News16 Jun 1999

Maurice Greene smashes the 100m world record


Greene Smashes 100m World Record
(From Agency reports)

World champion Maurice Greene smashed the 100m world record last night in Athens by clocking 9.79.

In a sizzling display of controlled power, the American took 0.05 seconds off the previous record of 9.84 seconds set by Canada's Donovan Bailey in the Atlanta Olympics final in 1996.

Inevitably, the new time echoed back to the 9.79 set by Ben Johnson at the 1988 Seoul Olympics before the athletics world came crashing round the Canadian's ears.That time was erased from the record books amid Johnson’s steroids downfall and the 9.92 of runner-up Carl Lewis was to stand for three years until 1991 when fellow American Leroy Burrell lowered it to 9.90.  Lewis and Burrell both chipped away in the early 1990s before Bailey in 1996 set the mark that Greene was to lower so dramatically and courageously on Wednesday.

On a hot summer evening at the Olympic stadium, Greene, the indoor world record holder at 60 metres, came home clear of Trinidad's Ato Boldon who finished in 9.86. Boldon had the best start and was leading his training partner until 60 metres when Greene turned on the power and eased into the lead. Third place went to Bruny Surin of Canada in 9.97.

The unoffical time on TV screens at first showed an incredible 9.78 but even the later rounding up to 9.79 did nothing to dampen the celebrations. About 30,000 people were on hand in the 80,000 capacity stadium to witness one of the great nights of athletics. The same stadium is to host the Olympics in 2004 and for Greene it was a happy return to the city where two years ago he was crowned world champion after winning in a time of 9.86.

Since then he has been knocking firmly on the door of Donovan's old record. Twice in the last year he actually equalled the 9.84, but both efforts were wind-assisted. Wednesday was to be the triumph, although ironcially he had come to the event to run principally in the 200 metres. When he went out two hours after his world record, it was Boldon who won the race in 19.86 with Greene second in 20.03.

But nothing could deflect from a famous night. Greene said: "I tried to be the best and I made it. I have worked hard for today but I won't stop." He added: "I came first. I expected it. It was the best ever race for me. I have proved with this what I am and I hope to improve the world record next time."

"This is a special place for me,'' said Greene. He said he wanted to tell his mother the news by phone, but she wasn't home. Greene , who also holds the world indoor 60 mark of 6.39, was planning only to run the 200 meters. But he said he changed his mind after seeing the strong 100 field.

"I said, `They can't have a party without me,''' he told reporters. ``I knew something was going to happen with this race. I wanted to be part of it."

Even as he basked in the record, he set his next goal at 9.76. "I think it's very significant we came to the birthplace of track and field to break this record," said Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, who trains with Greene under sprinting mentor John Smith. The prospect of futher improvements looks perfectly possible.

Runner-up Boldon firmly predicted: "Next time it will be me who gets the record."

And third placed Surin, who had run 9.92 in a meeting in Germany last Sunday, is also in fine form. But Bailey, back after a long injury break, could only do 10.51 in Germany and his reign may be over.

Less than 90 minutes after setting the record, Greene finished second in the 200 at 20.03, behind Boldon's winning time of 19.86. Francis Obikwelu of Nigeria was third at 20.05.

In the 1500m, Noah Ngeny led a Kenyan medal sweep with a time of 3:31.32. In the women's 100, Greece's Katerini Thanou won in 10.92. There was also superb competition in the men’s pole vault with Russia’s Maksim Tarasov clearing 6.05 – from US Champion Jeff Hartwig who achieved 6.0 metres.