Dai Greene shoots of recovery

Welsh hurdler believes this is the season when he can return to the top after four years of injuries

Matt Majendie
Saturday 20 June 2015 17:20 BST
Dai Greene has undergone a change of focus and is again ready to mix it with the best in the world
Dai Greene has undergone a change of focus and is again ready to mix it with the best in the world (Getty Images)

Dai Greene is used to getting over hurdles but, for the last four years, it has been far from the manner in which he might have wished.

After his winning World Championship gold in the 400 metre hurdles in 2011, there was talk of him completing the title set at the Olympics, having previously enjoyed European and Commonwealth victories. But instead, the intervening years have involved injuries, botched operations and relocating 120 miles from training in Bath to Loughborough. Amid it all, though, an unwavering belief has remained.

A one-time medal banker for Great Britain, who won world, European and Commonwealth gold in the space of two stunning seasons, he has almost become the forgotten man of British athletics.

“I don’t think too much like that,” he says. “I truly believe I can mix it with the best in the world. I just need to get fit and healthy again and put it together.”

Greene is once again a late starter in terms of races this season. But this time the injury is not thought to be serious, a calf problem, which he brushes off as “a small thing”, meaning his 2015 campaign will not get underway until the British Championships in two weekends’ time.

Previous campaigns have proved much more perilous. London 2012 turned into a race against time with a knee problem that failed to heal, while a series of hernia operations, in which Greene believes errors were made, meant 2013 and 2014 were virtual write-offs.

“There was never a point though where I thought I’d jack it all in,” he says. “It did get to a point where I’d get back from training and I was like, ‘I don’t want to be here any more’ because I was having so many recurring problems and injuries. OK, there were glimpses of hope every now and again but really I knew I was struggling the whole time.

“There were probably one or two days when I came back really disappointed about how I was training – or wasn’t, in fact. I wasn’t enjoying it and was getting more depressed. And that’s where I felt the need to change my environment. But I never once thought about stopping.”

So he begun conversations about the future. With his partner, Sian, with his athletics friends and with British Athletics performance director Neil Black. Using them as a sounding board he concluded that he needed to end his long and successful association with Malcolm Arnold, who is pretty much the doyen of British athletics coaching.

“I was really nervous about going to talk to him as Malcolm’s been so good to me,” Greene says. “He’d been like a father figure for the last five or six years and I wouldn’t be around without his support.

He need not have worried, though: “Malcolm was very good about it all. He was very understanding that I needed to make a change and that it’s my career.”

Greene’s change of focus has seen him go back to his former coach, the Swede Benke Blomkvist, and relocate to the British Athletics hub at Loughborough, where the likes of James Dasaolu and Adam Gemili do the bulk of their training. It has led to him to selling the dream house, a converted barn in Melksham, Wiltshire, that he had envisaged as a family home for him and Sian.

In a small group of athletes, he has teamed up with William Sharman and David Omoregie. A decade older than Omoregie, who is tipped to become the next big thing in British hurdling, Greene, who turns 30 next year, is made aware of his age. “When I say do you remember that and he says he wasn’t even born, that makes you feel a bit old,” he says. “But I feel experienced not old. I genuinely feel like one of the younger athletes.”

The Welshman, a promising footballer in his youth, is confident he can get back to his peak, with the target this season being the low 48 second-mark or else high 47. “I don’t need to do lots of hurdling before I get to the start line, so I’m confident I can start well,” he says. “Bar this calf niggle, I’ve had a great winter.

“I just want to show people that I can run well, that I’m back. I don’t want those good few years to look like it was flukey. I think a PB is really possible [his best is just two hundredths of a second outside Kriss Akabusi’s British record of 47.82 seconds].”

In his quest to get to that point, he regularly uses the example of Christine Ohuruogu, world champion over 400m in 2007 and Olympic champion the following year who then endured years of injury misery before getting back to the top spot at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. “I take inspiration from people like Christine,” he admits. “Hopefully, I can do something along those lines and show people I’m still a very good athlete.”

Were he to get back to the top, it would give the sport some much-needed positivity after the allegations against Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp. Greene has been outspoken on doping but having seen the fall-out from the Panorama documentary there is an element of sadness.

“What it’s done is overshadow some amazing performances by the likes of Dina Asher-Smith and Adam Gemili,” he adds. “But I appreciate it’s an important issue and I’ve always said things will get worse in the sport before they get better.”

Greene remains hopeful about his future and that of the sport. Now he just needs to get running.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in