The 400 metres hurdles is so much about rhythm and consistency that a stuttering Dai Greene’s build-up to a World Championship title defence in Moscow has looked on decidedly rocky ground.
A double hernia operation over the winter was the first major setback and, having grafted to get back to full form and fitness, he has looked completely bereft of any sort of speed in his last two races.
At the European Team Championships in Gateshead, he was beaten by Silvio Schirrmeister, most likely the biggest scalp in the career of the German, who finished only fourth in his heat at last summer’s Olympic Games. Worse was to follow when Greene was well adrift in fifth place at the Diamond League meeting in Birmingham. Those anomalies have been explained away by a virus, which blood tests showed the Welshman was carrying, and he promises that normal order will be restored when he lines up for the final of his event at the Sainsbury’s British Championships back in Birmingham tomorrow.
“I want to show that what happened in Birmingham was not the usual me,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be back to business as usual.”
The rhythm and consistency that were such a strong part of his 2011 season, which was capped by his brilliant gold at the World Championships in Daegu, have been missing. The 27-year-old has yet to win a race in 2013.
“Up to this point, the season has been relatively low key and, hopefully, I can be relatively competitive in the next two races,” he said. “It’s a different environment to two years ago when I competed for the whole season.”
Going under the radar and being unheralded is not unheard of over the longer hurdles. Felix Sanchez produced very little of note last season before recapturing the best form of his career to win Olympic gold. As a result, Greene believes a successful world title defence remains a very realistic goal.
“I am not really worried,” he said. “I’ve trained really well. I’m confident it will come in the next few weeks in the build-up to Moscow. I am expecting myself to be in good shape.”
This evening Greene won his heat in Birmingham with ease, stepping off the gas after the final hurdle to come home in 50.51sec. Rhys Williams, the European champion, was the fastest qualifier in 50.37.
The highlight of last night’s action was 35-year-old Dwain Chambers running a season’s best of 10.06 in winning his 100m heat with ease. The time, set in beautiful conditions, was inside the ‘A’ qualifying standard for Moscow and victory in the final tonight would guarantee Chambers a place on the plane.
“I don’t know where that came from,” said Chambers. “It eases the pressure a little bit. I seemed to be having issues earlier in the season with getting this qualifying time, but thank God I’ve got it and hopefully I can perform better tomorrow.”
Now only James Dasaolu, who has run 10.03, has gone quicker and even a second-placed finish behind him in the final should be enough to earn Chambers a spot at the World Championship.
“I’ve still got a little bit of fire in the old belly and will try and defend [my national title] as best as I can,” he said. “This is my second home, man. I’ve always had great success here.”