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How Greene turned gold

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Tom Fordyce | 18:11 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

Daegu, South Korea

For most people, scoring a goal against Real Madrid would be hard to top as the highlight of their sporting career.

Dai Greene isn't most people. In storming to World gold on a warm, windy evening here in South Korea the former Swansea City youth footballer produced one of the great performances in British athletics history, transforming Daegu into Dai-gu with 48.26 seconds of flawless one-lap hurdling.

If that sounds a little giddy-eyed and knock-kneed, you should consider both the manner of his win and just how the 25-year-old has gone from the playing fields of Llanelli to the very top of the world.

Greene was the outsider of Britain's four gold medal hopefuls coming into these championships, the expectations lower than those on Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Phillips Idowu, as much because of the quality of athletes he would have to beat as any perceived deficiency in ability compared with the other three.

The 400m hurdles is known as the 'man-killer' for the physical effect it has on those who run it, and this final was a shootout like almost no other at these Worlds - rammed with talent, six men all capable of beating each other, a race so loaded that a double Olympic champion could be in lane one and another out in lane seven.

That the Welshman was the one to deliver despite being only the fifth fastest in the field says everything about his mental strength and physical preparation.

Etched on the glass windows at the Bath University track where Greene trains is a three-line quotation: "Winning means you are willing to go longer, work harder and give more than anyone else."

It is an ethos he has taken to heart. Training for the 400m breaks people. Training for the 400m hurdles not only batters the body but also requires an intense dedication to the technical arts.

"We're not gimmicky down here," Greene told me when I spent a day watching him train last month. "A lot of our confidence comes from knowing that we put the hard work in.
"In my discipline, it's the person who puts that hard work in who wins. All these months on this cold, wet hill in Bath pay off in the big championships."

It was said with a conviction based on hard sporting evidence. Greene went to the European Championships last summer telling anyone who asked that he would win gold. He did. He then went to the Commonwealths in Delhi two months on and repeated the trick.

This summer, the progression has accelerated. After handing out Diamond League defeats to 2009 world gold and silver medalists Kerron Clement and Javier Culson in Lausanne and then 2005 world champion Bershawn Jackson in Birmingham, he admitted that the aim was now to intimidate his rivals rather than be intimidated any more himself.

Greene's trademark skinhead was initially an accident. While in Berlin for the last Worlds, he asked a local barber for a British number four grade haircut and was horrified when the German instead took it down to four millimetres.

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Now he enjoys the mean look it gives him, happy to disguise what he calls his "nice guy" personality, to stare menacingly at his rivals in hotel lobbies and trash-talk them a little in call-rooms pre-race.

From success has come great self-belief. To self-deprecating British ears it can sometimes sound almost shocking; we're not used to our sportsmen telling us, with straight-faced certainty, that they will win gold.

Athletes who understand what it takes to reach the heights see it rather differently. "When I listen to Dai," says Darren Campbell, relay gold medallist from the Athens Olympics in 2004 and now an expert summariser for BBC 5 live, "I hear an athlete saying, 'I'm in full control. If I win it's down to me; if I lose it's down to me.'"

"Dai intended to win - not hoped to win, intended to win," says David Hemery, the Briton who won Olympic 400m gold in Mexico 43 years ago.

Alongside physical strength is a little bookish geekery. Greene is obsessed with the minutiae of 400m hurdling.

Here in Daegu, his reading material of choice has been Hemery's biography; as a student he wrote his 10,000-word dissertation about his chosen discipline, inspired by the way the greatest one-lap hurdler of them all, Ed Moses, applied his own major in physics and engineering to his training and technique while studying at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

In coach Malcolm Arnold he is also under the tutelage of the most decorated professor the event has seen.

Arnold is the avuncular, white-haired hurdles guru who, at the last count, has been responsible for something like 65 major medals over the past 40 years.

A few years ago, his eighth decade approaching, he was ready to call it quits, the careers of his star pupils like multiple world champion Colin Jackson and Olympic gold medallists John Akii-Bua and Jason Gardener already long over.

