Prior to the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea this past August, at least one American athlete had secured a top three podium position at either the World Championships or Olympics in all but six of the thirty-seven executions of the Men’s 400-meter Hurdles final races in the last 111 years. Moreover, that number most assuredly would have been reduced to five had a 1980 U.S. Boycott of the Moscow Games not prevented an at the time unbeaten Edwin Moses from winning what would then have amounted to his second Olympic Gold Medal which he subsequently achieved at 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
At the 13th IAAF World Championships, on September 1st of 2011, for only the seventh time in the history of the event would the American men fail to place amongst the top three, an occurrence which does not rest easy with the event’s 2005 World Champion, American Bershawn Jackson. “It was really heartbreaking and disturbing to not see Americans during the podium last year,” stated Jackson adding, “I know the tradition. The 400 hurdlers always dominated from America … so that’s why I am working that much more harder to not let that happen again.”
The owner of a 49.24 sixth place finish at approximately 9:31pm local time on that September 1st left Jackson and his compatriot Angelo Taylor, the event’s two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, who finished in seventh place with a time of 49.31, to witness Great Britain’s Dai Greene claim his first World Title. “In 2007, 2006, when [Greene] was up and coming, I always said great things about him to the British Federation, the IAAF. The years I dominated, I always uplifted him saying one day he is going to be great,” explained Jackson who now is admittedly more than “disturbed” by the ensuing champion’s flippant commentary of the American hurdlers.
Jackson explains, “[Greene] said ‘he knew we weren’t going to medal; we were too overrated.’ What does he mean by being ‘overrated?’ I don’t know. You’re talking about a guy who won the Worlds in 48.2.” Greene, whose personal best in the event stands at 47.88 set in Croatia in September of 2010, crossed the finish line in first place in a time of 48.26, the slowest in World Championship history accounting for the first time the event registered a winning time north of the 47-second barrier. Conversely, Jackson, who achieved his career personal best time of 47.30 with his 2005 Helsinki World Championship victory, is more than aware that Greene’s 48.2 “would have got him fourth place…the year I won my gold medal.”
The three-time U.S. 400mH Champion, still clearly “irritated,” admits the Brit’s lackluster performance coupled by his egregious, inflammatory remarks is something he’s been “thinking about since Daegu.” “The time [he] ran with wasn’t outstanding,” reasserts Jackson noting, “It wasn’t a point where he just basically dominated the event. It was a situation where Angelo [Taylor] was hurt; Kerron [Clement] was hurt; I was hurt. It happens like that every once in a while.”
While not “crying over spilt milk,” as he explains it, Jackson’s contention of favorable “timing definitely [contributing] to [Greene’s] victory” is well within bounds as the three aforementioned compatriot hurdlers have accounted for two Olympic titles and three World Championship titles since 2000, including a sweep of the 2008 Beijing Olympics where Jackson secured the Bronze in 47.96 seconds behind Clement’s 47.88 and Taylor’s 47.25 for Silver and Gold respectively.
“It’s going to be really difficult for [Greene] in his country to stop the Americans from coming and sweeping in 2012,” states Jackson. “He wrote a check that he can’t cash… [and] I’m coming … you’re going to know I’m in the race.”
But before Jackson can ‘collect on that check’ come August 3rd 10am London time when round one of his anticipated Men’s 400-meter Hurdle race takes place in the Olympic Stadium, he must first finish top-three at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. “That’s the most nerve wracking meet in the world! You can ask any American athlete, ‘What’s the hardest, most nerve wracking meet in the world?’ They’ll tell you the Olympic Trials … because your life’s set around that one meet,” details Jackson honestly offering, “The trials is actually harder than the Olympics. David Greene is the least of my worries for now. My main thing is first making the team and then once I make the team, then I got to gear up for the Olympics.”
But meet promoters of the Diamond League can now add Batman’s “first showdown” with his new arch nemesis Dai “The Riddler” Greene, for his ‘puzzling’ adversarial commentary, to the heavily anticipated May 31st Golden Gala line-up which promises the first head-to-head meeting of the season between Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, health permitting. “Me and David Greene are going to meet up in Rome,” states Jackson revealing the remainder of pre-trials outdoor schedule to include “the 400 hurdles at Kansas Relays, the 4x4 at Penn Relays and I’m going over to Jamaica to run the 400 hurdles and then I’m going to Shanghai.”
Jackson began his outdoor season on March 30th at the Raleigh Relays and he recently ran his first 400mH race on April 6th at the Pepsi Florida Relays setting a meet record and world leading time of 48.49. “They can’t say in the ‘Batman Era’ the 400-meter hurdlers went down. They are going to say the 400-meter hurdlers dominated in the Bershawn Jackson era,” demonstratively states the Nike hurdler reinforcing the fact that “It means a lot for Americans to be on the podium … and it can’t stop now and it won’t stop on my class.”
Not a hurdler but also included in the quarter horse class is fellow Nike quarter-miler, reigning 400-meter Olympic Gold Medalist Lashawn Merritt, who Greene (also a Nike sponsored athlete) recently verbally accosted reducing him to a “cheat” alleging that “he shouldn’t be [in the sport]” as a result of a twenty-one month suspension the American served for testing positive in 2010 after the incidental ingestion of the banned stimulant DHEA for which Merritt endured public shame and embarrassment, which apparently is of no validity or consequence to Greene based on his recent comments. “Lashawn never got caught for a hormone enhancing steroid, he got caught for a stimulant,” stated Jackson, himself befuddled by Greene’s verbal lashing, “I don’t see why that’s even in discussion. He don’t even race Lashawn Merritt. But, you got people like that, that don’t know how to handle attention. He gets a gold medal ... and just runs off at the mouth.”
And of the mouth belonging to what Jackson once considered a friendly face, he states, “For him to come stab all the Americans in the back and also say something about Lashawn [Merritt], that makes it ten times worse … and I’m upset about it and hope that the other Americans are upset about it; if they’re not, I’m going to remind them when it comes to press conference time … now you got to stand up to what you said … so now you have a target on your back.”