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September 24, 2000
Cool Greene was a bundle of nervesMitch Phillips
After winning the Olympic gold that ensured his place in the pantheon of great sprinters, ice-cool Maurice Greene revealed he had been a bag of nerves all week.
All the bravado of relaxed confidence, driving a Ferrari for the cameras and messing about with Trinidadian training partner Ato Boldon, were merely a desperate attempt to deal with the grinding pressure that, more than any rival, threatened to spoil the American's dream.
"This week was very tough for me," said Greene, after his 9.87 seconds victory over Boldon (9.99) and Obadele Thompson of Barbados (10.04).
"It might have looked like I was very loose but I was very, very nervous.
"It was hard to eat, hard to sleep...I just tried to play things up to show I was feeling okay, " he said.
"But I came in with a lot of pressure on myself, with my own high expectations and I had to concentrate on doing what I had to do in these two days."
After a season where Greene has been the only man to regularly get under 10 seconds, it seemed the only way he could have lost was if he allowed the pressure to get to him.
But with back-to-back world championship titles to his name, as well as the 100 metres world record and a bagful of other achievements, he never looked likely to crumble.
"I was tense tonight but after I got a good start I was very aware of where I was," said the 26-year-old American.
"I just wanted to stay in control of myself and avoid having a mental lapse. I stayed focused and had a strong finish, which allowed me to win tonight."
Greene paid special tribute to his coach John Smith, who also looks after Boldon and Jon Drummond, fifth in Saturday's final.
"I felt that my coach should have got an Olympic gold and he has a big hole in his heart where that should be," Smith said,
"I can't fill it for him - there is nothing like winning gold in the Olympics - but I can put a little back in there."
Smith, a former 440 yards world record holder, was favourite to win the 1972 Olympic 400 metres gold but picked up an injury and failed to finish the final.
Greene had his share of Olympic disappointment four years ago when he failed to qualify for the Atlanta Games and said he watched the events on TV with tears in his eyes.
"They were tears of sadness but there were tears of joy tonight," he said. "I was just thanking God that it was all over.
"I was so emotional on the podium when the flag went up, it was great to hear the United States anthem. I was just a bit overwhelmed with the excitement."
After his win, following the obligatory joint prayer with Boldon, Greene jogged a lap of honour, stopping to toss his stars and stripes spikes into the crowd.
He said it was a thank-you to the supporters who had turned out in such huge numbers in the morning heats and again for the finals.
"We owe them a lot so it was just a little present back," he said.
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