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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
How Greene nearly walked away
By Tom Fordyce

Maurice Greene smiles
Greene has his sights set on Olympic glory

When Maurice Greene steps to the mic, you expect fireworks.

Think heavyweight boxer before a title fight, or hip-hop superstar pushing his new album.

At his news conferences, you can play Mo Greene bingo, and tick off a list of phrases as he comes out with them.

"I'm the best!" - "When I'm good, nobody can touch me" - "I come to win, nothing else" - "I'll go under 10 seconds, you bet your house on it!"

Ahead of Friday's Norwich Union London Grand Prix, it was initially business as usual.

When I asked him what he felt he had to do to justify the new tattoo on his right bicep - G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) - he reared back in his chair and launched into his spiel.

"What do I have to do? What haven't I done, that should be the question.

I want to finish on top - I don't want to go out number three
Maurice Greene

"I believe I have surpassed all the sprinters before me. No other sprinter has been ranked number one for as many years as I have, they haven't run as fast as I have as many times as I have.

"What do you consider the greatest of all time? What does that person have to do?

"If they've surpassed everyone before them, would you consider them the greatest of all time?

"The only thing I haven't done is get the second Olympic gold medal - yet. But it's just waiting on me - I just have to go pick it up."

So far, so good - just what the promoters of Friday's event want, and perfect for the waiting journalists.

The Mo no-show

But then something strange happened.

Mo, the man who calls himself PhenoMonal, and who has a tattoo of lion's head on his arm ("because the lion's the king of the jungle, and I'm the king of the track"), came over all reflective.

Asked about how he felt watching Kim Collins take his World crown in Paris last year, the braggadocio disappeared.

WHO'S THE 100M GREATEST?
Carl Lewis raises his fist
Carl Lewis
2 Olympic 100m golds, 2 Olympic 4x100m relay golds, 3 World 100m golds; broke world record by 4/100ths of sec
Mo Greene
1 Olympic 100m gold, 1 Olympic 4x100m relay gold, 3 World 100m golds; broke world record by 5/100ths of sec

"I was hurt and disappointed," he said.

"After that, I just totally got away from track and field. After the Worlds, I went home and didn't talk to my manager, my coach, I hardly talked to my team-mates.

"I just totally got away. I didn't look at track and field on the internet or anything - I didn't know what was going on with our sport.

"From August until the end of October, I didn't do any training.

"I said, okay, I'm going to take some time out. I visited my family, my friends, things I haven't be able to do.

"My family is very close - we always have picnics at home in Kansas - and we got to spend time together."

On the brink

Greene's problems began when he crashed his motorbike on a Los Angeles freeway at the end of February 2002, breaking the head of the fibula in his left leg.

The world at large knew nothing about it. But the injury almost ended Greene's career.

"I try not to think about it any more," he said, suddenly quiet and humble.

"When they first told me I had broken it, I was like - 'No, you're lying!' "I sat in my house all weekend, thinking, 'This can't be true.'

If you want to be number one, you have to train like you're number two
Maurice Greene

"I had to let it heal - running in a swimming pool, and then getting on the track a month before the US Trials.

"I won those, but when that winter I tried to do a lot more hard workouts, everything went downhill.

"Working as hard as I was, other problems occurred. I developed tendonitis and knee-tracking problems.

"My manager, doctor and coach were saying, you gotta take a break, but I was saying - 'No - I gotta work.'

"I've always believed that if you want to be number one, you have to train like you're number two.

"If you train like you're number one, you have no place to go.

"You have to work more than anyone else - but with that, my body developed problems."

Greene limped out of the Worlds in Paris at the semi-final stage, and his reign as world number one seemed over.

But that three-month break last autumn has left him a sprinter re-born, the favourite to take gold in Athens and become only the third man in history to retain a 100m Olympic title.

"I needed that break, to clear my mind, get away from anything. I had to get healthy," he said.

"I like to prove people wrong. A lot of people have said I'm not able to do a lot of things, and they've had to retract those statements.

"I want to finish on top - I don't want to go out number three, or down in the places. I'll get my world record back."




SEE ALSO
Greene shrugs off drug talk
28 Jul 04 |  Athletics
Greene loses in Paris
23 Jul 04 |  Athletics



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