- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2008

After a closet full of Olympic and World Championship medals, a decade of sprinting domination from 1995 to 2004 and a string of nagging injuries, Maurice Greene retired last month at age 33.

Arguably the greatest U.S. sprinter of all time, Green was also an undisputed showman. He brought a cool mix of bravado, excitement, drama, fun and friendliness — and speed — to track and field.

Greene was part prize fighter, part cheetah.

Wherever he ran, he entertained. Whenever he spoke, he was quotable. He was intense, then a lovable teddy bear with that comforting smile and wagging tongue seconds later.

Most of all, he was a champion and a humanitarian who made watching the sport fun.

He captured two Olympic golds in Sydney in 2000, a silver and bronze in Athens in 2004 and six world championships golds. He was the first man to successfully complete the 100/200 double at the worlds in 1999.

He took the baton from Carl Lewis, another sprinting icon, and carried it a long time in the life of a sprinter — 10 years and more sub-10-second 100s than any other runner. At one time, before Asafa Powell and Justin Gatlin, Greene owned the world’s top three times in the 100, including the world record.

The record, 9.79 set in Athens on June 16, 1999, was the largest jump over the previous world mark in decades, knocking off Donovan Bailey’s 9.84 from three years before.

The 9.79 was a significant achievement for Greene, matching the time Ben Johnson had run at the 1988 Olympics, which was stricken from the record books three days later when Johnson tested positive for the illegal drug stanozolol.

Greene held the record until Powell ran 9.77 on June 14, 2005. Powell ran 9.74 last year.

Unless you count the three years Tim Montgomery was considered the Fastest Man in the World from September 2002 until a court in December 2005 stripped him of his times, the man with the G.O.A.T. tatoo — Greatest of All Time — again recaptured the crown.

Greene wasn’t a shabby 200-meter runner, either.

I will always remember that dramatic 200-meter final in the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials in Sacramento, Calif. Greene already had won the 100 and rival Michael Johnson had easily wrapped up the 400, sending both to the Olympics.

Then they met in the 200 meters, where the debate began over who was the better half-lapper. Johnson owned the world record in 19.32.

For several days, they traded barbs, which reached as low as Greene criticizing Johnson’s hairstyle. In the last event of the eight-day trials, both runners pulled up lame during the race and neither made the Olympic team in that event in 2000.

For Greene, it was just another injury in a career plagued by them. He always had trouble with his hamstring, not unusual for a sprinter, but he also suffered from patella tendinitis in his knee and quadriceps injuries and lately, a hairline fracture in his foot in 2005 and a left hamstring tear in 2006.

“It is now more than 11 years since I packed my bags and, with the help of my father, drove to Los Angeles in a bid to fulfill my sprinting dreams,” Greene said during his retirement press conference. “Never, then, would I have thought that it would be an adventure that would last so long, delivering Olympic gold medals, world titles and world records along the way. Now, though, I have reached journey’s end.”

He said he will pursue coaching and business interests, including the Maurice Greene Finish the Race Youth Foundation.

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