Athletics: Beware young America

Pat Butcher says there is new life in the old super power of sprinting; World's greatest sprint nursery puts two more kids on their blocks as Britain's best makes his own mark
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The Independent Online
Maurice Greene has already fulfilled the first part of the American dream. He went west to seek fame and fortune, and won the United States sprint title. But taking that dream on the road again, to conquer the rest of the world, is going to prove infinitely more difficult.

The once-automatic assumption that the US 100 metres champion would also take the Olympic or world title is a long time dead. And with the likes of Donovan Bailey, Frankie Fredericks and Ato Boldon as principal grave- diggers, you would not bet the mortgage that Greene will do a resurrection job in Athens next week. But it will not be for lack of trying.

The decision to uproot from Kansas last year and seek out the sprint star-maker John Smith in Los Angeles already shows considerable initiative, but Greene has always been a young man in a hurry. His first coach, Al Hobson, recalls taking him to national championships when he was eight years old. "I started coaching Maurice when he was beating all the kids in the neighbourhood, then I coached him in high school, and when he started college," he said.

As a schoolboy in Kansas City, Greene won three consecutive state sprint doubles, ending up with bests of 10.43sec and 21.00sec for the 100m and 200m in 1993, at the age of 18. Hamstring problems, the perennial bugbear of the sprinter, hit the following year, which he sat out while deciding also to quit college in Missouri. His re-entry to competition at the Texas Relays in 1995 had the impact of a shooting star hitting the stratosphere.

He knocked the king's crown sideways, beating Carl Lewis in a superlative, albeit wind-assisted time of 9.88sec. He showed that was no freak performance a month later when he was runner up to Mike Marsh in the US Championships to qualify for that year's world championships in Gothenburg. But he went on the skids in Sweden, being eliminated in the second round, and seeing his relay colleagues make a baton error after he had successfully negotiated the first leg in the opening heat.

Despite bringing his legal best down to 10.08sec last year, he did not even make the final of the US Olympic Trials. That prompted him to join Smith's LA group, which includes such luminaries as Marie-Jose Perec and Boldon. "It's been so helpful, we're all sprinters, and we all help each other out. Ato and I have stayed up until one o'clock some mornings, watching videos to try to correct problems in my race. It all helped me get ready for meets like the nationals."

So ready, in fact, that Greene blazed to 9.90sec, the third fastest legal time in US sprint history, when he won the national title in Indianapolis last month. His name goes on the roster behind two all-time greats, Leroy Burrell (9.85sec) and Lewis (9.86sec). But Greene went even better in Lausanne two weeks later, when he beat Olympic gold and silver medallists, Bailey and Fredericks, with another 9.90sec, this time during a deluge.

Even so, wisely, he is not prepared to make any prognostications about beating Bailey and Fredericks in Athens, let alone his training partner, Boldon. But Greene certainly feels a lot more ready for the big time. "I feel I'm ready for that sort of competition now. I can handle it a lot better."

Much was made of the breakthrough in Indianapolis of Greene and the new US men's No 2, Tim Montgomery, seeing in a new era as Lewis retired. But it might be an even younger US sprinter who makes the most impact in Athens, the 21-year-old Marion Jones, who has been a longer time coming than Greene or Montgomery - since 1992.

While the spectators' hearts and the media's notebooks and microphones in the US trials in New Orleans that year were stretching out to the decathlon world record-holder, Dan O'Brien, when he missed his opening height in the pole vault, and failed to qualify for the Barcelona Olympics, there was a barely-noticed, though perhaps equally significant, event going on across the stadium where the 16-year-old Jones was giving a glimpse of a talent that the track world would be denied for five years.

Jones finished fifth in the 100m and fourth in the 200m, with world-class times of 11.14sec and 22.58sec. But an aptitude for basketball and a propensity for injury combined to keep her off the track. Now a student in North Carolina, Jones said: "I thought that I could compete at this level in two sports; looking back I think it's impossible. There's so much concentration and focus that goes into it."

Jones was point-guard for North Carolina for three years during which they won the US Collegiate basketball championship. But then she decided to go back to track, to try to qualify for the World Student Games in late 1995. Last summer, though, at the Atlanta Olympics she broke her foot long-jumping, and did the same thing three months later. During her recuperation, she stayed involved through her boyfriend, international shot putter, C J Hunter, but only started training in earnest in April. "Even though I wasn't competing, C J was, so it was keeping me involved and keeping the excitement there."