Then he noticed a raw kid in his first year at university in Cardiff competing at a low-key indoor meet, thought he spotted rare qualities of endurance and decided to keep his eye on him. When the young Greene's Swedish coach Benke Blomqvist returned to his native Sweden, Arnold picked up the phone and put the retirement plans on ice.
The close relationship between the pair lies at the heart of Thursday night's triumph.

Arnold does the mentoring, Greene the hard yards. There is no parping of whistles or squawking of megaphones, just an air of studious application: coach trusting athlete to put the work in, athlete trusting coach to select a suitable session from his unparalleled hurdling resources.

From the other young athletes in the group - World 400m semi-finalist Jack Green, outstanding sprint hurdle talents Lawrence Clarke and Andy Pozzi - comes a fiercely competitive atmosphere and deep respect, even if the star man makes an atypical alpha male.

"Dai doesn't swagger around like he's God," says Green, "even though he pretty much is at the moment."

With sweet timing, Greene will receive his medal 39 years to the day since the Arnold-coached Akii-Bua won Olympic 400m hurdles gold in Munich.

While the two athletes are separated by style, nationality and the decades, they have one critical thing in common.

"You see some athletes who work hard in training but, when it comes to racing, go down a level," Arnold has told me. "The really good guys who succeed go up not one notch but two.

"That's the final piece in the jigsaw. And Dai can do that."


  • Comment number 1.


    Oh Dear

    One Gold ??? We pour money into their pockets...., what a return we got back, eh ??

    Stand by for tears and disappointment next year.

    What a bunch of wasters !!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Matt-stone, go back to the street corner there and help people knick a few tvs.

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting that Mr Fordyce choose to mention the great Ed Moses in his hyperbole feature on GB'latest lotto winner.I wonder just how many performance times has EM recorded faster than this athlete's very mundane one. Also, I think one would have to go back a long way in Championship history to witness such a poor quality field as this one. I suggest Mr Green savour the moment now - It been fair to state that London-regardless of how many supporters turn up -will be a very different and real challenge with some serious 47 sec clubbers in the field. PS--there is almost a surreal similarity between this occasion and that of Ms Christine Orougu in the 2007 Championships, ie *the odd good bottle in a poor vintage*

  • Comment number 4.

    It was a great win BUT and I am been picky here I was disapointed in the time all three world medallists in 2009 beat that time including Culson who ran 48.03 if he had matched that time he would have won. I know Greene can dip under 48 seconds (he did so last year) which was why I prefered the womans race because the winner won in a very quick time. I still really think its an open event next year in the Olympics because many in that field not including Kerron Clement will think that they can run much quicker then that. Take nothing away from Greene and in championships times do take second place but that race should have been quicker then that.

  • Comment number 5.

    There hasn't been many PB's here from anybody! Partly due to the swirling wind that seems to be ever present and also that standards often (although not always) slip a little across the board in a pre Olympic year (not entirely sure why this is!).
    Fact is, Dai ran a superb race and has looked great in every round. I agree next year may well be won in a 47.50 secs time but I wouldn't bet against him achieving that!
    No 1, please go forth and you know what! No 3, if you can't see the difference between 2007 and now you are watching a different event than me!

  • Comment number 6.

    I don't see what the fuss is about. So a Welshman is really good at running fast while ovecoming an impediment intended to slow you down. How is this different from an adult egg-and-spoon race?

  • Comment number 7.

    Greene did what was expected and needed of him - he won. He didn't need to run any faster and paced the race perfectly. Job done!

  • Comment number 8.

    Comment no 3 - rambling, self-indulgent nonsense. Today's final had six 47 second runners who produced a competitive race in windy conditions. Greene has beaten every one of them this season and today he was the one who produced the goods when it mattered. He didn't need a home crowd to win the European and Commonwealth titles last year and he didn't need one today. Comment no 4 is correct, the field is open for 2012 but if Greene can win an open race today why shouldn't he do it next year?

  • Comment number 9.

    Congratulations to Dai! A very well paced run and he showed his strength and stamina in the final 100 metres. Let's not forget that lane 6 is never the optimium starting lane because there are only two (slower) athletes for him to pace against.

