Green looks to emulate gold medallist Akii-Bua


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The Independent Online

If Jack Green can run as confidently as he talks then British athletics fans can prepare to celebrate an unexpected medal at next summer's London Olympics.

It could even be gold, according to Green, who is 20, largely unknown in sporting circles but whose development in the 400 metres hurdles, arguably athletics' most punishing discipline, has been impressive in 2011.

So much so that Green predicts at London 2012 he could emulate John Akii-Bua, the 400m hurdles gold medallist from Uganda who came out of nowhere to stun the sporting world at Munich in 1972.

Green said: "My coach, Malcolm Arnold, was a friend of John Akii-Bua. I never met him but I feel as if I have. His story is a fantastic one and it is an inspiration.

"Hopefully, I could be the next John Akii-Bua, the guy who came from nowhere to suddenly drop an amazing time, a world record, to win the Olympics.

"That is why I would not rule out me doing well (at London 2012) because people wouldn't have said John Akii-Bua would have done well coming from Uganda, running 47.8secs and winning the Olympics from lane one. Stranger things have happened.

"Last year I went from 50.49 to 48.98 and I'd say that was a pretty long way in athletics terms. It's exciting, but I don't care about times next year. I want places, medals, titles."

Green is a world junior 400m hurdles finalist who was persuaded by world champion Welshman Dai Greene to join him in Malcolm Arnold's stable at Bath.

Green had been set to go to Nebraska University in the USA at the end of 2010, but Arnold's environment has been perfect for his education.

The Kent athlete now trains alongside Greene, Olympic bronze medallist Tasha Danvers, Scottish record-holder Eilidh Child, Commonwealth bronze medallist Lawrence Clarke and Commonwealth finalist Rick Yates under a coach in Arnold who has been to every Olympics since 1968.

The improvement has been tangible, Green making the semi-finals at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea,

There he met his idol, Maurice Greene, the 100m Olympic champion from Sydney, who provided Jack with his most potent Olympic memory.

"He is my inspiration," said Green, who was talking at an event to celebrate Aviva's 13-year association with athletics. "I was lucky enough to meet him in Daegu.

"I like to think my confidence is similar to his. The way he strutted about. I try to model myself a bit on that. I think I've always wanted to be a 100m runner."

Green is also a big fan of Ed Moses, who transformed the 400m hurdles event, winning gold in the 1976 and 1984 Olympics and triumphing in 122 consecutive races.

"You have to be a student of your sport, especially in the 400m hurdles where it is all about experience and knowledge," said Green.

"Moses completely changed the event. Being a physics graduate he changed all the stride patterns and was unbeaten for 10 years. Anyone who is unbeaten for 10 years at any level deserves some credit."

Green walks with a swagger and while his exuberance and honesty is precocious, it is endearing rather than irritating.

Has he dreamed of standing listening to the national anthem with the gold around his neck at London 2012?

"I definitely have," he admits. "It's not going to happen unless you believe in it and visualising yourself is part of that. I have visualised myself on that podium a few times."

If you think that sounds like a man with psychological training then you would be right. His mum, Nicola, is a school learning mentor with the aim of raising pupils' esteem.

Green said: "I think maybe she gave me a little too much confidence. I was obviously the experiment but it kind of went all Frankenstein on her."

At which point he demonstrates the 'monster' she has unleashed by revealing he had been flicking through Olympic stats to discover America's Angelo Taylor was the youngest 400m hurdles champion in 2000 at 21.

"Now I'm 20 and still will be at London 2012," Green said. "I think that is set up nicely, in my opinion."