Greene, Maurice 1974–
Maurice Greene 1974–
Track and Field Athlete
American sprinter Maurice Greene’s mouth runs almost as quickly as his legs. Since he was a young child he predicted he would someday be the fastest man in the world. Greene did little to back up his promise until the summer of 1997. It was then that he broke through, winning the men’s 100 meter championship at the U.S. Track and Field Championships. Greene followed that performance by defeating world record holder and defending Olympic champion Donovan Bailey in a classic showdown at the 1997 World Track and Field Championships in Goteburg, Sweden. He won the world title again in 1999. Then, at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Greene captured two gold medals. After years of bragging, he actually was “The World’s Fastest Man.”
Maurice Greene was born on July 23, 1974. He was the youngest of four children of Ernest and Jackie Greene. Greene began training in track with coach Al Hobson at the age of eight. “He’s like my son,” Hobson explained to Sports Illustrated.
All the children in Greene’s family participated in track and field. “Maurice, being the baby, always said he was going to do it better [than his siblings],” Jackie Greene said. “We encouraged all the kids in whatever they decided to do, to give it their all. We didn’t let them quit. Whatever they chose to do, they had to finish it.”
Greene always had confidence. When he was ten he said he would someday be the world’s fastest man. At the time Greene was not even the fastest runner on his Kansas City Chargers track team. “He was always confident and energetic,” Ernest Greene recalled in USA Today. “I told him he had to be careful his talking didn’t overshadow his performance.”
Greene won Kansas state titles in the 100, 200, and 400 meter races for three straight years (1991-93) at F. L. Schlagle High School in Kansas City, Kansas. He also played football and had an opportunity to play that sport at Hutchinson Junior College. Greene also had many opportunities to run track at the college level.
Ernest Greene and Hobson convinced Greene to pass up college and train privately in track. “I’m a guy who stresses education,” Hobson explained in USA Today.
At a Ciance…
Born Maurice Greene on July 23, 1974; son of Ernest and Jackie Greene. Education: Park College, Parkville, MO, Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Career: Track and field athlete.
Awards: U.S. Track and Field Championships, 2nd place, 1995; U.S. Track and Field Championships, Indianapolis, IN, 100 meter dash, 1st place, 1997; World Track and Field Championships, Athens, Greece, 100 meter, gold medal, 1997; World Track and Field Championships, Seveille, Spain, 100 meter dash, gold medal, 200 meter dash, gold medal, 4x100 meter relay, gold medal, 1999; Olympics, Sydney, Australia, 100 meter, gold medal, 4x100 meter relay, gold medal, 2000.
Addresses: Office— U.S. Track and Field Athlete, USTAF/Central California Office, c/o Brad Tomasini, P.O. Box 236, Wasco, CA 93280.
“But colleges can’t always provide personal attention [on the track]. We could work every day on mechanics and technique. We weren’t pushed to run relays or score points for the team.” Ewing Kaufmann—the late owner of the Kansas City Royals baseball team— provided scholarships for Greene to attend community college for two years while he trained on his own.
In April of 1995 Greene defeated the great American Olympic champion Carl Lewis at the Texas Relays with a windaided time of 9.88 seconds. (Windaided means the wind was blowing toward the finish line at a speed fast enough to help the sprinters run better times. Times in a windaided race do not count when determining world records.) “I don’t care if you’re pushed by a truck, that’s fast,” Hobson declared in USA Today. “I knew then he’d set a world record.” After his win over Lewis, Greene signed his autograph with 9.88 following his name.
Greene finished second in the men’s 100 meter dash at the 1995 U.S. Track and Field Championships with a time of 10.23 seconds. Three runners—Greene, Mike Marsh, and Dennis Mitchell—all finished with the same time, and a photograph was necessary to tell them apart. “Wow, this is the biggest day of my life,” Greene declared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “This is it.”
His performance earned Greene a spot on the U.S. team that would travel to the 1995 World Track and Field Championships in Goteburg, Sweden. In a second round heat, Greene froze in the blocks when the gun sounded. The mistake meant that he was eliminated from the competition.
Greene continued to work hard to qualify for the 1996 Summer Olympics, to be held in Atlanta, Georgia. His chance at Olympic glory came to an end when he suffered a hamstring injury at the worst possible time. The injury slowed him down and he lost in the second round of the 100 meter competition at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials.
The disappointing results of the past year forced Greene to make a difficult decision. He left Hobson and in September of 1996 moved to Los Angeles, California. There Greene began to train with coach John Smith, an American Olympian in 1972 and a close friend of Hobson. “I needed to learn,” Greene admitted in Sports Illustrated.
Smith was known for developing sprinters. Two of his pupils were 1996 Olympic bronze medalist Ato Boldon of Trinidad and American 200 meter specialist Jon Drummond, and he also trained Marie Jose Perec, a double gold medalist at the 1996 Summer Olympics. “I just thought it was time to change and take another step,” Greene revealed in USA Today. “What better coach than John Smith? Nobody has the credentials he has. Nobody’s produced more athletes. I thought if I want to be the best, I should go where the best train.”
