Greene caps a great year to banish memories of Melbourne hangover

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The Independent Online

The Commonwealth Games have not always been kind to Dai Greene. Four years ago he was overlooked for selection for the 400m hurdles but travelled to Melbourne as a member of the Welsh 4 x 400m relay squad. "The day of the heats I got woken up by the team manager, saying, 'You won't be running here'," the Swansea Harrier recalled. "We had only four in the squad and one of the other boys had got injured. It really, really pissed me off."

Having already been told by the same Welsh official that he would not be good enough to make the British team for European Championships that year, it was little wonder Greene saw red. "It was like a double kick in the teeth," he said. "I felt angry at the Welsh squad for not seeing my potential. I was devastated. I went out for a run and just belted it for 15 minutes so I could get some of the anger out. Whenever the bar opened in the athletes' village I went there and drowned my sorrows there for the next three days."

Which made the moment all the more intoxicating when the Welsh reject of the 2006 Games cleared the last flight in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here last night, held off the challenge of Louis van Zyl, the winner in Melbourne, and added the Commonwealth 400m hurdles title to the European crown he won in Barcelona in July. It was the first gold for Wales in any sport at these 2010 Commonwealth Games, and it came with the bonus of a bronze for Greene's training partner, Rhys Williams.

Four years on from the heartache of Melbourne, Greene came to Delhi as a member of the global elite of track and field, the only one of the four British athletes ranked in the world top six to consider these XIX Commonwealth Games worthy of attention - unlike Jessica Ennis, Phillips Idowu and Perri Shakes-Drayton. With a nation's expectation pressing on his shoulders, all the more so following Nicole Cooke's disappointing fifth place in the women's cycling road race earlier in the day, the 25-year-old Llanelli man duly delivered a gold for Wales.

He crossed the line 0.11sec ahead of Van Zyl in 48.52sec. Compatriot Williams, the son of the great Welsh and British Lions rugby union wing, JJ Williams, finished third in 49.19sec, adding a major championship bronze to the European silver he won behind Greene in Barcelona.

No sooner had Greene managed to clutch a Welsh flag than the sound of Tom Jones and "Delilah" came blasting out over the public address system. Far from the green, green grass of home, this was one corner of a far flung foreign field that belonged to Cymru last night.

"I knew Van Zyl was really close to me," Greene said, "but I felt sure I had the extra gear to go to. If I'd been in that situation a few months ago I maybe would have crumbled, but given everything I've done this year I felt unbeatable out there today. It was brilliant. I enjoyed every second of it."

It has been a vintage track season for Greene, who in a previous sporting existence scored a penalty for Swansea City against Real Madrid in a youth team tournament. At the European Championships in Barcelona three months ago he won ahead of Williams in a lifetime best of 48.12sec. At the Continental Cup in Split last month he recorded the fastest winning time in the re-branded World Cup since Ed Moses in 1981.

That 47.88sec clocking put him within 0.06sec of the British record set by Kriss Akabusi at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. "I've never met Kriss," Greene said, "but he texted me after the Continental Cup, saying, 'David Greene? Close but no cigar'. But then he went on to say lots of positive things. He said I've come across really well on television and he would be pleased for the record to go to me. He said that it's only a matter of time."

With his victory here last night, Greene followed Akabusi into the record books as only the third man to complete the Commonwealth and European 400m hurdles double. Akabusi achieved the feat in 1990. Alan Pascoe did so in 1974.

Greene is not one to get wrapped up in history. He was aware, though, that no Welsh athlete had ever won the Commonwealth title in the one-lap hurdles. "It's nice to be the first to do it," he said. And all the sweeter after the bitterness of Melbourne?

"There are different people involved in the team management now," Greene said. "I wouldn't change what happened back then. I wouldn't change the experiences I've had, because they've made me the person I am today. I'm a better athlete because of it and also a better human being off the track. The same goes for when I run on the track. I feel stronger because of the setbacks I've had. Mentally, I'm a lot tougher. Maybe I wouldn't have progressed as much as I have if I had been rewarded with success back then."

Might the Welsh reject turned hero be rewarding his success here by hitting the bar in the athletes' village, this time in celebration? "The drinking age is 25 in India," he said, with a golden grin. "I'm 24, so that might prove to be a problem."

Medals table

1. Australia: 61 Gold; 38 Silver; 37 Bronze; 136 Total

2. India: 29 Gold; 22 Silver; 22 Bronze; 73 Total

3. England: 26 Gold; 45 Silver; 32 Bronze; 103 Total

4. Canada: 22 Gold; 12 Silver; 25 Bronze; 59 Total

5. South Africa: 11 Gold; 11 Silver; 9 Bronze; 31 Total

6. Nigeria: 8 Gold; 7 Silver; 11 Bronze; 26 Total

7. Malaysia: 6 Gold; 7 Silver; 7 Bronze; 20 Total

8. Kenya: 64 Silver; 4 Bronze; 14 Total

Correct at close of day seven

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