No medal for Greene as veteran Sanchez storms to hurdles gold
06:36 GMT, 7 August 2012
After a valiant but belated charge, Dai Greene was slumped on the stadium floor, leaning on his hands, surveying his broken dream.
He had come fourth, beaten by men who for 300 metres of the 400m hurdles final were simply in another race.
The title went to the Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez, the 2004 gold medallist, with a season’s best 47.63sec. That is faster than Greene has ever run.
Sinking feeling: Greene (left) could not win a medal
This was a dose of harsh reality after
the euphoria of the glory that had gone before. Nobody could think that
Super Saturday with its three track and field gold medals could be
repeated. That was a one-off. People spend whole lifetimes waiting for
But, still, Greene’s defeat was a blow for the British contingent
because he is a talisman: champion of Europe, champion of the world and
champion of the Commonwealth. He is also the team captain, a defiant
figure who prides himself on leading from the front.
Intermittently this season he had said he was fresh and always believed
himself to be the strongest finisher. Yet America’s Michael Tinsley was
second with Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, who was previously unbeaten all
year, third. Greene had to dip for the line to pip Angelo Taylor to the
first non-medal place.
On the line: Sanchez (third left) celebrates as he finishes
‘I’m just bitterly disappointed,’ said Greene. ‘I missed a lot of
training at the start of the year because of injury. I’ve run a personal
best this year but I guess when it comes to dealing with qualification
rounds in a championship it can be tough and that’s when it finds you
out. It may have cost me the two-10ths of a second I needed to get a
‘But I’m happy with the way the last few months have gone. I couldn’t have done any more. I gave 110 per cent tonight.
‘The crowd was fantastic. All my family were here somewhere. I hope, in
my role as captain, that everyone saw I gave 110 per cent. It’s been a
brilliant Olympics and I am proud to be part of it.’
Not to be: Greene reflects on a missed opportunity
The shaven-headed Greene has been described by Lord Coe as looking as if
he has just come out of solitary confinement when he steps on to the
track. He would not have been distracted by the myriad flashbulbs that
recorded Usain Bolt’s medal ceremony as the seconds ticked by to his
He prowled along his lane, hands on hips. He was announced to the crowd.
He normally waves to them but this time he just swigged water and
stared ahead. It was business time. But, as he later admitted, he had
felt ‘tired in the warm-up area’.
The grey cloudy sky was turning black, the white triangles of the
stadium lights piercing ever stronger, as Greene settled into his blocks
in lane three. He was sandwiched by Americans – double world champion
Kerron Clement inside him and Taylor outside. The tall Culson, with that
languid stride, was in lane five.
Greene was slow starting – he is never the fastest – and was lying last
as they went round the bend. He surely had too much to do to get on
Second coming: Sanchez won the title in Athens in 2004
In truth, we knew he would struggle after watching him finish fourth in
his semi-final on Saturday night. He scraped through as one of the
fastest losers but his dejected state told of his deep fears about a
serious absence of winning form.
After that, how could we have expected more than he delivered last
night Disappointingly, he ran slower in the final, 48.24sec, than in
the semi, 48.18sec. He could not match Sanchez, who at 34 – yes, 34 –
ran the same time that won him the Olympic title eight years ago, before
breaking down in floods of tears on the podium.
Really, the road ran out for Greene long ago, except that he rightly
refused to accept the fact. He had surgery on his left knee last
December, though news of it remained a secret for months because he did
not want his rivals to know about his problems.
Because we worked together on his Sportsmail column, he told me on the
condition that I did not breathe a word. I did not. Nor did he. Malcolm
Arnold, his legendary coach, finally let the secret out. ‘I’m pleased in
a way,’ said Greene of Arnold’s revelation. ‘Malcolm would only have
said that in the press if he thought I was doing well.’ Up to a point,
Tall order: Greene left himself with a lot to do in the final 200m
Arnold’s admiration for Greene is shared by his head coach. Charles van
Commenee said, when he made him captain: ‘Dai is everything you want. He
is a brilliant athlete, has a cast-iron mindset and a good sense of
The laughter was in short supply last night but he is still a fierce competitor.
Greene, 26, immediately turned his attention to the future. ‘I’m not
ready to retire,’ he said emphatically. ‘It’s my first Olympics.
‘Four years ago, when I was watching Usain Bolt win in Beijing, I was
running 49.5sec. Look at the ages of the guys who have beaten me
tonight. I will go on to Brazil, definitely. I will come back stronger
So on to Rio 2016 and redemption.