World 400m hurdles champion Dai Greene is looking forward to the challenge of a top-class field in Birmingham and insists the times will come
He might have gone to Gateshead as pre-race favourite for the 400m hurdles, but Dai Greene could have done worse than his eventual second-place finish as he continues his return to competition following a double-hernia operation.
The European Team Championships offered what was only his second race over the barriers this season, and although the world champion admits he wasn’t expecting his opposition to run quite so fast, he acknowledges that things like that have a chance of happening when you’re a couple of months behind schedule.
The 27-year-old went under the knife in March and ran 48.81 on his return to action at the Rome leg of the Diamond League series. Although ultimately disappointed with his 49.39 clocking last weekend he says taking on a top-class field at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix – Birmingham on Sunday will be a more accurate test of where he’s at.
“I was caught napping a bit technically,” explained Greene. “It just goes to show that I have missed a bit of training and the technical side of things is improving but to be caught out as I was is a stark reminder that I need to keep focusing and stay on point.
“I’m looking forward to running this weekend. It’s nice to run a race so close to the last one, I can try and make amends for what happened.”
Having a reduced amount of speed endurance work under his belt has meant the final stretch of Greene’s races are suffering, but the hurdler is confident it’s nothing that time and hard work can’t solve.
“Because of the timing of my operation it’s meant I had to delay when I could do my speed endurance stuff,” he says. “The tail-end of my race isn’t as strong as it needs to be. The only way you get better at it is by training hard. I’m probably six to eight weeks behind schedule so I’d like to think that at the start of July the times will start to come down a bit.
“It’s no big deal,” he adds, “because I know that it will come in a few weeks, every race should become easier.”
Greene, who finished fourth at last summer’s Olympics, will line up alongside the likes of London 2012′s top three - Felix Sanchez, Michael Tinsley and Javier Culson – at the seventh meet of the Diamond League series in Birmingham, and that, he says, will offer a true test.
“I do find it easier to run in the bigger races against the top guys because I know I’ve got to be at my best so it will be interesting to see how I go in Birmingham compared to Rome,” he comments.
“There’s some very good athletes there, the fastest in the world this year,” he adds, with Olympic silver medallist Tinsley fresh from victory at the US Championships with a 47.96 world lead. “I’m looking forward to testing myself against them because if I’m not racing the top guys you can never really tell when you’re at.”
With the IAAF World Championships in Moscow looming, the reigning world champion is confident his has time on his side, both with regards this year’s ultimate aim and his future in the sport.
“I am confident because I know that I’ve got time to improve,” he says. “I know that when it comes around to Moscow I’ll feel lot more confident knowing that I’ve competed against these guys below-par and I think I’ve got quite a bit of time I can drop this season.”
As conversation turns to the career of 35-year-old Sanchez, he adds: ”What I would say is that with the 400m hurdles, the more you do it the better you get so it is an event that you can be successful at quite late on. A lot of the guys at the moment are probably around the 30 mark and they are running very well.
“I’ve always maintained that because I came into the sport quite late I could probably go on to quite a late age so I certainly think that I’ve got another five or six years easy and you don’t know what might happen then. Coming into the sport quite late does have its benefits, you can last a bit longer perhaps.”
But for now Greene’s sights are set on Birmingham, another stepping stone towards defending his world title later this summer.
» Dai Greene will compete at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix – Birmingham on Sunday 29 June. For further information visit www.britishathletics.org.uk