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Ex-champ Greene hopes to make U.S. team

Source: www.wcsn.com

22 May 2007
By Robert Falkoff

Maurice Greene was once the undisputed king of the sprinters.

He was the gold medalist in the 100 meters at Sydney in 2000, a three-time world champion and the world record holder in his feature event. If Greene was in the 100 meters field, everyone knew he was the man to beat.

The good times rolled as Greene made his mark on the national and international scenes while serving as an enthusiastic ambassador for the sport of track and field. But then other young sprinters came along, and injuries took a toll on Greene. The king vacated his throne as people like Justin Gatlin and Asafa Powell captured the 100-meter spotlight.

Greene was gone. Or was he?

As the 2007 outdoor season begins to swing into high gear, Greene is back in the public eye and insisting that he can work his way back to the top of the 100-meter charts. His appearance at last weekend's Adidas Track Classic in Los Angeles revealed just how far he has to go. Greene, making his first outdoor appearance in the 100 since May of last year, was last in his heat at 10.84.

Some might conclude that race provided a not-so-subtle message that Greene's comeback bid just two months shy of his 33rd birthday is not realistic. But Greene didn?t go into the Adidas Track Classic expecting miracles, and he vows to be ready for the U.S. Nationals in June.

After training for just two weeks and joining the Adidas field as a late addition, Greene did not come close to qualifying for the finals. He talked about a need to build back strength in his legs so that he can show the power thrusts that once took him to sprinting glory.

"It's time for me to get back out there, get my competitive juices going," Greene said. "I'm going out there to have some fun."

While finishing last in a qualifying round is certainly no fun, Greene entered this long-range mission with eyes wide open. After missing most of the 2006 season with a hairline fracture in his foot, Greene knows it will take time and plenty of hard training to approach top form.

"My main focus is to get ready for nationals," Greene said. "To go out there and really put on a show at nationals."

Greene decided last fall that he wanted to shoot for one more Olympic experience. He left the 2004 games in Athens with no gold medals after winning two in 2000 (100 meters and 4x100-meter relay).

Although he took home a bronze medal in the 100 and a silver in the 4x100 relay at Athens, that Olympics left a void. Greene wants to make up for it in Beijing.

"That's going to be the final topping to my career," Greene said. "I think I'm missing one thing in my life right now. That's my other set of gold medals. I believe I should have gotten it in Athens. But due to my mistakes, I didn't achieve that. So now, I must go get that in Beijing. I'll go and get what I feel is rightfully mine."

Greene had originally planned to open his outdoor season in Osaka but pulled out of that meet while recovering from dental work.

"I had my wisdom teeth pulled, and it got infected," Greene said. "It kept me out of training for two to three weeks."

With a consistent stretch of training, Greene expects to get increasingly stronger as the summer wears on.

"I've got to just knock out the cobwebs," he said. "I would say by the time the world championships come around, I could be in world record form. That's what we're gearing for."

Greene said he weighs 183 pounds and would like to be "180 or under 180" for the major competitions.

The naysayers might think Greene's attempt to ultimately catch and pass Powell or Tyson Gay seems like a pipedream. But Greene, who holds the American record in the 100 at 9.79, sounds confident he'll enjoy a last hurrah in a celebrated sprinting career.

"I know what I'm capable of if I'm healthy and strong," Greene said. "I know I'm capable of running faster than I ever have."

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