Rhys looks to upstage Dai in a Welsh hurdles one-two

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The Independent Online

It has happened here before. A big Welsh favourite beaten to the gold by a training partner in a major championship hurdles final in the magnificent Montjuic Stadium.

Back in 1992 Colin Jackson finished down in seventh place when the Olympic 110m hurdles crown was on the line. Mark McKoy, the Canadian who trained alongside him in Cardiff under the direction of Malcolm Arnold, upset the odds and snatched the title.

Eighteen years on, Dai Greene lines up favourite for the 400m hurdles on the penultimate day of the European Championships tonight. The Swansea Harrier has been the clear leader of the continental rankings all summer. If he hits the home straight in front, though, it is a fair bet that he will be shooting a nervous glance over his shoulder. Rhys Williams, blighted by injury since his bronze medal-winning performance at the last European Championships in Gothenburg four years ago, has been making up for lost time pretty fast.

The Bridgend man was the fastest qualifier from the first-round heats, clocking 49.35sec. Williams was the second-fastest in Thursday's semi- finals, winning his race in 49.61sec, while Greene prevailed in the other in 49.48. A British one-two to match that achieved by Mo Farah and Chris Thompson in the 10,000m would appear to be on the cards – a one-two for Wales and for Arnold, as both men train at Bath University under the veteran hurdles guru's guidance.

But will there be another turning of the tables in Barcelona by one Arnold charge over another? "Of course Rhys is going for gold," Williams' father said yesterday, bemused that there might be any doubt in the matter. J J Williams has major-championship experience himself as an athlete: before he became a great whippet of a rugby union wing for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, he competed as a sprinter for Wales at the Commonwealth Games in 1970. He reached the quarter-finals of the 200m, finishing seventh in a race won by Don Quarrie, the Jamaican who was Olympic champion at the distance in Montreal in 1976.

"Rhys is peaking at the right time," JJ added. "He's beaten the defending champion, Periklis Iakovakis, twice in the rounds, so he's ready to go and win the gold. He's confident that he's going to win, Rhys is. It won't be through lack of trying, that's for certain."