Greene is peaking perfectly to go from pants-wetter to gold-getter

Hurdler confident of taking 400m title today to help ease disappointments so far for British favourites
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was on the playing fields of Pen-y-gaer primary school in Llanelli that Dai Greene lined up for his first race. "It was school sports day, year five against year six, the big sprint of the summer," he recalled. "It was a hot summer day. I was on the start line, getting really nervous, really anxious, and I wet myself.

"I'm standing there with shorts on and it's flowing down my leg. The guy next to me notices and I'm like, 'Nah, nah, it's just sweat.' I tried my best to pass it off but by the time I'd run it was everywhere."

For the record, it was not a winning run. "I think third or fourth," Greene said. Still, 15 years on, the former nerve-ridden, pants-wetting novice stands to end Great Britain's losing streak on day five of the World Championships in Daegu today.

As Greene concurs, he lines up as "the man to beat" in the 400 metres hurdles final. Last year the Swansea Harrier was a winner thrice-over on the international stage, prevailing at the European Championships in Barcelona, the Continental Cup in Split and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. This summer he has sparkled on the Diamond League circuit, winning impressively in Lausanne and Birmingham, and in Tuesday's semi-finals there was the distinct glint of golden promise in his highly assured stride.

When the eight finalists line up, at 1.30pm UK time, don't expect an overflow of jitters from the man wearing number 441 in lane six. At 25, Greene has matured into a professional performer held up by Charles van Commenee as "a model athlete with a model attitude". According to Britain's hard-to-please Dutch coach, Greene is "a unique spirit – the sort of person who can actually deliver in the moment it's required".

If the "unique spirit" delivers a winning run in his Great Britain vest today, it will be a moment to cherish for both Charles and for Dai – a golden moment to ease the disappointments of the silver medals for Mo Farah and Jess Ennis.

Greene is not quite the clear favourite that Farah was before the unheralded Ibrahim Jeilan pounced in the home straight of the 10,000m (and prior to his appearance in the 5,000m heats in the early hours today), or that Ennis was before Tatyana Chernova suddenly fulfilled all of her hitherto stifled youthful heptathlon potential. He does, however, appear to have timed his seasonal peak to perfection under the guidance of Malcolm Arnold, the guru behind Colin Jackson's World Championship 110m hurdles successes of 1993 and 1999.

"I know I'll have the confidence in the final," Greene said. "I hope the semi-final sent a message to the other guys. Perhaps they'll realise I'm the man to beat. There are a lot of guys running close, so it's tough, but I've beaten them all at some point of the season. I'm confident of doing it again when it matters most."

The most likely threats to the Welshman are Javier Culson, the 2009 silver medallist from Puerto Rico, and Bershawn Jackson, the 2005 world champion from the United States, who goes by the name of "Batman". "I'm not sure if he gave himself the nickname," Greene said, "but he looks like a bat with his pointy ears."

As a more than useful left-winger, Greene played football for Swansea City's youth, scoring a penalty against Real Madrid. He is an epilepsy sufferer, with his goal now a gold medal in Daegu – with or without setting a British record.

"I don't really care about that," he said of Kriss Akabussi's patently vulnerable national mark 47.82sec. "I'd rather run 49.1 and win."

Pick of today's action

11.20am: Women's triple jump final Britain's Yamilé Aldama will be one to watch as she competes for her third country. The Cuban-born 39-year-old has also represented Sudan, but has lived in London for 10 years and is married to a Scot.

1.30pm: Men's 400m hurdles final With double Olympic champion Angelo Taylor looking out of form, Dai Greene's chances of gold are looking strong