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Archive for Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Commentary: Greene could use dose of humility

August 4, 2004

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— It takes a humble athlete to get the word "GOAT" tattooed on his arm.

Unless, of course, you're talking about sprinter Maurice Greene, for whom GOAT, written within the mane of a lion, means "Greatest Of All Time."

"Hey, it's all about GOAT," Greene said after winning the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials in track and field in Sacramento, Calif., in July. "Greatest Of All Time. What more do I got to say?

"Not to take anything away from the sprinters before, they were good. They were great . . . But it takes an athlete like me to surpass them."

Greene, a 30-year-old native of Kansas City, Kan., likely is the only person who thinks he's already done enough to be called the best ever.

Not to make light of his accomplishments. Greene is the reigning Olympic champion in the 100. He has won three world championships in the 100 and is a former world recordholder.

But when you think of historic American sprinters, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens and Bob Hayes come to mind before Greene.

And if you go beyond the U.S. borders, you will hear the names of Canada's Donovan Bailey, Great Britain's Linford Christie and the Soviet Union's Valery Borzov.

That's not to say Greene can't work his way to the top of the list. He is the most accomplished sprinter of his generation and has more opportunities for success.

If his current run of success continues in Athens, Greene will join Lewis, who won in 1984 and 1988, as a repeat champion in the 100. He has, however, shown vulnerability recently. He finished second to Jamaica's Asafa Powell in the London Grand Prix meet on Friday. It was the third defeat of the season for Greene and second in two races.

With world championships in the 100 in 1997, 1999 and 2001, Greene already has joined Lewis as the only three-time winner in that event.

Tim Montgomery lowered the world record to 9.78 seconds in 2002, but U.S. Anti-Doping Agency attempts to ban him for life after admitting under oath that he used a designer performance-enhancing drug bring the legitimacy of his record into question.

Greene, who held the world record from 1999 to 2001, has three of the four fastest 100s in history -- 9.79, 9.80 and 9.82 -- so, clearly, he is capable of regaining the record.

"I've done it time and time again," Greene said. "You can't say that I've had just one or two lucky races.

"Tim has the world record. I hope he enjoys it while he has it. He knows he's not going to have it long.

"I've told my coach, when I run 9.6, I'll retire. The reason is that I don't think I can go faster than that. The world record will come to me. I'm looking for perfection."

Many people were convinced that after his disappointing seasons in 2002 and 2003, Greene's days of running fast were behind him.

A string of disappointing finishes dropped his world ranking in the 100 to ninth, and some competitors changed his nickname from "Mo" to "Slo-Mo."

What wasn't known -- until May, in fact -- was that Greene had fractured a bone in his left fibula in a motorcycle accident in 2002.

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