys, does anyone know what caused it? I did not buy Rhys's excuse for a minute when he said he wouldn't go on the lap of honour because he hadn't won. It was clearly something more personal.

    As a Cardiffian I should support Rhys but I just can't. I did not like his attitude in Barcelona and look forward to Dai beating him once again.

  • Comment number 7.

    Why is it that in so many sports when you get one really good performer suddenly you get another. The rivalry between all parties always helps drive them on. Would either Coe or Ovett been as good without the other?

    I have been struck by the fact that all the lead BBC tv people remain in the uk only commentators and some roving reporters are out there. I guessed it was done to cut costs.

  • Comment number 8.

    I know them both personally and Rhys has his reasons. Rhys' attitude is spot on and you couldn't meet a nicer person. There's no need for a victory lap if you're gutted you didn't win. Dai is in a different class at the moment, but Rhys has bags of potential still and don't write off Rick Yates. Support them all, cause the event isn't exactly easy...


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