SPORTS

Greene: Gold medal just waiting to be picked up

LONDON – Maurice Greene has everything sorted ahead of the defense of his 100-meter title at the Athens Olympics. Everything except his start. Greene will continue the tinkering at what could be his final Olympic tune-up tomorrow at a meet in Crystal Palace, south London. After recovering from a broken left leg in 2002 and a host of injuries from a mishandled comeback, Greene said yesterday he was ready to reclaim his place as the world’s top sprinter, including regaining his world record. «The last couple of years, there were reasons why I wasn’t running the times that I am able to run because of injury,» Greene said. «I’ve always said, ‘When I lose, there’s a reason why.’ Obviously it was because I wasn’t able to execute the type of race to get those type of times. I have one little part to fix in my race, and then we will really see the times drop.» That’s his start. «The last couple of years I’ve had to change my start because of the injuries I’ve had,» Greene said. «I need to make it efficient enough for me to set up the middle part of my race, which I think is the strongest part.» Greene said he planned London to be his last individual race before Athens, but said there was a chance he could race in Zurich, Switzerland, on Aug. 6. Athens is a good omen for Greene – it’s where he set the world record of 9.79 seconds in June 1999. Fellow American Tim Montgomery holds the current record at 9.78 seconds, set in Paris on Sept. 14, 2002. Montgomery didn’t qualify for Athens. He’s also one of four sprinters charged by the US Anti-Doping Agency with steroid use. Greene said the turmoil surrounding the US athletics team didn’t affect him. «Does it shake me? No. Does it bother me? Yes, because it puts a black cloud over what I love so much, the sport of track and field,» he said. His biggest challenger in Athens? Himself. Greene has lost twice this season, to little-known Portuguese sprinter Francis Obikwelu on July 23 in Paris and to Shaun Crawford in the Prefontaine meet in Oregon on June 15. He blamed jet lag and poor technique for those losses. «That Maurice Greene character, if he doesn’t run his race, he’s going to lose,» Greene said. «If he runs his race, he’s going to be fine.» «I run faster than everyone else because I know my race, and I think I know my race better than any of my competitors know theirs. If I can be patient with the wind behind me, I could run 9.57 or something like that.» Greene, a former three-time world champion, says he’s on the verge of living up to the tattoo he got earlier this year – of a lion with the initials «G.O.A.T.», greatest of all time. «The only thing I haven’t done is to get the second gold medal. Yet. It’s waiting on me, I just have to go and pick it up.»