WRITTEN FOR TEAM 2012 VISA (ON MARCH 17TH)
Having firmly established himself in the past year as a hot contender for 400m hurdles glory in 2012, Dai Greene is in confident mood as he looks ahead to the summer where he hopes to gain the official world number-one tag, writes Nicola Bamford.
Taking European and Commonwealth gold in 2010, the 24-year-old made a major impact on the global scene and now the Welsh wonder intends to use this year’s campaign as a launch-pad to realising his Olympic dream in London next year.
After closing in on Kriss Akabussi’s 18-year-old 47.82 British record with a scintillating 47.88 mark whilst claiming the IAAF/VTB World Cup in Split, Greene not only took the scalp of World-leader Bershawn Jackson but he also went to a promising sixth on the global rankings for the season.
Such a performance was all the more impressive considering it was only Greene’s second year as a consistent international performer, but after capturing the continental (48.12) and Commonwealth (48.52) crowns in Barcelona and Delhi, respectively, he was inevitably on a roll – and fortunately, still is:
“I started back in training in November and it’s been going very well,” Greene explained.
“I went out to South Africa with the UKA camp and it’s still going well. My fitness feels ahead of this time last year so I’m very happy and I’m enjoying training.
We’ve been making some changes to raise my heart-rate more by using fartleks, which are increasing my early-year fitness and speed – I’m now more competent over the barriers.”
Training in Bath under the tutelage of coaching legend Malcolm Arnold, Greene is indeed a different athlete to the man who failed to make the 2008 Team GB Olympic squad and it will be unnerving for his rivals to hear that there are still tweaks to be made to his armour even following an imposing 2010.
A ten-time national medallist over the years, Greene is a perfectionist who will be more than keen to improve on seventh from his last World championship appearance when he lines up in Daegu, South Korea later this August.
Although he lost his fierce rival, European silver-medallist Rhys Williams to the group in the autumn, Greene is fortunate to have a plethora of talented stable-mates to work out with, including Jack Green (5th in the 2010 World junior 400m hurdles final), Tasha Danvers (2008 Olympic 400m hurdles bronze), Eilidh Child (2010 Commonwealth 400m hurdles silver), Jack Meredith (2010 World junior 110m hurdles bronze), Andrew Pozzi (2010 England indoor under20 60m hurdles gold) and Lawrence Clarke (2010 Commonwealth 110m hurdles bronze).
“It was disappointing to see Rhys go, as he was great to train with and worked hard,” Greene revealed.
“I’m never the best in the group in training apart from running to hurdle ten - I enjoyed being pushed by him and wish him all the best.
It’s a good atmosphere and a really good training environment – Malcolm’s very happy with the quality of the group.”
Having been part of the set-up since 2009, the former European under23 champion is full of praise for the man who has steered him to unprecedented success in such a short space of time:
“We’ve learnt a lot about each other – he keeps me honest and is a very good person to have around,” he explained.
“We trust each other and decisions are 50/50, though I normally get my own way
especially after our success in the last eighteen months.”
Confident of Gold
A player for Swansea City FC in his youth, Greene is knuckling down to hard graft in the UK before heading for Italy in May for a spell of warm-weather training.
Ahead of opening his eagerly-anticipated outdoor campaign, the modest athlete believes such a trip is key to building his confidence and performance level before his first appearance of the summer at the Loughborough international in late May:
“The aim is to be running a lot faster, a lot earlier this year and hold my form to the World’s,” Greene revealed.
“I’ll do a 4x400m relay leg in Loughborough and do the European Team championships (in Stockholm in June) and the UK championships/World trials (in Birmingham in July).
“I want to do as many IAAF Diamond Leagues as possible in 2011, as I need to be involved to lower my times against world-class opposition. The time I ran in Split will be needed to win the World’s.
Taking gold gets me through training every day – I know I have the potential. If I don’t win but give my best performance, then fine, I can’t be disappointed but I really want to win, not just get a medal.”
With a packed competitive season ahead, Greene is keen to recognise the support he receives from UK Sport and Athletics:
“If I have a problem, I can always see the doctor or physiotherapist etc straight away so funding’s a big help,” he explained.
It’s nice to know the support’s there when it’s needed. I’m sure I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
And where he is now is right in the driving seat of a journey headed straight for London 2012, a venue - judging by his current form and rate of progression - which could reward him with a very welcome golden prize.
“It’s great we’re having the Olympics,” Greene revealed.
“It’s good to inspire the children and it’s the greatest thing as an athlete to run at home.
I’m a very laid-back character and after having lived to expectations (to win gold) twice last year, I’m more confident – two traits which go well together and which will help me deal with the situation.
I’m aiming for gold, there’s no reason why I can’t – I’ll be at my prime age so everything bodes well.”