Greene's greed for glory fed by speed

World's fastest man wants to be ranked as the greatest sprinter.
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The Independent Online

It is the custom of the tightly knit training group to which Maurice Greene belongs to hand around large cigars among themselves whenever one of their number achieves something worth celebrating.

In the course of the past four years Greene, who equalled Carl Lewis's record of three successive world 100 metres titles here, has furnished his colleagues with sufficient occasions to damage their health that it might be wise for them to consider switching to another conspicuous symbol of success in future. Sticky buns, perhaps.

From the point of view of Greene's rivals, anything which might slow him down would surely be welcomed as – despite manifesting the first significant signs of physical wear and tear this season – he drives forward at the forefront of his event.

The achievements of this 27-year-old from Kansas are now almost too many to be listed. But let us try. Triple world champion. Olympic champion. World record holder. Double world indoor champion. Clocker of 48 sub-10 second timings, and 15 of below 9.90sec – both records.

Had his left leg not failed him over the final strides, he felt he might have had a world record as well as a gold medal to show for his efforts in the Commonwealth Stadium after a race where the expected British challenge had to give way to an American clean sweep.

"I felt my left quad pop at 80 metres, and I said 'No, I'm not going to let that stop me.' Then I felt something in my hamstring, too. And I said 'No, that's not going to stop me either.' When I'm in a race like that I'm going to kill myself before I stop. If you want something bad you've got to kill for it. If I hadn't been hurt, I'll say I could have run 9.77, truthfully. But that's only speculation."

It was speculation which his coach, John Smith, agreed with. "Maurice ran a first 50 metres that was perfect," he said. "If he hadn't hit problems at the end of the race, which is his strongest part, he would have smashed the world record."

In the end, he had to settle for 9.82sec, third fastest in history behind his championship record of 9.80 and world record of 9.79. Close – but still a cigar.

Inevitably, having equalled Lewis's mark, Greene had to field questions about how he ranks in relation to the legendary Olympian. "Carl was a great athlete, so for me to equal something he's done has got to be good. I want to be known as the greatest sprinter there's been. Maybe now my name will start getting mentioned with his."

Certainly his training partner, Jon Drummond, part of the US relay squad here, was happy to do that. "Maurice is the greatest," said Drummond, whose role could be crucial now that Greene has confirmed that he will not be taking part in either the 200 metres or the 4x100m here. "You can put those statistics down alongside anyone – Jesse Owens, Bob Hayes, Jim Hines, Carl Lewis, Linford Christie. It's just based on the facts."

As Greene faltered near the line, his US rival Tim Montgomery came close to catching him, recording 9.85sec, with team-mate Bernard Williams earning bronze in 9.94. Williams afterwards described the gold and silver medallists as being in a race of their own: "We had two world championship finals as far as I'm concerned." Montgomery, who became the joint second-fastest man in the world rankings with the 9.84sec he ran at Oslo in July, felt he had lost his chance after producing the third false start of the final.

"If you are going to beat Maurice you have to beat him at the start," he said. Under the IAAF rules scheduled to come into effect in 2003, both Montgomery and Ato Boldon, who followed Kim Collins' initial misjudgement, would have been disqualified.

The British challenge, which had looked so vibrant the previous day when both Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis Francis had come through their quarter-finals with timings of 9.97sec, never materialised.

It was not hard to see why Lewis Francis was a deflated figure in comparison with the young man brimming with surprise and joy who had bucked and whooped his way past the digital clock which told him he had broken the world junior record.

The subsequent news that a faulty wind gauge had annulled the performance for record purposes simply took all the wind out of the Birmingham youngster's sails.

"I felt I got robbed of my record," he said after going out of his semi-final with a time of just 10.26, one of his slowest of the season. His preparations were not helped by the fact that officials chose to break the news to him just before he went to bed. "I couldn't believe it," he said. "To hear that before you go to your bed is heartbreaking. I slept, but not the best. How could I?"

What may cheer him once he has got over the huge sense of anti-climax which clearly possessed him on Sunday is that he has established himself as a thrilling prospect in the eyes of all who matter in the world of sprinting.

Drummond put it in his own characteristically colourful fashion. "What a talent! I don't care what the IAAF say; he is the world junior record holder. He is a top pussy."

Chambers was phlegmatic after finishing fifth in 9.99sec, although he admitted that his confidence had dipped after his semi-final performance meant he was drawn out in lane eight. "If I'm ever going to beat Maurice perhaps I'd have to run a huge personal best because he dominates, and what he does he does well. But I'm looking forward to the 200 metres now – perhaps that is the event where I can do something."

That Maurice Greene will not be lining up alongside him at any point makes that possibility a lot more likely.

LEWIS v GREENE

CARL LEWIS

(Club: Santa Monica, US)

International career: 1981-1997

World Championships: 100m gold (1983, 1987, 1991)

4x100m gold (1983, 1987, 1991)

Long Jump (1983, 1987)

Olympic Games: 100m gold (1984, 1988)

200m gold (1984)

4x100m gold (1984, 1992)

Long jump (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996)

Personal bests: 100m (9.86 sec, 1991, WR)

200m (19.79, 1988)

Long Jump (8.87m, 1991)

MAURICE GREENE

(Hudson Smith International, US)

International career: 1994-present

World Championships: 100m gold (1997, 1999, 2001)

4x100m relay gold (1999)

Olympic Games: 100m gold (2000)

4x100m (gold, 2000)

Personal bests: 100m (9.79 sec, 1999, WR)

200m (19.86, 1997)

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