She wasn't the only one excited in Indianapolis where, in the absence of the world and Olympic champion Gail Devers, Jones won the 100m in 10.92sec, then the fastest of the year, and beat Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the long jump. Later in Europe, she swapped victories with Devers, who will have to employ all her championship experience to stay ahead of the youngster after being given a wild card entry for Athens.

Like Greene, Jones is coy about her chances next week, saying simply: "I haven't been around like I've wanted in this sport. But now I'm back, I'm healthy and I want to run fast." With foreign competition thinner in the women's ranks, Jones's training diary could prove to be a throw- back to the old days - "took exams, won the US title, became world champ."

How the World Championships will unfold

Saturday 2 August

08.00 Hammer (M) Qualifying Round Group A 08.10 400m (W) 1st round 08.20 Triple Jump (W) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 08.50 Shot Put (M) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 09.00 1500m (W) 1st round 09.25 Hammer (M) Qualifying Round Group B 09.30 100m (W) 1st round 10.15 100m (M) 1st round 18.00 400m H (M) 1st round 18.40 100m (W) 2nd round 19.05 20km Walk (M) Final (Start) 19.10 Shot Put (M) Final 19.20 100m (M) 2nd round 19.40 400m (W) 2nd round 20.25 20km Walk (M) Final (Arrival) 20.50 10,000m (W) 1st round

Sunday 3 August

08.00 100m H (W) Heptathlon 08.10 Javelin (M) Qualifying Round Group A 08.20 Long Jump (M) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 08.40 3000m S/C (M) 1st round 09.00 High Jump (W) Heptathlon 09.25 400m (M) 1st round 09.40 Javelin (M) Qualifying Round Group B 17.30 Hammer (M) Final 18.00 400m (M) 2nd round 18.25 100m (W) Semi-Final 18.30 Shot Put (W) Heptathlon 18.45 100m (M) Semi-Final 19.05 400m (W) Semi-Final 19.20 1500m (M) 1st round 20.45 1500m (W) Semi-Final 21.15 200m (W) Heptathlon 21.35 100m (W) Final 21.50 100m (M) Final

22.10 400m H (M) Semi-Final 22.30 10,000m (M) 1st round

Monday 4 August

08.00 10k Walk (W) 1st round 08.10 Long Jump (W) Heptathlon 10.00 800m (M) 1st round 17.40 Javelin (W) Heptathlon Group A 18.00 High Jump (M) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 19.00 3000m S/C (M) Semi-Final 19.10 Javelin (W) Heptathlon Group B 19.30 Triple Jump (W) Final 19.35 400m (M) Semi-Final 20.05 400m (W) Final 20.35 1500m (M) Semi-Final 21.10 400m H (M) Final 21.30 800m (W) Heptathlon

Tuesday 5 August

08.00 100m H (M) Decathlon 08.10 Discus (W) Qualifying Round Group A 08.30 400m H (W) 1st round 09.00 Long Jump (M) Decathlon 09.15 110m H (M) 1st round 09.40 Discus (W) Qualifying Round Group B 10.30 Shot Put (M) Decathlon 17.45 High Jump (M) Decathlon 18.00 800m (M) 2nd round 18.30 Shot Put (W) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 18.40 Javelin (M) Final 18.40 110m H (M) 2nd round 19.00 Long Jump (M) Final 19.40 1500m (W) Final 19.55 10,000m (W) Final 20.40 400m (M) Decathlon 21.05 400m (M) Final

Wednesday 6 August

08.00 110m H (M) Decathlon 08.15 Triple Jump (M) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 08.25 5000m (W) 1st round 09.00 Discus (M) Decathlon Group A 09.25 800m (W) 1st round 10.15 200m (M) 1st round 10.30 Discus (M) Decathlon Group B 11.10 200m (W) 1st round 12.00 Pole Vault (M) Decathlon 17.50 Javelin (M) Decathlon Group A 18.00 110m H (M) Semi-Final 18.10 High Jump (M) Final 18.20 200m (W) 2nd round 18.45 200m (M) 2nd round 19.10 800m (M) Semi-Final 09.20 Javelin (M) Decathlon Group B 19.30 3000m S/C (M) Final 19.50 400m H (W) Semi-Final 20.15 1500m (M) Final 20.35 10,000m (M) Final 21.15 1500m (M) Decathlon

