Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony
Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion in the space of 13 months, but then the injuries crept in
Monday 28 July 2014
A “For Sale” sign stands outside the Wiltshire home of Dai Greene. It typifies how sport can be cruel.
It was the property bought for him and his partner Sian and the couple’s two Vizsla dogs, a nod to the success he had enjoyed from 2010 to 2012. He was World, European and Commonwealth champion in the space of 13 months and, inevitably, the sponsors came calling.
However, then the injuries crept in. First his knee went and he had to undergo surgery in the winter leading up to the Olympics. He still managed good results but, come London, Greene did not have the stamina to add the one title he needed to complete the set.
Worse was to follow when he suffered a hernia injury the following winter and underwent surgery in March 2013. The operation was effectively a disaster, a litany of problems following in the ensuing year.
“It’s meant to be a simple operation, a quick fix,” he explains. “Two weeks later you’re back running, in six weeks it’s full training. There’s a weightlifter who competed at the Olympics three weeks after the operation, there are guys playing two weeks after being operated on.”
Greene returned to training but the problem never went away so he had further surgery in October. That did not rectify the problem so in December he travelled to Germany for a third and, it would seem, final operation.
“That was to repair the hernia and remove the mesh put in from the first operation, which is effectively attached to the muscle so it doesn’t tear again,” he says. “That mesh had frayed and interfered with the nerves, and was causing a lot of pain.”
In March of this year, he was finally back running, although the issues were not gone. Arriving at a training camp in South Africa, he complained of pains in his legs, and was found to have blood clots on his hip. He admits there was a growing sense of feeling cursed as it seemed every time he got up he got knocked down again by another medical issue.
“My mum always says it’s character building but it’s long past that now,” he says. “It’s just been a very stressful time. It’s like someone sticking the knife in and then twisting it. I was left thinking, ‘When will it all end?’”
Greene has decided to let the matter of the botched first operation lie rather than pursue it further. As he says, “It’s not going to make me feel any better. Sometimes you have successes in surgery and sometimes not.”
But no running has meant no wins and hence a reduction in prize-money and also sponsors. His Nike contract has a number of clauses based on performance, while his current deal with Red Bull is drawing to a close. It has led him to put his house up for sale.
“There’s massive implications on my life,” he adds. “I can’t afford to live in that house now. It’s frustrating as everything was going so well, and it wasn’t huge sums of money but I have to be realistic and look ahead. I have to be realistic and look six or seven months ahead before I get in a sticky situation.”
Greene arrived in Glasgow on Friday, attending the second night of the swimming as a welcome to the Games. Prior to that, he has been an honorary member of the Scottish athletics camp, based at their holding camp with his coach, Malcolm Arnold.
The fact the 28-year-old will even be on the start line for the heats of the 400m hurdles on Wednesday – admittedly not in the shape he would like to be – is a feel-good story for a Wales Commonwealth Games team bedevilled by failed drugs tests and athletes pulling out with injury.
A few months ago he believed he had no chance of being at the Games and he knows he could have turned his back on the season altogether but that is not his modus operandi. “I’m not going to sit at home and watch people run,” he says. “This is what I know. I’m really enjoying being back running and being healthy.”
As a result of his aforementioned problems, there are no real aspirations of a medal. Such is the competitive nature of the Commonwealth field in the 400m hurdles, with strong entries from Jamaica and South Africa in particular, just making the final would be an achievement. If anything, the European Championships in Zurich next month, if his body holds together, is a more realistic medal target.
He is adamant that whatever happens in Glasgow and Zurich he will get back to the top of an event he once dominated, and is using the example of Christine Ohuruogu to do so.
“Look at her, she was world and Olympic champion in 2007-08 and then had a few injury problems but she got right back in the frame in 2012-13,” he says. “I look at her and think I can do the same. I need to keep working hard. Things will get easier.” It is said with both hope and expectation.
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