How Greene turned gold
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.
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."