The practices Smith ran at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) were tough. Smith worked on Greene’s mental toughness, and both Boldon and Drummond constantly trashtalked about their newest teammate’s ability. “Every day I learn something new,” Greene admitted in American Track & Field. “Training with Boldon and Drummond is always intensive. But that helps my motivation. We always push each other. The workload is definitely higher now. Most days I am completely exhausted.”
Smith worked with Greene on his start—already a strength—and made his takeoff even better. The two also helped the sprinter pace himself, saving his strength for the end of the race. “The biggest thing he’s done is help me delay my acceleration,” Greene told USA Today. “One of the problems I had was I couldn’t hold on the last 20 to 10 meters.” Greene also began serious weight training that added muscle to his upper body.
When Greene began to work with Smith he was only the twenty fourth ranked 100 meter sprinter in the world. Despite his low ranking, he was full of confidence. Greene promised to restore U.S. dominance in the 100 meter and to break the world record of 9.84 seconds. He had never broken the 10 second barrier in his career. By this time Greene had earned the nickname the “Kansas Cannonball.”
The 1997 U.S. Track and Field Championships were held at Indiana University, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Greene’s improvement showed as he won the men’s 100 meter championship with a meet record tying time of 9.90 seconds. Greene’s result was .18 seconds faster than his previous time of 10.08 and the second fastest 100 meter in the world up until that point in 1997. (Boldon had run a 9.89 second time.) Only six men and three Americans had ever run faster. “It’s a great feeling,” Greene said after his victory. “Last year was disappointing, but I knew if I trained the right way, my time would come.”
The 1997 World Track and Field Championships were held at the Spyridon Louis Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece. “I’d like to set the world record here,” Greene bragged in USA Today. “I’d like to bring U.S. sprinting back to where it’s supposed to be. It hasn’t gone.”
The favorite in the men’s 100 meter sprint was 1996 Olympic champion and world record holder Donovan Bailey of Canada. The field also included 1996 Olympic silver medalist Frankie Fredricks of Namibia and Greene’s teammate Boldon. Against this competition the winner of the race could truly claim the title of “The World’s Fastest Man.”
The men’s 100 meter competition requires the finalists to compete in four rounds of races in two days. The grueling schedule was hard on the runners, and both Greene and Boldon suffered from leg cramps. Though they were competing in the same race, the two teammates helped each other. The two runners rubbed the other’s legs before races.
Before the finals, Boldon’s cramps were so bad he knew he would not win the race. “I guess I stretched Maurice better than he stretched me,” he said after the race, according to USA Today. “I looked at Maurice before the race and gave him my blessing. He knew I wasn’t going to win because of the pain on my face.”
Greene drew lane three for the final. Bailey was right next to him in lane four, setting up a classic showdown. As he took his mark, Greene felt a muscle spasm in his groin. He got up out of his stance and stretched his leg, making sure he was ready. “I wanted the best start possible,” Greene told USA Today.
When the gun fired to start the race Greene took the early lead. At 50 meters he still led, but Bailey had used an explosive closing burst to win the 1995 world championships and the 1996 Olympic title. This time however, Greene held off the world record holder. “We hit 75 meters, and I knew he wasn’t going to get me,” the American sprinter explained in Sports Illustrated. As Greene crossed the finish line first, he turned around and stuck his tongue out at Bailey.
Greene’s winning time was 9.86 seconds. It was the third fastest time in history and tied the record for the world championships. “I am the fastest man in the world right now,”
Greene declared to USA Today. Bailey finished second with a time of 9.91 seconds and American Tim Montgomery finished third.
After his victory Greene fell into his father’s arms and hugged him. “I worked so hard, I worked so hard,” a crying Greene said after his victory, according to Sports Illustrated. His victory—along with that of American Marion Jones in the women’s 100 meter competition—marked the first time one country had won both titles at the world championships since they began in 1983. “The young ones are coming through to do the job,” Greene said after the race. “I’ve said that it’s time someone took responsibility for American sprinting and I’m just glad to have won. It’s the highlight of my career.”
Greene continued to train with Smith in Los Angeles. Despite his victory at the world championships, he knew that he needs to work hard to improve. “He’s still got a lot to learn,” Smith told USA Today. Greene finished second in the voting for the 1997 Jesse Owens Award—given to the best male track and field athlete in the United States.
City officials in Greene’s home town of Kansas City, Kansas, held a reception for him after his world championship victory. They gave him a key to the city. “I always felt faster,” Greene told the assembled crowd. “But not as fast as I’m going to feel. I know every time I go out on the track I have your support.”
His victory at the world championships gave Green even more confidence and he turned all of his drive and determination toward his ultimate goal—Olympics gold. “This world record hasn’t changed him,” Smith said in Insight on the News. “He told me right after he did it, ‘This is only the beginning.’ He wants to be good. He’s undisputed right now. He’s considered all the different sprints that bring you to the ‘World’s Fastest Human.’ Now we need to go and get the Olympic gold medal.”
However, there were still a few more steps on the path to the Olympics. Greene competed in the World Track and Field Championships in Seville, Spain in 1999. He won three gold medals at this competition, capturing first place in the 100 meter and 200 meter races, along with a victory in the 4x100 meter relay.
