Greene qualifies with style

SACRAMENTO, California – Maurice Greene sent a message to his 100-meter rivals with a dramatic victory at the United States Olympic trials, helping make his case to be regarded as the greatest sprinter of all time. The reigning Olympic champion, Greene earned a chance to defend his crown at the Athens Games by surging from behind to win the 100m final in 9.91 seconds with Justin Gatlin second with 9.92 and Shawn Crawford third with 9.93 here Sunday. Three-time world champion Greene could win back-to-back Olympic 100m titles, a feat only sprint legend Carl Lewis has achieved. Lewis won in 1984 and took the 1988 title after Canada’s Ben Johnson was disqualified for doping. «I think I’ve surpassed all the people who came before me,» Greene said. «I’ve done more than they have and run faster than they have. Put all of us in our prime and I’ll come out ahead,» he added. Trevor Graham, who coaches Gatlin and Crawford, and once guided Marion Jones and 100m world record-holder Tim Montgomery, said Greene has proven his point even without an Olympic gold medal repeat. «Maurice Greene is the master of the sprints and we all know it,» Graham said. «He makes very few mistakes. He was injured last year but I never counted the guy out. He’s already the greatest, even before Athens.» John Smith, Greene’s coach, has compared Greene’s current form to his peak levels at the Sydney Olympics. «I have heard John say that this is how Maurice looked in 2000 and 2001,» said Emmanuel Hudson, Greene’s partner in guiding the HSI training group. Greene, who has struggled with injuries the past two years, has 47 career 100m races under 10 seconds. Second best with 19 such efforts is Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, Greene’s training partner. «Four years ago it was going good. The past two years were bad,» Greene said. «I’ve had a tough time coming back from everything I’ve been through. But I didn’t give up.» Greene, who turns 30 on July 23, is also trying to reclaim the 100m world record he held at 9.79 before Montgomery, now fighting a possible lifetime ban for doping, ran a 9.78 in 2002 at Paris. «The world record will come,» Greene said. Greene is also confident about the chances for an American podium sweep at Athens. «Confidence is everything,» Greene said. «If you don’t believe you can win, you won’t be able to. Now the thing is to go 1-2-3 in Athens. That’s the goal. If we all stay healthy and do our best, we can bring home gold, silver and bronze.» Greene was even more confident about his chances alongside Gatlin and Crawford in the Olympic 4x100m relay. «The only way we won’t win the relay is to drop the baton,» he said. Greene sports a lion’s head tattoo on his right arm with the mane making the letters G.O.A.T. for «Greatest of All Time,» a tag Greene claims with respect to such 100m legends as Lewis and Jesse Owens. «It takes an athlete like me to come along and surpass them. They had their time. This is my time,» said Greene, who admitted that someone from a new generation of speedsters would someday overtake him. «Until then, [I’m] the Greatest of All Time,» Greene said. (AFP)