    Also 4th in the medal table - what a poor show to be behind the tiny nations of the U.S.A and Russia!

    Was really pleased for Heather England with her surprise silver. Obviously we are wasting our money supporting these athletes.

    I for one, am fed up with people slating our athletes. Ok, we are a long way away from previous eras (Coe, Cram, Ovett, Thompson; Jackson, Christie, Backley, Holmes, Lewis etc.) but we do have some world class talent.

    Come next year I expect a plethora of gold medals because, as previous Olympic hosts have proved, home advantage is massive.

    Well done to Mo too. What a class act.

  • Comment number 10.

    It was the slowest time that this race was won in in world championship history (I'm sad I checked!). There has never been a winner who has not won sub 48. Take your point about the wind and I'm sure Greene can get below 48 again, there was no one missing in that field although Clement was really off form and Angelo Taylor injured. But again credit to Greene I'm not going to question how professional he is.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great win by Dai in a competitive race which was much stronger and deeper than some other events of the year. Not all championship races if all of you watch athletics regularly is about winning the title in a world record and by a street like Bolt did in 2009. It's also can be a competitive race than is run in similar times of the year where the strongest mentally and the best technically run race of the the day wins the race.
    Hopefully the detractors to Dai's win will keep quiet if he goes on to win the Olympic title in a faster time when they complain how slow this race was, other competitors personal best are better than this (Often not looking at the athletes of their best times this year) or how most events aren't great pre world championships and they need to win the Olympic title for confirmation of their 'greatness' or to prove their still the best in the world.

    History doesn't make such distinction or make excuses for athletes who had ability but didn't perform. All it'll say is he's a world champion in 2011. Simple.

  • Comment number 12.

    11. I do watch athletics regularly and was disapointed with the men 100m and 110m hurdles as well, I just did not find it an exciting race but I have given him full credit for the win. But I do like races to be won in decent times like Michael Johnson.

  • Comment number 13.

    Matt- Stone please just go home and talk sense. Yes the timemight not have been th best but look at the times for the 100m finals, were they world class? Dai showed true grit and determination to win today and proved he is of the best quality. You wont normally see PB's in the final with 2 previous rounds, they come in the single race meets, not championships. All that mattered was the manner of the performance and Dai showed he is there with the best. Also please remember the last 3 olympic champions were in that race. Knowing Dai he will go back and see flaws in the performance and will pick it apart to see where he can gain those impotant 100ths with Malcolm. We have some outstanding talents coming through and Dai will be there to lead the way. After being in uni with him I can see why he is now the best in the world (being world champion gives him that title even if he is not top of the rankings), this guy lives and breathes athletics and is a role model to all yournger athletes of any level. Well done Dai

  • Comment number 14.

    @Chris1977 I'm aware you do mate, but I'm more commenting about those like 3 who who watch it one a while and make snap judgement about people in events without delving deeper.

    I do agree that some events like 100m/110m hurdles and some others were not won in good times, but at least there was some good competitive races out there. Daegu won't go down as the best ever championships, but it doesn't detract from the fact Dai Green beat the best field of the year in the event in the World Championship when it mattered.

  • Comment number 15.

    It does make me laugh sometimes, we're forever moaning that we're no good at anything and when someone does win a good medal it's still not good enough! Athletics is not a sport I am particularly fond of but why can we not just celebrate success? It appears that some people believe success is only achieved by beating world records, which is plainly ludicrous.

  • Comment number 16.

    More Dudley from Matt-Stone. Great race, brilliant win. Yesterday it was all doom and gloom, now everything's beautiful. Thanks Dai.

  • Comment number 17.

    Congratulations to Hannah England and Dai Greene forget about times, who was not there. World championships and Olympic games are all about winning or getting a medal as in Hannah's case. Who remebers Colin Jacksons world record, not me I remember him winning two gold medals in the world championships. Linford Christie was never world record holder but I remember him winning gold medals and being the current commonwealth, european, world and olympic champion at the same time. Dai Greene will never be world record holder, but I can see him being olympic champion next year. I can also seee Hannah England being olympic champion next year.

