Rewind a year, and Dai Greene is sat in discussion with his coach, Malcolm Arnold, at the pre-Olympic holding camp in the Portuguese sunshine mulling over his chances of being fully competitive for London 2012 following knee surgery and a two-month delayed start to his winter training.
Back then, the pair's consensus was that Greene could arguably do with another week to prepare for the biggest event of his career and so it proved as he finished a tenth of a second outside the medals in fourth in the 400 metres hurdles.
There is a sense of déjà vu for coach and athlete as they prepare for the World Championships in Moscow, starting on Saturday. Double hernia surgery in March had been enough of a setback after an indifferent indoor season and now Greene is battling back from a calf tear, which happened following his victory at the national championships but news of which has only emerged this week.
It has left his title defence not quite dangling by a thread, more by the muscle fibres of that damaged calf, and Greene genuinely has no idea how he might fare.
He will either test himself over the hurdles for the first time since picking up the injury today, at the holding camp in Barcelona, or on Friday in Moscow, hardly the perfect preparation for the start of his competition on Monday morning.
With such a precarious build-up, setting targets for the championships – bar being patched up sufficiently to run – has not been high on the agenda. "We haven't really thought too far forward, to be honest," he says. "We've just been trying to get on top of it on a daily basis, to try and get back to running, back to sprinting. I won't know exactly how it feels until I start running on the Monday.
"We'll see how it reacts to a full race and I want to give it the best shot I can. It's not ideal preparation. I could be 100 per cent when I step on the start line and, hopefully, I won't have lost too much in the last few weeks. I've been doing all sorts of other training.
"But we haven't let ourselves look realistically at what we can achieve because we don't really know. It's very much leading into the unknown, we haven't thought forward to what we'd be happy with.
"The aim here is to try and defend my title and, with regard to the injury, we've just been focusing on that. Hopefully, I'll be fine when I get there and I know I've got the ability to get to the final and be competitive so, hopefully, it's still there for me."
A medal, let alone a title defence, now appears a hard task. Already he had seemed up against it on the track, lacking racing in his legs and with a best time of 48.66sec this season – set at the trials but nearly a second off the time of his final Olympic warm-up race in Paris a year ago.
But Greene argues: "I could have run a lot faster than 48.66 if I'd been in a race that was a lot more competitive. I didn't get the opportunity to show that in the following weeks, so the truth is we don't really know how fast I could have gone at that time."
Whatever his level of fitness, Greene insists he will make it to the starting blocks for his heat in the Luzhniki Stadium. Even at his lowest ebb with the injury, he points out: "I was always going to be on the start line and give it my best shot. I've never felt I was that bad that I was going to pull out. It was just how much prep could I get in before going there – that was the only question really."
Between now and the race every training session– which will include running, aqua-jogging, weights and cycling – is vital for him as he tries to make inroads into an event dominated this season by the American Michael Tinsley, who took silver at the Olympics.
Greene had hoped London would be the race that defined him. His gold medal at the Worlds in Daegu in 2011 had truly put him on the global stage. The plan was for London to take it to another level.
It was not to be and he admitted to shedding a tear in the bowels of the Olympic Stadium following his fourth place. Prior to London he had undergone as much as five hours of treatment a day just to get fit for the event. So the disappointment of not getting a medal spurred him on afterwards.
"I used it as motivation during the winter months, through those grey days," he says. "But I don't think about it too much now, I don't really want to think back to London too much."
The danger is that Moscow could provide a repeat low, although the injury is relatively minor in comparison to the one last year, merely flaring up at the worst point imaginable. Perhaps the one bonus is he goes in to the championships as an underdog and thus less closely watched by his rivals.
Despite that, Greene is still hopeful he can get himself back to the top of the pecking order. "I know that when I'm at my best, I'm up there with them and, hopefully, I'll be at my best next week," he says – perhaps more in hope than expectation.
'Athletics facing its lance armstrong moment'
Dai Greene has warned that athletics is heading towards its own Lance Armstrong moment but, like cycling, it will come back stronger as a result.
Greene has been outspoken in his anti-doping attitude in a sport still reeling from the failed drugs tests of Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, as well as ongoing doping anomalies in Russia and Turkey among other places.
"Cycling had its horrible moment for a few years and it culminated with Lance, and athletics seems to be heading the same way," said Greene. "But cycling came out the other side of it and is big in the UK, is doing well and that is all forgotten. So, hopefully, athletics comes out stronger from all the negative press it's getting at the moment."
Asked if he felt athletics was indeed having its own Lance Armstrong moment, he added: "It could be. Who knows? You wouldn't be surprised, given the last few months, if there were even more chapters to the story. Until your are 100 per cent confident every athlete is clean I don't think enough is being done."
Powell has blamed his own positive doping test on supplements he was given by a personal trainer, but Greene said that blaming a positive sample on supplements was no excuse.
"It seems to be all too common an excuse and people have to be responsible for what they take. It's an easy cop-out trying to say it was contaminated or you didn't read the label properly. You can get tested any day; it's so silly to think, 'Oh, I'll just buy this and I'll be fine'."
Matt MajendieReuse content