It could have been Gotham City, rather than the Eternal City. It was in the basement room of a Roman hotel that Batman came face to face with The Riddler yesterday.
Given the recent history of antagonism between the pair, sparks – and the odd Kapow! – were expected to fly. Rather disappointingly, the meeting ended with the arch-rivals standing side by side, smiling together for the cameras.
Both were keen to set the record straight on the eve of their 400 metres hurdles encounter at the Golden Gala meeting in the Stadio Olimpico tonight – starting with Bershawn Jackson on the subject of how he came to be known as Batman.
"I got called that name since I was nine years old because I have big ears and I fly when I run," the 29-year-old American said. "It stuck with me ever since."
Dai Greene, the Welshman who flew to the World Championship 400m hurdles title in Daegu last summer, later explained that he came to be christened The Riddler when Jackson hit the headlines with a verbal attack on him last month. "We were training in Portugal at the time and we just had a laugh about it," he said. "I was dubbed The Riddler and the rest of the group had nicknames too. Malcolm Arnold, our coach, was The Penguin. "
It was something of a riddle that Batman Jackson had turned on Greene in the first place, on the basis of what he supposed the Swansea Harrier had said about US 400m hurdlers at the medallists' press conference in Daegu.
"Greene said we were overrated," Jackson claimed. "It's going to be really difficult for him in his country to stop the Americans from coming and sweeping up in 2012. He wrote a cheque that he can't cash and I'm coming. You're going to know I'm in the race.
"I'm upset about it and hope that the other Americans are upset about it. If they're not, I'm going to remind them when it comes to press conference time. Now you got to stand up to what you said. Now you have a target on your back."
So had Greene packed his chequebook for his first meeting of the year with Jackson, the 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist? The Welsh Riddler laughed at the question. "We'll see whether that materialises in London," he said.
For the record, Greene did not in fact accuse his American rivals of being "overrated" at the post-final press conference in Daegu, as reference to the YouTube video of it confirms. What he actually said was: "The Americans haven't really been dominating on the circuit this year... It is nice to see fresh faces on the scene... people who aren't just American for a change. It just shows that the rest of the world is catching up."
On stage at the meeting HQ hotel here yesterday, at the Golden Gala preview press conference, Jackson was asked about "the polemics" between himself and Greene, who was sitting at the other end of the table.
"The media are making more than what it is," the Miami native replied. "There's no grudge between me and David Greene at all. I think he's a great competitor. He's the world champion."
As for Greene, on stage he spoke of his "huge respect" for American 400m hurdlers and smiled and posed for the cameras with Jackson. Sitting in the lobby, out of the hurdling Batman's earshot, he reflected: "When I first read the story I was obviously a bit disappointed that I'd been misquoted. I don't want to be seen as the athlete who just slags the Americans off.
"They're the most successful nation in the 400m hurdles in recent years. I'm not stupid; I know that. It's interesting what they have to say about me but I'm not too bothered, if I'm honest.
"I guess it doesn't bother me if people find me nice or not nice. I don't come here to make friends. I'm always courteous to them, I always congratulate them when they beat me, but I guess how they perceive me is up to them – as long as they see me as a good competitor and someone who stands for high morals in sport as well. That's why I was a bit concerned originally at the story of me just slagging them off for being overrated when they've been world and Olympic champions in previous years."
It perhaps rankles with some Americans that Greene has been such a strident critic of LaShawn Merritt, the Olympic 400m champion who fell foul of the drug testers because of a male enhancement product. "Everyone knows how I feel about it," Greene said. " I'm just proud to say that I do it clean. I'm all for people speaking out and getting rid of drug cheats. It lowers the sport, sadly."
It was Merritt's successful fight against the International Olympic Committee's one-Games bar on returning doping offenders that prompted the fall of the British Olympic Association by-law, paving the way for Dwain Chambers to compete at London 2012. As it happens, Chambers will also be in action here tonight – not lining up in the 100m, against Usain Bolt, but in the 4x100m relay.
It will be his first relay appearance for Great Britain since the European Championships in Gothenburg in 2006, when Darren Campbell famously refused to share a lap of honour with him.
Riddle me this: What's in their nicknames?
Batman vs The Riddler
One is Bruce Wayne, a crime-fighting hero who keeps Gotham City safe from such evil types as the other, the puzzle-loving alter ego of one Edward Nigma. One has been played by such luminaries as Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney and Christian Bale. The other, most famously, was played by Jim Carrey. Neither, so far as anyone can tell, is much cop over the 400m hurdles.
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What's coming up...
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Philippa Savage The Australian rower has been dropped from the Olympic team after falling out with team-mates. Savage, 31, was dumped on the eve of the World Cup regatta. "The incompatibility was affecting the crew's preparation and performance," Rowing Australia performance director Andrew Matheson said.Reuse content