  • Comment number 18.

    Felt I had to comment a little about the sad, sad people..not really worth mentioning their names..who can probably barely lift themselves out of the chair to exercise the remote control yet feel the world is waiting to hear their latest bout of carping and sneering. A few simple facts;all the worlds top 400m hurdlers were here, and Greene won clearly and conclusively, 'going away'. Although times are not wholly irrelevant...a great world record stirs the blood in a different way ... its ultimately always about winning and not times...which can be affected by many factors. A particularly praisworthy facet of Dai Green's win is that he was far from the most naturally talented in the much of his success is down to dedication, focus and attitude...qualities which I would hope anyone would want to celebrate.

  • Comment number 19.

    Maybe it wasn't a factor, but I suspect the two faulty starts + the need to re-focus twice may have affected the winning time.
    Amused by the comments of #3 jim pilk (pillock?) Having mentioned "very mundane" times + "a poor quality field" we can only assume his real name is Andre Phillips, Danny Harris, Harald Schmid or someone of that sub-47.5 standard.
    Can't understand why he describes Greene as a lotto winner - he has just won a global competition on merit with no luck of the draw involved.
    With regard to his comment about Christine O, he will no doubt remember that she went on to win Olympic gold in 2008

  • Comment number 20.

    I fully commend Dai Greene's achievement, he beat the best in the world in the biggest event of the year and he is not to be held solely responsible if the time was not what some would expect from a world class field. He did what he needed to do to win, its the other seven in the race that need to question why 48.26 was sufficient to win the gold.

    However, I can understand some of the negative comments here, not for their belittlement of Dai's achievements, but in response to a somewhat fawning post that to me just seemed to demonstrate that either Tom was extremely starstruck when he spend the day with him, or taking a more cynical view that it is the start of the BBC's efforts to talk up all the 'heroes' of 2012, ready for the other great joy of the press pack, beating the 'heroes' back down when they don't meet the unrealistic expectations that are set for them by the all-knowing UK media.

    I bit of historical context in the article about the times that Dai is running might lead readers to form more realistic expectations.

  • Comment number 21.

    To the sad lazy idiots who want to discredit Greene...he's got something that neither of you have determination and ambition. Thats why he won out there tonight because he believed in himself in fulfilling his dreams and turned up on the day.

    I don't suppose those that want to criticise him have put in the long hours training 400m hurdles in the cold and wet then when asked to so what do they know

    Greene was only 5th fastest based on this years time but he did it when it mattered the most during the final and thats all you ask from an athlete.. the others performed below their level but Greene performed above his

    Its not his fault the opposition ran slower than him because he ran a smarter race than them

  • Comment number 22.

    I see common sense is finally prevailing.

    People like Dai make this country great. :)

  • Comment number 23.

    At 19:27 1st Sep 2011, matt-stone wrote:.

    Oh Dear

    One Gold ??? We pour money into their pockets...., what a return we got back, eh ??

    Stand by for tears and disappointment next year.

    What a bunch of wasters !!!


    I think you've really tapped into the zeitgeist there, at least from the point of view of the Great British Couch Potato. Unfortunately for him this isn't the shopping channel, this is sport. You don't buy success, you buy a chance of success, and you can't buy the opposition.

  • Comment number 24.

    Quick word on the debate re times. Every evening a strong wind comes down off the hills into the stadium here in Daegu, creating strong headwinds on the home straight. It's one of the key reasons why times clocked during evening sessions in all track events have been slower than those at the last Worlds in Berlin. To criticise Greene for winning gold without going under 48 seconds is to ignore both conditions and the quality of the field he beat - as steveib4 says, the field contained the last three Olympic champions, a former world champ and five of the six fastest men in the world this year. Surely no-one would rather he ran 47.95 and finished sixth?

  • Comment number 25.

