Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Dai Greene (August 2015)

(Born 11/4/86) His best time for the 400 hurdles up to 2015 was 47.84 in Paris in 2012

DAI GREENE, is an impressive hurdler and, he reminded me a bit of powerful and strong hurdlers like Rex Cawley (USA), the 1964 Olympic gold medallist and, even more so John Cooper of GB. I interviewed both of them in Tokyo at the Olympics of 1964. That was after seeing their Final. Cooper gained the silver medal in the 400 hurdles & 4x400 relay for GB.
          Dai has already achieved a great deal World, European and Commonwealth Gold medals but like most athletes, who compete at the top level, he has had injuries that have curtailed his progress at times.
As I write this in August 2015, I realise Dai Greene, at 29, has a lot left in the tank for achieving future success at his event. I met Dai after his 400 hurdles victory in the English Championships, which was combined with the CAU Inter-Counties at Bedford on the 2nd of August, 2015.
He won his heat in 50.77 and then in the final, running for his club Swansea, he had a comfortable victory in 50.26 with Paul Bennett (Cardiff) 2nd in 52.66 and Sean Adams (Southampton) 52.77 3rd.
After not being selected for the World Championships he must have been pleased with his efforts at Bedford, as it was so close to the announcements of the teams to go to the World’s. He still came back quickly and, anyone could see what a good competitive hurdler he was, reinforcing his feelings about the event?
“It is nice to be back competing. A couple of races in a couple of days. Obviously not the season I forsaw at the start of the year but, I love competing that is why I am here in the weekend doing some good competition to try and run a seasons best for me. I am happy with two solid performances. It has been a good weekend.”
When did he first start running?
        “I used to run a lot at school. When I was growing up I was a footballer but I would always do the 800m, the sprint hurdles and the high jump. A weird combination but that was what I always used to do.’
That was his strength showing at an early age
        “When I got to the Under 17’s they drafted me into the 400 hurdles. It seemed to be a natural fit. When I went to University UWIC at Cardiff I fell in with the right crowd in terms of training and, found people trained every day. I then went from training twice a week to six times a week and stopped playing football, really knuckled down and quickly developed from there.”
Which race in his life probably gave him the most satisfaction and that he enjoyed the most. That would be any time in his life so far.
       “I think as junior. I went to the European Juniors and I did not really know much about athletics. I came second in the final and ran a Big PB for myself (51.4 in Kaunas, Lithuania). From that moment on I realised I could actually be really good at this, if I applied myself, and pursue it as a career by the time I finished Uni.’
       “Probably, the next biggest race, after that, was winning the Europeans in 2010 (In Barcelona in the European Championships 1st for GB Dai Greene 48.12; 2nd Rhys Williams (GB) 48.96; 3 Stanislav Melynkov (Ukraine) 49.09).’ That was the first time I had won anything. I ran a huge PB and, a huge amount of emotion that went along with that sort of journey. The competitions that went after that were easier, purely because I had been in that position before so, I knew what to expect
‘That first time was the one I won’t forget.’
He won a World Championship in 2011. (13th IAAF World Championships Daegu, South Korea-1st Dai Greene (GB) 48.26; 2 Javier Culson (Pur) 48.44; 3 L J Van Zyl (SA) 48.80.)
          “Although that was amazing, I knew, going into it I was one of the favourites, and I knew if I gave it a good race I could get a medal. Having gone through that before at the Euros, the Commonwealth and other competitions I was a lot more assured of myself by the time I got to Daegu in 2011. It was the Europeans in 2010 that turned me from a good athlete into a well known international athlete I would say.”
In the 2012 Olympic Final in London he was fourth but one place ahead of Angelo Taylor of the United States, who had won the two previous Olympic Finals.
When you look at that fact, it must have been quite satisfying to beat someone of that stature in the Olympic Final.

        “It was a tough year it was. I was always chasing, as I had started training a bit late. As a result my peak in the summer was not as I would have liked.
‘I found it harder to sustain my form and by the time we got to the Olympics I could not have asked for a better result. I applied myself really well, executed a good race. It was not to be sadly but, I had had a very, very good last few years. I was never going to give myself a hard time about being able to get into that final.’
‘I think many people would not think I would get that far or run that fast, given the issues that had gone on. (First six:- 1 Felix Sanchez (Dominica) 47.63; 2 Michael Tinsley (USA) 47.91; 3 Javier Culson (PUR) 48.10; 4 Dai Greene (GB) 48.24; 5 Angelo Taylor (USA) 48.25; 6 Jehue Gordon (Trinidad) 48.86).
           The year before I was very keen to find Angelo Taylor, as he had done so well with his 2 Olympic gold medals and, Felix Sanchez, told me the hotel he was staying at which was not where the rest of the athletes were.
He was a fantastic hurdler and very relaxed looking!

