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Talkative Greene finally gets his record

Talkative Greene finally gets his record
By Gene Cherry (Reuters)

16 June 1999 - Raleigh, North Carolina - For years Maurice Greene has been talking about putting American sprinting back on top.On Wednesday the voluble 24-year-old 100-metre World Champion did what he confidently believed he would, erasing Canadian Donovan Bailey's 35-month record with 9.79 sprint in Athens.

When he won his world championship crown on the same Athens track two years ago his coach Jim Smith described him as "A diamond in the rough." Now the rough edges have been smoothed away.

"I've always wanted to be the number one sprinter, always," Greene said early in his career. "When you talk about sprinting now, people think about Carl Lewis. I want them to think about Maurice Greene," he said.

Reminded that those were some heavy shoes, Greene, who finally gained notoriety by defeating Lewis in a 1995 Texas meeting, responded: "I'm capable of wearing them."

Greene has been ranked number one for the last two years, having also grabbed the world indoor 60-metre record on the way. This after advancing only to the quarter-finals of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. A genuine showman, who loves big crowds, he has steadily gained confidence while training daily with Trinidadian world 200-metre champion Ato Boldon in Los Angeles.

"We're going to take this sport where no one has gone before," he said last month. "It's going to be like four or five years before we even get to our maximum potential."

Born in Kansas City, Greene never attended a four-year college like many American athletes. He started running when he was eight years old and remained in Kansas City with his high school trainer, Al Hobson, until 1996 when his father drove him to Los Angeles to work with Smith, the world 440-yard record holder.

"I felt there was time for a change," said Greene, dubbed the Kansas City Comet. "I knew the coach to go to was John Smith. No one has the credentials that he has, no one has produced the athletes that he has.

Once in Los Angeles, "we took my race apart....from the first step to the last step," Greene said. "We figured out the things I was doing wrong and he told me some more things that I can do to run faster."

Smith predicted Greene would run 9.7 one day.

"I once gave a talk in Budapest," Smith said. "The theme of my speech was No Limit. And there is no limit where he can go."

Greene, who had a wind-free lifetime best of 9.86 seconds before Thursday's world record, achieved his greatest glory only after he stopped talking about it. For months he and Boldon promised almost daily that the world record would fall to one of them. Earlier this year Greene said that had to stop. If the mark fell it would be "a beautiful thing" but "I can no longer chase the record."

Now he promises to seek victories at both 100 and 200 metres at Seville 's World Championships to live up to the number plate on his Mercedes -- MO GOLD.