With three more World Championship medals behind him, Greene was ready for the Olympic trials, held in Sacramento. His characteristic confidence showed in the sign he had printed on his home computer and placed on his hotel door: MAURICE GREENE, 2000 OLYMPIAN. When Greene left his room to compete in the 100 meter finals, that sign was only the statement of a dream, but when he returned after the race, it was a statement of fact. “U.S. Olympian,” he said during an interview with Sports Illustrated after the race, “This is the best there is.”
A few months later, in Sydney, Australia, Greene had his chance to make his dream of Olympic gold a reality. Joe Posnanski observed Greene’s determination in The Sporting News, “You could see it all Saturday before the race, as he strutted up and down the track, his eyes burning, his tongue flapping about. He kept glaring down the track. Kept visualizing his race.” But when the race began, it was Ato Boldon and Jon Drummond who took the lead. Then, with 25 meters left, Greene pulled ahead, and stayed ahead. There was a gold medal waiting for him at the end of this race. Sticking his tongue out as he crossed the finish line with a time of 9.87 seconds, Greene’s dream of capturing Olympic gold came true. He may have been known as the world’s fastest man before he came to the Olympics, but Greene now had an Olympic medal to prove it.
There was more than one gold medal in store for Greene in Sydney. He also won, along with teammates John Drummond, Bernard Williams, and Brian Lewis, the 4x100 meter relay. However, the four made headlines, not with their win, but with the manner in which they celebrated their victory. They flexed their muscles, wrapped the American flag around their heads, and took off their shirts. Joe Posnanski wrote in the Kansas City Star, that they “carried on as it they had just won the World Wrestling Federation tag-team title.” The four team members all apologized for their behavior. “I can see how people were offended,” Green said in the Kansas City Star. “But the thing is, we were not thinking about what we were doing. We were just acting out our thoughts. We were feeling so great...We just lost our minds, basically.” Greene also stated that, as a representative of his country at the Olympics, any victory celebration is not just a personal celebration. “You celebrate for your mother, your father, your country...If you’re representing yourself, fine, do whatever you want. If you want to disgrace yourself, go ahead...but not for your country.”
A month after winning two gold medals, Greene returned to his native Kansas City. In a presentation held in a high school gymnasium, Greene was again honored with the key to the city. After the ceremony, he walked around the gymnasium, talking to the students, shaking hands with them, and allowing them to touch his medal. The Kansas City Star reported that Greene told the students, “Anyone can achieve a dream if you work hard. If you have the desire, follow it and make it happen.” Simple advice, but it certainly worked for Greene. A man who was not even one of the fastest members of his high school track team dreamed of becoming the fasted man in the world, and he made it happen. Greene is living proof that dreams do come true.
American Track & Field, July 7, 1997.
Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 17, 1995; June 14, 1997; August 4, 1997.
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), October 14, 2000.
Ebony, October 1997.
Insight on the News, August 2, 1999.
Jet, September 13, 1999.
Kansas City Star, October 14, 2000; October 24, 2000.
Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1997; June 14, 1997; August 4, 1997; August 10, 1997.
Sporting News, October 2, 2000.
Sports Illustrated, June 23, 1997; August 11, 1997; August 18, 1997; July 24, 2000.
USA Today, August 1, 1997; August 4, 1997.
—Michael A. Paré and Jennifer M. York
Greene, Maurice, prominent English organist, teacher, and composer; b. London, Aug. 12, 1696; d. there, Dec. 1, 1755. He was a choirboy at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London under Jeremiah Clarke and Charles King, and in 1710 he was articled to Richard Brind, the Cathedral organist. In 1714 he became organist at St. Dunstan-in-the-West, Fleet Street, and also at St. Andrew’s Holborn, in 1718. In the latter year, he was appointed organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 1727 he was made organist and composer of the Chapel Royal. In 1730 he was awarded a doctorate in music from the Univ. of Cambridge, which also made him an honorary prof. of music. Greene became the Master of the King’s Musick in 1735. As a teacher, he numbered William Boyce and John Stanley among his students. He was active in founding the Academy of Antient Music in 1710, and in 1731 he founded his own rival Apollo Soc. With Michael Festing et al., he founded the Soc. of Musicians, a charitable organization, in 1738. His valuable collection of English sacred music passed into the hands of Boyce, who made use of it in his Cathedral Music. Greene particularly distinguished himself as a composer of sacred music.
Florimel, or Love’s Revenge, dramatic pastorale (1734); The Judgment of Hercules, masque (1740; music not extant); Phoebe, pastoral opera (1747); 3 oratorios: The Song of Deborah and Barak (1732), Jephtha (1737), and The Force of Truth (1744; music not extant); about 100 anthems; services; canticles; Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1730); 35 court odes; many cantatas; numerous songs; keyboard music.
E. Janifer, The English Church Music of M. G. and His Contemporaries: A Study of Traditional and Contemporary Influences (diss., Univ. of London, 1959); J. Moore, The Church Music of M.G. (diss., Univ. of Nottingham, 1961); H. Johnstone, The Life and Works of M. G. (1696-1755) (diss., Univ. of Oxford, 1967).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire