- 23 Sep 2000
- Sydney 2000
Gold for Greene in 100m blue riband
Failure can be a great inspiration. In 1996, sprinter Maurice Greene had watched the Olympic 100m final in tears after failing to qualify for the Games. He vowed to himself that he would raise his standards and never again miss out on an Olympics as long as he was competing.
So he changed his training schedule, moving from his Kansas home (he was known as the “Kansas Cannonball”) and relocating to Los Angeles. He joined a new group of athletes and came under the wing of coach John Smith.
Sure enough his results began to improve – at first gradually and then very notably. Greene was rejuvenated and went on to win first the national championships, and then the world title. A year before the Olympics, he set a new world record time of 9.79 seconds, matching the mark set by the disgraced Ben Johnson.
He was most people's favourite to win the 100m title in Sydney, even though his form in the months leading up to the Games had been slightly patchy. He strolled through the first round, sped up slightly to qualify from the quarter-finals in a leisurely 10.10 seconds, and then found himself paired with training partners Jon Drummond and Ato Boldon in the semi-final. All three qualified for the final, but it was Greene who won the race in a time of 10.06 seconds.
The prediction was that the gold medal would go to an athlete running sub-10 seconds, and that was to be proved correct. For the first half of the race it was hard to see which athlete would burst forward to seize victory, but then Greene began to emerge from the pack and extended his lead until the finish. He crossed the line in 9.87 seconds, with Boldon second in 9.99 seconds. Obadele Thompson of Barbados took bronze to become his country’s first Olympic medallist.
Greene and Drummond then joined forces to help the USA win gold in the men’s 4x100m relay. Greene ran the final leg with ease, inheriting a two-metre lead and simply running the baton home, unchallenged. “The other guys baked the cake and I just put the icing on,” he said afterwards.
Greene suffered a string of injuries after Sydney, but returned to the Olympics in 2004 and took a bronze medal, running the exact same time of 9.87 seconds that won him gold four years earlier.