    I was in the stadium last night, and while I'm not a huge athletics fan, I was watching the events under the impression that the person who finsihed before his/her competitiors would win the gold and be rewarded for endless hours and even years of hard work and dedication.
    However after reading some of these comments, when I go to tonight's event I'll be sure to hold my applause and admiration for the world champions as they cross the line until I compare and analyse their times vs those champions of years gone by.

    and also (now out of sarcastic mode), why should we not hype or even over-hype when our athletes prove themselves to be among the best in the world? We want our young would-be athletes to think "I want a piece of that action - even if I'll still get slated by some armchair-athletes".

  • Comment number 26.

    Can't please some people.......... What more can you do than win the Gold.

    Well done Dai.... in the footsteps of David Hemery.

  • Comment number 27.

    Sorry Mr Fordyce the womans 400m hurdles was won in the 3rd quickest of all time was their are high wind then affecting that race? Look whoever would have won and not broken 48 seconds I would have been disapointed in the race. Its not about where Dai Greene comes from for me the race was a disapointment.
    Also shame that people want to poo poo debate Dai Greene is world champion he deserves to be world champion I just wish he had won in a world class time which he is capable of. Maybe he can do it in Zurich.

  • Comment number 28.

    what a bunch of whingers most people on here are and people in this country in general, a guy wins a world championship gold for gb and some losers are looking up times and saying others didnt perform?

    i suppose the loser mentality is embedded in our countries people so much they cant handle it when a athlete wins, i mean i guess if dai greene finished 4th and ran the same time he would have been seen as so so brave the poor lad

    well done dai, brilliant run, now for the gold next year!

  • Comment number 29.

    Oh Dear

    One Gold ??? We pour money into their pockets...., what a return we got back, eh ??


    idiotic post of the day

    i suppose the americans, russians, chinese dnt have a budget of probably 20x more than what the gb team have then? other countries spend money aswell u know and have a much greater talent pool than the gb team sherlock, at the moment gb in 4th place not bad imo

  • Comment number 30.

    astonished by detractors in early responses. to win gold at a major champs is a phenomenal achievement. the foolishness of the early comments says much about the author, and nothing about the extraordinary and phenomenal dai. a well-written piece on a major, major talent. let's hope the bbc sports personality shortlists him for 2011.

  • Comment number 31.

    We really don't like success in this country do we? Dai will run world-class times, but to me Championships aren't about that. It's great to see world records, but a major championship race is all about crossing the line first. That means executing under intense pressure.

    I was really excited about the 400m hurdles, not because I thought I'd see a world record, but because there were 6 or 7 really good athletes in with a great chance of getting the medals. That one of them was British helped, but even without Dai Greene it looked like one of the more exciting line-ups. That field built its own pressure.

    Then when I watched it (bless you live internet stream...) and the two aborted starts and the tension was palpable from thousands of miles away through my computer screen.

    Under that kind of tension and pressure, it was never likely to be a world record pace. But you become champion not by being the quickest in the diamond league (see Powell, Asafa) but by coping with pressure. Bershawn Jackson, a former world champion tensed up, went off like a rocket and got it all wrong. That tells you what you need to know. Greene held his technique, paced it beautifully and got his reward for it, much as Christine Ohourogu did when Sanya Richards failed to get the job done on the big stage.

    That's what champions are made of. There are better paid sportsmen in this country who could learn a thing or two from that.

    And "pouring money into their pockets"? You are having a giraffe. Dai Greene probably earns less than I do, and a tiny fraction of what your average premier league footballer does. How many of them can say, in good conscience, that they are the best in the world at what they do? It's a nice round number....

  • Comment number 32.

    Well done Dai. But ,given the media love-in with the photogenic, mixed race Jessica Ennis, I'm afraid you'll be forgotten about in a week...even though you are a world champion and she isn't.

  • Comment number 33.

    Chris 1977 - Just because one race was run in a pretty quick time (womens 400mh) doesn't detract from the fact that generally all the races have been run in slower than usual times. Also Tom's specific point was that the times here have been slower than the last world championships in Berlin. That applies to the women's 400m hurdles too where in Berlin Melanie Walker won in the second fastest time in history.

    Well done Dai (and hannah)!

