Greene peace! After a winter of disrespect, British hurdler settles row with Americans
21:30 GMT, 30 May 2012
Bershawn Jackson has been nicknamed Batman since he was nine.
Something to do with his over-large ears flapping like a cloak when he ran.
Now, because Batman attacked him during a winter of disrespect, world 400metres hurdle champion Dai Greene is known among his training group as The Riddler.
Calm before the storm: Dai Greene is in Rome as his build-up continues
On Wednesday, when Batman met his nemesis face to face for the first time time since last year’s World Championships, peace was declared, a misunderstanding accepted and Batm
an paid tribute to The Riddler.
‘I feel no ill towards him. He’s a great competitor, the world champion, the best man in the world that day. I have great respect for what he accomplished,’ said Jackson, the 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medallist.
Greene came under attack from Jackson following his perceived criticism of American 400m runner LaShawn Merritt, who will run in London 2012 after completing a drugs ban. But Greene was gracious in response. ‘I have a lot of respect for the Americans in the 400m hurdles. They have been the dominant force in the last 10 to 15 years,’ he said.
So peace has broken out in Gotham City
Greene added: ‘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 them off. They’re the most successful nation in the 400m hurdles in recent years. I’m not stupid, I know that. But I don’t come here to make friends.’
Rivals: Bershawn Jackson(left) and Greene will go head to head in London
On Thursday night in Rome’s Olympic Stadium the world’s best hurdlers meet for the first time this year — 68 days before the race that matters in London.
Jackson, this year’s No 1 Javier Culson, 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez and world bronze medallist Louis van Zyl are all in the mix, and Greene might as well be wearing a target. He will be clad for the first time in a special black and gold kit that Nike has created exclusively for the world champions they endorse.
Last year Greene came to Rome with the intention of running fast and taking scalps to ‘impose’ himself. He won in 48.24sec but barely improved all year. This year he has been programmed by veteran coach Malcolm Arnold to build more gradually towards a peak in London. Greene said: ‘If they want to run really fast now, that’s fine. This time last year here there was a guy who’d already run 47.66 (Van Zyl) and he finished behind me at the world champs.’
Write caption here
Greene’s opener in Rabat last Sunday was timed at 48.96, and he lost to Sanchez. ‘Last year I didn’t improve too much during the season. I’m trying to change that this year. I’m starting off a bit slower, but that should lead, hopefully, to a greater peak at the start of August, when I need to be at my best,’ said Greene.
‘I know if I also don’t win in Rome people will say, “Why hasn’t he won, he’s the world champion”, but that doesn’t really matter. Everyone will remember what happens in London.
‘Times don’t mean too much at this stage of the season, and the winners of these sorts of races are quickly forgotten. I realised that a couple of years ago. No matter how fast I was running outside the majors, it didn’t mean anything until you actually won the medals. When you train in the winter, you don’t think, “Oh, I can’t wait to win in Rome”, or wherever. You think, “I want to win in London at the Olympics”, that’s what gets you through. Everything else is just a stepping stone on the way.’
Best of British: Greene's medal collection is only missing Olympic gold
Greene has won only three races in 13 against Jackson but has beaten Culson in seven out of 12 and Van Zyl in eight out of 13. What matters to all of them is that one of those Greene wins was in the World Championships.
Rome sees a turn-out of many of Britain’s Olympic medal contenders. World Indoor triple jump champion Yamile Aldama competes where she set a stadium record of 15.29m in 2003, when she was a stateless athlete.
Tiffany Porter, a winner in Ostrava last Friday, hurdles against Olympic champion Dawn Harper, and joint British long jump record holders Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson face Olympic and world silver medallist Godfrey Mokoena.