Greene is keen to get Britain off to a flying start

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is fair to say that the most rapidly rising star of British athletics has yet to truly make a name for himself. Nobody was quite sure what to call the man who was selected in the British squad yesterday for the 400m hurdles in the inaugural European Team Championships at Leiria in Portugal. Was it David, Dave or Dai Greene? "David's my name, but Dai's kind of my nickname in Wales," he said.

Make a note, because the chances are we will be hearing a lot more about the 23-year-old Swansea Harrier. British 400m hurdlers made a habit of getting the team off to a flying start in the opening event of the European Cup, as the annual two-day competition was known until it was re-branded this year as the European Team Championships – and the form book suggests that Greene (right) will be following in the winning footsteps of Alan Pascoe, Kriss Akabusi and Chris Rawlinson in Leiria next Saturday.

Competing in Prague on Monday night, at the Josef Odlozil Memorial Meeting, the young Welshman improved his personal best time for the one lap hurdles from a decent 49.53sec to a world-class 48.62sec. In the process, he jumped from 18th to sixth on the British all-time performance list for the event, just behind Pascoe's best of 48.59. He has also shot to sixth place in the world rankings for 2009 – almost a full second clear of the next fastest European athlete, Periklis Iakovakis, of Greece, an Olympic finalist in Beijing last year and the reigning European champion.

Only three British athletes are placed more prominently in the global order of merit this year: Jessica Ennis (ranked No 1 in the heptathlon), Mara Yamauchi (No 2 in the marathon) and Phillips Idowu (No 5 in the triple jump). Of those only Idowu will be part of a team that also includes the Olympic 400m champion, Christine Ohuruogu – who will be dropping down in distance to contest the 200m – and the two British winners from the European Indoor Championships in Turin in March, Dwain Chambers and Mo Farah.

So there will be great expectations on Greene's shoulders when he lines up in his Great Britain vest. "It's great," he said, relishing the prospect. "A few weeks ago I couldn't have imagined being in this sort of position leading in to the European Team Championships. I've got high expectations of myself. I want to win. If I perform like I did this past week there's no reason why I can't take the victory."

Greene won the European Under-23 title in 2007 but his progress – like that of his Welsh compatriot and training partner, Rhys Williams, the 2006 European Championship bronze medallist – has been held back by injury. Now, though, the former Swansea City youth team footballer is starting to realise his potential under the direction of Malcolm Arnold, the coach who moulded Colin Jackson and John Akii-Bua into world record-breaking hurdlers.