Thursday 7 August

07.00 50km Walk (M) Final (Start) 08.10 5000m (M) 1st round 08.20 Long Jump (W) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 08.30 Javelin (W) Qualifying Round Group A 10.00 Javelin (W) Qualifying Round Group B 10.25 50km Walk (M) Final (Arrival) 18.00 10k Walk (W) Final 18.10 Discus (W) Final 18.30 Shot Put (W) Final 19.00 200m (W) Semi-Final 19.25 200m (M) Semi-Final 19.50 800m (W) Semi-Final 20.15 5000m (W) Semi-Final 21.15 110m H (M) Final

Friday 8 August

17.30 Pole Vault (M) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 17.45 Discus (M) Qualifying Round Group A 18.00 High Jump (W) Qualifying Round 2 Groups 18.45 Triple Jump (M) Final 19.05 200m (W) Final 19.20 200m (M) Final 19.30 Discus (M) Qualifying Round Group B 19.40 800m (M) Final 20.00 400m H (W) Final 20.20 4 x 100m (W) Semi-Final 20.45 5000m (M) Semi-Final

Saturday 9 August

08.05 Marathon (W) Final (Start) 10.25 Marathon (W) Final (Arrival) 18.10 800m (W) Final 18.25 Long Jump (W) Final 18.30 4 x 100m (M) 1st round 18.55 100m H (W) 1st round 19.10 Javelin (W) Final 19.15 4 x 400m (M) Semi-Final 19.45 4 x 400m (W) Semi-Final 20.15 5000m (W) Final 20.40 4 x 100m (M) Semi-Final 21.05 4 x 100m (W) Final

Sunday 10 August

08.05 Marathon (M) Final (Start) 10.15 Marathon (M) Final (Arrival) 17.30 Pole Vault (M) Final 18.00 High Jump (W) Final 18.30 Discus (M) Final 19.00 100m H (W) Semi-Final 19.25 5000m (M) Final 19.55 4 x 100m (M) Final 20.15 4 x 400m (W) Final 20.35 100m H (W) Final 20.50 4 x 400m (M) Final

The British team



Ian Mackie Darren Campbell Marlon Devonish


Doug Walker Owusu Dako Julian Golding


Iwan Thomas March Richardson Jamie Baulch


Andy Hart Mark Sesay Paul Walker


John Mayock Kevin McKay Matthew Yates


Rob Denmark Keith Cullen Adrian Passey

110m hurdles

Tony Jarrett Colin Jackson Andy Tulloch

400m hurdles

Chris Rawlinson Gary Jennings

3000m steeplechase

Rob Hough


Richard Nerurkar Dave Buzza Dale Rixon

High Jump

Brendan Reilly Dalton Grant Steve Smith

Pole Vault

Nick Buckfield

Triple Jump

Francis Agyepong Jonathan Edwards

Shot Put

Shaun Pickering Mark Proctor


Bob Weir Glen Smith


David Smith


Steve Backley Mick Hill Mick Nieland

4 x 100m relay

Ian Mackie, Marlon Devonish, Doug Walker, Julian Golding, Darren Braithwaite, Dwain Chambers

4 x 400m relay

Iwan Thomas, Mark Richardson, Jamie Baulch, Roger Black, Sean Baldock, Mark Hylton



Simmone Jacobs Marcia Richardson


Katherine Merry Simmone Jacobs


Donna Fraser Allison Curbishley


Kelly Holmes


Kelly Holmes Jo Pavey


Paula Radcliffe


Sally Goldsmith Caroline Hunter-Rowe Angharad Mair Danielle Sanderson

100m hurdles

Diane Allahgreen Angie Thorp

400m hurdles

Sally Gunnell

High jump

Debbi Marti

Long jump

Jo Wise

Triple Jump

Ashia Hansen Michelle Griffith

Shot Put

Judy Oakes


Shelley Drew


Tessa Sanderson Shelly Holroyd


Denise Lewis

4 x 400m relay

Donna Fraser, Allison Curbushley, Michelle Pierre, Michelle Thomas, Lorraine Hanson