Matt Butler: Monthly special shines a new light on the Greene corn

View From The Sofa: Greene Light, Eurosport
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The Independent Culture

Maurice Greene, the last great American sprinter, was not known ever to have suffered from a lack of self-belief. The GOAT ("Greatest of All Time") tattoo on his shoulder was evidence enough.

Even in his twilight years as a runner, dogged by niggling injuries, he remained certain he would win every time he toed the start line. At Crystal Palace in a pre-Olympic warm-up meet before Athens 2004, he found himself up against the then world record-holder, Asafa Powell in the 100 metres. Greene (right) came up short against the Jamaican, posting 9.97sec to Powell's 9.91.

Afterwards, many expected him to be disappointed, angry even. He was the defending Olympic 100m champion, after all – and as a self-confessed ego-driven athlete, he had been beaten by the new guy on the block. But Greene sauntered through the mixed zone, with his trademark grin and exaggerated gesticulations, correcting every interviewer that it wasn't "if" but "when" he walked off with the gold medal for the 100m in Greece in two weeks' time.

He didn't win gold in Athens – that medal went to a pre-drugs ban Justin Gatlin. But Greene did walk away with the bronze medal, along with a silver in the relay.

His showmanship was plain to see after that race, with his theatrical hug of Gatlin on the track. So it was no surprise that he has since gone on to carve a light entertainment niche for himself after his retirement from the track in 2008.

He has done Dancing With The Stars and Blind Date in the US – you get the feeling that if he was a Brit he'd be nailed on to do I'm a Celebrity – and dabbled in punditry for London 2012.

But this year, in a series of monthly specials leading up to the athletics World Championships, he has taken on the persona of a documentarian, in the cheesily named Greene Light. Albeit one who wears a natty baggy suit and busts some dance moves in the opening credits, before singing his own theme tune and talking about himself ("Mo-reese Greene") in the third person.

This month Greene picked the Grenadian 400m prospect Kirani James to focus on. Well, he picked him to stand in the rain while Greene spouted faux-modest statements of the kind only the most cocky can get away with. It was beyond lightweight. Five minutes of discussion about his studies in Alabama were followed with a one-question interview with the athlete's coach Harvey Glance ("how good can he be?"), then a training session in which Greene tackled what Glance called "a man's race". Shots of the sprinter flopping over the track as if knackered, while giggling at his wackiness, predictably followed. And then Greene's verdict: "You can't go as fast in the 400m as you can in the 100m. James is going places." No kidding.

Far more insightful was a slot featuring the Kenyan distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot, the reigning 5,000m and 10,000m world champion. Her softly spoken demeanour belied a steely determination and ruthlessness. It was a very different way of expressing self-belief, with no need for tattoo-flashing, strutting or snappy winks to camera. Tellingly, Greene was nowhere to be seen.