Greene back on Olympic road after bike accident

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The Independent Online

To judge by Maurice Greene's bullish behaviour yesterday, F Scott Fitzgerald got it wrong about there being no second acts in American lives.

To judge by Maurice Greene's bullish behaviour yesterday, F Scott Fitzgerald got it wrong about there being no second acts in American lives.

At the age of 30, the man who will retain the Olympic 100 metres title in Athens next month - that is in his own boundless estimation - has returned from the twilight into which even the best eventually journey.

Having recovered fully from the motorbike accident that effectively undermined his last two seasons, Greene has won the US trials and is so sure he will run under 10 seconds at tomorrow's Norwich Union Grand Prix at Crystal Palace that he announced, in the swaggering manner of old: "You can bet your house on it. And if you do, I want half ..."

Greene has already shown he enjoys running at the South London venue which has been renovated this year. On the old track, he set the current UK All Comers' record of 9.97sec five years ago, and ran only one hundredth of a second slower there the following year.

That Greene is back to sub-10-second form is bad news for tomorrow's field of Olympic 100m rivals, who include the British trio of Jason Gardener, Darren Campbell and Mark Lewis-Francis, as well as the world champion, Kim Collins, of St Kitt's and Nevis.

Yet such is Greene's momentum on the approach run to the Greek city which, as he so justly observes, is "very historical", that he scarcely acknowledges any of his likely opposition there. Asked which of his rivals might trouble him next month, he responded: "That Maurice Greene character. If he doesn't run his race he's going to lose. If he does, he'll be fine."

As he sat, smiling and relaxed, in front of the press, his new tattoo - incorporating the acronym Goat, standing for Greatest Of All Time - exposed by his cap-sleeve T-shirt, it was as if we had all been transported back four years to the time when he had just become Olympic champion. But as Greene went on to reveal, there have been occasions in the past couple of years when his habitual ebullience has been replaced by something perilously close to introspection.

After four global titles, the first of which came in Athens at the 1997 World Championships, Greene's career took a tumble in February 2002 when he broke his left leg in a motorbike accident.

"When the doctor I saw first told me I had broken my leg, I said, 'No, you are lying'," Greene recalled. "I couldn't see my own doctor until Monday." His second appointment confirmed the diagnosis, although the blow was softened when he was advised that if he had had to break his leg, doing so high on the fibula was the best place in terms of being able to recover swiftly.

Greene recovered swiftly enough to win that year's US Championships, but later suffered back, knee and ankle problems. The following year he set out in defence of his world title in Paris, but limped out of the semi-final with a pulled quad muscle. After taking a two-month break he returned to defend the title he won in Sydney.

He also returned to a domestic sport convulsed with scandals. On Tuesday, the Crystal Palace meeting lost one of its main draws in Marion Jones, who has been drawn into the turbulence created by the federal investigation into the Balco lab in California. She said she preferred to prepare for the Olympics in the relative peace of her home town of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Greene regards Jones's plight with sympathy, saying: "If they had any evidence they would have charged her by now."

He is fervent in his defence of the three fellow members of the Los Angeles-based HSI management group facing doping charges - world 100m champion Torri Edwards, sprinter Mickey Grimes, and hurdler Larry Wade, one of his best friends. Despite the apparent evidence to the contrary, he claims that every member of his management group would pass a test for anything they have taken in the last five years.

Nothing appears capable of diminishing the brash persona this privately quiet character has reclaimed in recent months.

"If you win a second gold medal ..." someone began. "If?" Greene queried, with a twinkle. "When you win a second gold medal ..." the questioner continued, obediently. We shall see soon enough whether his confidence is well-founded.

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