  • Comment number 34.

    Finally some sense being spoken! I am sat here in absolute shock at some of the comments I am reading regarding times. Whoever said we moan when we don't win and we moan even more when we do summed it up brilliantly. however, the idiots are in the majority now I think at post 34.

    The achievements of both England and Greene yesterday were fantastic and put athletics on the News at Ten and on the front and back pages of the papers. No mean feat!

  • Comment number 35.

    Some people seem to be missing the point re times. Dai Greene beat the best possible opposition at this current time. I remember well, the fantastic exploits of Ed Moses (the best 400 metre hurdler ever surely). He did run fantastic times, but on some occasions he didn't. The PREVAILING CONDITIONS at the time of the race will dictate how fast the atheletes can go. The fact that this particular race was won with a relatively slow time compared to some in the past, means that all those CLASS atheletes struggled with the conditions. All you can really expect from an athelete is a win against the best in the World. That is what Dai Greene achieved last night, and in no way should he be belittled for it!

  • Comment number 36.

    #1 Matt-stone
    Who is this "We" who are pouring money into their pockets? Oh, right ... it's the lottery ticket buyers who want to make a fortune whilst sat on their backsides, rather than working their socks off for years to try and be the best!

    #32 - Scholesy
    Shame on you! Ennis has been #1 in the world for several years, and has earned everything that has come her way. Blame the media, if anyone, for the sort of exposure she gets - or blame us, the public, for preferring things that way. But don't take snide shots at her because she "only" managed a silver!

  • Comment number 37.

    My worry is that by reading this blog there are those that would be led to believe that Dai is an odds-on favourite to win gold next year in London. The blog points out that he beat a set of high calibre athletes on the big stage, world and Olympic champions no less. However, six athletes in the field have faster PB's than him, and five have faster season's bests, yesterday proved he can perform on the biggest stage which clearly means his odds have shortened but he remains one of many athletes capable of taking the gold next year.

    The great Ed Moses sums things up pretty well.

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm glad a few of our athletes have actually got medals. Yes some like Dai, Mo and England have possibily over performed. Some like Ennis were a bit off their game but did well to take a medal as well.

    But lets face it some have them have under performed hugely. How can we be so bad at the sprint events. After the Olympics surely if our track athletes do so badly again then most of the money allocated for them should go out to a lot of other sports that are craving for funds and that also produce world class sportsmen and women in their sports.

    I still don't understand how we can be so good at winning in the youth and under 20 games or things like that and then we are not able for them to kick on in the adult arena.

  • Comment number 39.

    He delivered the goods when it mattered. Success breeds confidence. Well done.

  • Comment number 40.

    It's great for Dai Green, but what of the rest our Brit boys and girls? How many millions of pounds has gone into the athletics and the Olympics in recent years? We were doing better in the 80's with the likes of Thompson, Ovett, Coe and Cram, who had nothing like the riches that have been poured into the sport in the present day! What a waste of money!

  • Comment number 41.

    Apart from the fact that Dai Greene went to UWIC rather than Bath, but still, never let a good sound bite/story get in the way of the truth, eh Tom.

  • Comment number 42.

    yes he might TRAIN at Bath but UWIC is where he come to the fore, didn't think of mentioning that, mainly you have to admit he's Welsh but your statement implies that it's England that he built his talent, WRONG.

  • Comment number 43.

    Well done to Dai Greene for winning the World Championship and for being a winner (and a Swansea Harrier as well).

    Last year the whingers said when he won the Euros and the Commonwealth that it didn't count because he wasn't world class.

    OF course this year they have changes their excuses. I wonder what excuses the whingers will have if he win Olympic Gold.

  • Comment number 44.

    To all members of the the "Green Glee Club " - a chance to put your money where your mouths are - I am offering 100 stg at odds of 4/1 ( pretty good for a cast iron favourite !! ) on our Welsh 0lympian to win gold at London 2012. That should sort out the dreamers from the realists !! All bets to Mr Fordyce please

  • Comment number 45.

    Congratulations to gold winning Greene.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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