'Doing well is all about technique'

'Doing well is all about technique'

When it comes to sprinting peaks, there is none that doesn’t have the footprint of an American called Maurice Greene. Olympic Games, World Championships, world record -- he conquered them all before bowing to the inevitable march of time. Jamaican Usain Bolt sits on the throne now, even as Greene explores more of his self away from the fast lane.

In Bangalore for the Sunfeast World 10K, Greene spoke to Deccan Herald on the sprinting scene. Excerpts:

You described Usain Bolt as a phenomenal athlete. What makes him phenomenal?

I watched him run in Beijing and I was amazed. He has done it in a way that no one else has done. Who knows how fast he can run? He is not even in his prime yet. I can’t tell you how fast he will be able to run. Technically I see a lot of flaws in his race. But that is not for me to say, he has run the fastest times, so maybe that’s good for him. But personally, I will not coach somebody to run that way; I would try to fix some of the things I believe he could do to run faster; I know some things that he can do that will make him run faster.

He is capable of winning the 100-200 double at Berlin, but he has to stay healthy. If he stays healthy, I am pretty sure he can accomplish it. The pressure (of repeating his Olympic feat) will be tremendous; only certain people can handle that kind of pressure. So let’s see what happens.

You have run 53 sub 10-second timings. What does it take to break the 10-second barrier?

The first time I did it, I said it was easy; then I went to my coach and I told him I can do this any time I want, because I know how to do it. And that is what it is all about. It’s about knowing how to do it than going out there and trying to do it. It’s all technique. You have to be taught how to do it and then the athlete has to know what he needs to do when and where, in each phase of the race. It’s something that you have to be taught.
You have to realise that any given day, as a sprinter, you can lose that race. That is why I stuck to not thinking about how fast I was going to run, but I thought about the technique of the race. More than anything else, I just wanted to run the best technical race possible. And with that, the time will come and then I will either win the race or I will lose. But that is what I allowed to win so many races — I was technically more sound than everyone else.

Can you recall the 9.79 at Athens in 1999?

In 1997, I won the World Championship there in Athens and I was just learning my race. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. So, 1998 came, and then I learned to race a lot more, and then I really got to know what I was doing and I knew what I wanted to do.
When 1999 came, the opportunity came to go back to Athens. I knew it was a fast track and I told my manager, ‘look, you have to put me in this race, because I know something is going to happen.

When I was warming up for that race, I knew exactly how my race was going to go, but I didn’t know what the time was going to be. As I said earlier, I was paying more attention to the technique, trying to stay relaxed and let the race come to me. And that is exactly what happened. If I went in and did the same as I did in ’97 I knew it would be a fast time. I was able to make it a more polished race than in 1997 and the time just came to me, 9.79 seconds.

Running fast -- is it all in the genes?

I wouldn’t say it is all in the genes. It takes a lot of work. And then, as I said before, it is more technical than anything. Lot of the runners don’t know what exactly they are doing. They just go out there and run, and just try to run fast. They just practice, not really paying attention in practice. You have to know exactly what you want to do, how you want to do it and how to do it -- that’s what I studied and that is why I was so good.
Bolt came under lot of fire for his celebrations in Beijing. You were in a similar situation in Sydney, after winning the 4x100 gold...

I don’t see a problem with celebrating. In our case, a lot of people don’t know what we went through at the time to get that gold medal. An hour before the start of the relay final, we didn’t know who would be in the team. We were able to overcome all those things and win the Olympic gold medal; we were all overjoyed, and were not thinking what we were doing. We were just reacting, letting out our feelings. If someone achieves something that they feel is great, who knows what they are going to do? Who knows what their actions are going to be? It’s not like they are thinking what they are going to do, they are just reacting to what they feel.

Have the doping scandals affected the popularity of athletics in the United States?

I am sure it has, in some sort of way, but I try not to think about the negative aspects of the sport, instead I think about the positives, keeping a positive mind and bringing in a breath of fresh air.

I've always said that if you get caught for doping you should be banned for life. There's no place for that in our sport. The penalty should be very harsh and strong. I think the system will catch up with you and you can't beat the system. I used to get tested like in two months at least 15 times.

I was mad at the allegations (by Mexican discus thrower Angel Heredia that he bought drugs for other athletes) and when everyone found out that he was lying it made me feel better. He was just trying to taint my name and tarnish my career. The IAAF sought explanation from me, we wrote to them and that is why they remained on my side during the whole issue.

Do you agree with the proposal to change the false start rule again?

I don’t like that at all. I was never a false starter. If you look at it, I false started only once in my career. I don’t like it because as a sprinter, you can’t hold back at any time whatsoever. So if you go there cautiously, there is no way you can bring out your best race, and that is what they will be stopping, if they disqualify an athlete for the first false start itself.

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