Dai Greene's talked the talk, can he and his team walk the walk for Great Britain?
Tuesday 31 July 2012
Charles and Dai were packing their bags on the Algarve yesterday, getting ready to fly to London today. On Sunday night they were in the south-east corner of Portugal, rallying the troops as team leader and captain of the British Olympic track and field squad.
While the Games got into full swing back home, Charles van Commenee, the head coach, and Dai Greene, the captain, joined forces to give the traditional pre-championship address to the squad as they completed their preparations for the athletics programme, which opens in the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
"Our journey together has been hard and that is why you are such a success by being here," Van Commenee said. "No one in this room has had an easy journey."
Least of all Greene, whose typically witty, self-deprecating speech included making light of the hardships he endured early in his career as a 400m hurdler because he was an epilepsy sufferer at the time. He spoke of the difficulty he had in making training on time because he was not allowed to drive. The daily journey from Llanelli to Bath involved moped and train.
"I didn't mention it because I was looking for a tear or anything," Greene said. "I don't see it as I deserve a medal for it or anything. I was just trying to be honest and positive."
Greene had an epileptic seizure when he was in Gothenburg in 2006 on his senior debut for the Great Britain at the European Championships. Thankfully, he has not suffered one for some time.
At 26, Greene has won world, European and Commonwealth gold as a 400m hurdler. He heads for London with high expectation on his shoulders – as do several members of a largely in-form home track and field team.
It is the kind of pressure that could leave some liable to combustion. "Some people might," Greene said. "I would say it would have a positive effect on 90 per cent of people and raise their game. And 10 per cent might be negatively affected by it. I would happily take those percentages any day."
In the World Championship final in Daegu last summer Greene produced a grandstand finish to beat Javier Culson but the Swansea Harrier heads into Friday morning's heats without a win against his Puerto Rican rival this summer. "I would have liked to have beaten him," he confessed, "but I certainly got very close to him in Paris.
"I would have liked to have run under 48sec last year going into Daegu but I didn't, so there are always things you want in an ideal situation. I would rather have not had a knee operation at the end of last year as well, so I don't tend to think of things that way.
"I certainly feel as if I'm moving in the right direction. I am faster and stronger than I was three or four weeks ago. I'm very, very confident. I've done as much as I possibly can to get myself in the best shape.
"Culson has been at a set level all year. I have a lot of respect for him, but three races in four days is a bit different to a one-off in a Grand Prix."
Especially with an 80,000 home crowd roaring you on down the home straight. "I see the crowd as a massive positive for me, "Greene, a notoriously fast finisher, said. "I think people understand how I run my race and it makes a great race for neutrals. Culson is the fastest over the first five hurdles and I'm fastest over the last five. It's a good balance."
Running his mouth off: Greene's speech
"When Charles called me I thought it was bad news. Then, when he asked me to be captain, I thought Charles had picked me because I was like him… handsome, with charisma, and I also can be hard work."
"Set the bar high. Don't be content with making the team. Don't look back in ten or 20 years and think you wish you'd done things differently. Aim for your own gold medal, whatever that may be. "
"Think of Steph Twell [who failed to make the team] when you get on the start line. She is a talented and lovely girl. She wore a 2012 pin every day since we won the bid to inspire her. Think about how she would give anything to be in your shoes."
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