      “He was very, very fast on the flat. I could never get his sort of speed. When ever I would race him, I would always expect him to be up on me or past me by hurdle 3 or 4. Then it was just trying to chase him down in the rest of the race.
He is talented. He got a 400m flat World Championships medal as well and beaten some really good guys. That was when the guys were running 43’s quite a bit as well. (Angelo ran 44.05 in 2007. He was 3rd in the flat 400 in 44.32 in Osaka, Japan in the World Championship final). Dai comes in again “He did really well to qualify for the America team and get a medal in Osaka. America has a very good pedigree of athletes and they always run incredibly well”
           I knew David Hemery very well and Akii Bua beat him in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Akii Bua seemed to go berserk in the home straight and forgot his hurdling rushing to the finish at a fantastic rate, that threw the rest of his opposition out. He was in Lane 1 too which really was really impressive.
I asked Dai if he was going to continue with the 400 hurdles as he was still only 29.

           “It is the event best suited to me. In relative terms you can do the 400 hurdles for a long time. Felix Sanchez, the Olympic Champion, is 34. Bershawn Jackson, who is running incredibly well this year (2015) and he is a few years older than me (32). It is an event that favours practise, practice, practise. I would  like to go for another 4 or 5 years at least.”
          Felix Sanchez is an unusual guy, who sometimes comes even last in international Grand Prix’s etc and suddenly when the Olympics come up he gains the gold medal, for the second time too?
Is it mental relaxation?

         “I don’t know. Some people apply themselves doing more in a season than others.
In his case he is not so much bothered during the season and only really cares abut the major Champs. He has done so many smaller competitions in his time, circuit meets and it does not really bother him, if he is running poorly, at that point because, he knows that he is trying to prepare for the majors whereas other athletes might want to show their dominance before coming into London. I had beaten Sanchez by nearly a second about three weeks before.
In the London Olympics he got half a second on me. Quite a turn around it was. He is a fantastic athlete. He just got it right that year, everything spot on at the right time. (Sanchez also won the  Olympic title in Athens in 2004).
          I said to Dai that he appeared to me to be a determined and strong looking athlete who did not give much quarter to his opposition.
‘I find myself working hard. My philosophy is that everyone who makes the Olympic or World Final is talented, that separates them from the rest. For me it is ticking the box and doing the hard work. I feel I have made a few changes in the last year, which will benefit me going into next winter, relocated. Changed coach and things like that and hope that will lead to a good scenario for me. Benke Blomkvist from Sweden is my coach. I have only worked with him for a few months now. Malcolm Arnold used to coach me for 4 or 5 years. I was getting a few problems down in Bath. It was not so much the training more the support network and everything. I thought I needed a change.
I had a few bad years and, had a negative association with the place but I needed a change to freshen up. It has been good for me mentally, to have a change of environment.’
He appeared to have a good idea of what he was up to training-wise himself!
‘Yes I have a big hand in what I am doing training-wise and a good sense of how I am feeling and things like that. I am looking forward to the Winter. I am in a better position to how it was last winter that is a good thing.”
Who did he admire of the Great hurdlers of the past.
“I have met David Hemery. Obviously he seemed to have pushed the event on at that time (1968 first 3 in the Olympic Final in Mexico 1. David Hemery (GB) 48.1; 2 Gerhard Hennige (FRG) 49.0 John Sherwood (GB) 49.0) Dai continues ’At that time he also, did a lot of distance work and also sprint hurdling as well. He was technically very good’
I have learnt a lot from Malcolm, as he was my coach for so long, so obviously I admire Akii Bua, in the circumstances he was training in. What he achieved was fantastic and Kriss Akubusi who did incredibly well. (Olympic Final in Munich 1972, 1 John Akii-Bua (Uganda) 47.82; 2 Ralph Mann (USA) 48.51; 3 David Hemery (GB) 48.82)  
Kriss Akubusi (4x400 anchor leg in gold medal 4x400 for GB plus Commonwealth & European 400 hurdles Champion in 1990) Dai said then- ‘Akubusi was always on a level playing field at that time, dare I say it. He was incredible and very passionate about the event. All of them have helped me with offering their advice I am always happy to take it”.

Peter Hildreth, Ex-Broadcaster, writer and Ex-international high hurdler who died a few years ago was a very close friend of mine and, he was such a ‘Great’ fan of David Hemery. He unwittingly helped in Akii Bua’s preparation for the Games by telling Malcolm that he thought David definitely would win the 1972 Olympic Final and showed Malcolm, Hemery’s training splits prior to the Games. That  was a help to Malcolm in his coaching of Akii Bua but obviously Peter shot himself in the foot with his enthusiasm for a Hemery victory!’
“It is an interesting event and there are many different ways to do it but hard work is the main ingredient for anyone.”

Alastair Aitken

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