Dai Greene's gold silences critics at World Athletics Championships

After the four disappointing days in Daegu the British team memorably secured two medals on the track on Thursday.

Dai Greene's gold silences critics at World Athletics Championships Dai Greene ran the best race of his life to win the 400 metres hurdles, beating two Olympic gold medallists and one world champion in an enthralling sprint down the home straight. Half an hour before that Hannah England took the silver in the 1500m with a kick so quick in the final 50m it was as though she had trodden on a tack.

The two medals came at the best possible time for the British team and their head coach, Charles van Commenee. Despite his repeated pleas that the press and public should reserve judgment on his team until after the world championships, his critics were running out of patience after Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah failed to win gold medals in their events.

Greene, a 25-year-old from Llanelli, is now the European, Commonwealth and world champion. "I know we hadn't won a gold so far but that was not to say Mo and Jess hadn't performed to the best of their ability," he said after the race, his face still flushed with the excitement and exhaustion.

"They have worn the vest with so much pride and determination. When they perform like that, even though they haven't come away with the result they wanted, you can't fault them. I was just fortunate tonight that my performance was rewarded with a gold, because I think I gave just as much as they did."

England disparaged a BBC report that there were "one or two whispers of discontent inside the camp", by stressing how supportive her team-mates had been when she struggled to make it through in the semi-finals. "Everyone in the team was so nice about it," she said. "They just made jokes about it and told me that if I touched lane one I might do a bit better." In the end she was forced to run wide again in her final; after hugging the inside of the track for most of the race she drifted out into lane four in the home straight and then raced past the field into second place.

For both athletes, life is about to get very different. In the next 11 months Greene is going to become one of the most famous sportsmen in the country. It has been 43 years since a Briton last won a major international title in the 400m hurdles, when David Hemery took gold in the 1968 Olympics. In a curious twist, Greene's coach, Malcolm Arnold, coached John Akii-Bua, who took Hemery's title off him in Munich in 1972, 39 years ago to the day.

"It just hasn't sunk in that I'm world champion," said Greene, who won in 48.26sec. "I love representing Great Britain and when I get back to the hotel tonight I will realise it's a dream come true." Arnold is famously begrudging with his praise, and Greene said that the only real bit of encouragement he was given before the race was when Arnold told him that he "wouldn't hold on to my phone during the race but would give it to the doctor, because I expect you to be a long time with the press afterwards".

He was right. It took Greene an hour to get off the track and past the press pack, and his phone was buzzing like a bumblebee against a window pane all the way. He was even trending on Twitter. He says that the memory of the hard times he has endured will help him cope with the attention that is going to come his way before 2012.

"I had a lot of injuries in 2006, '07 and '08 and I was really struggling to make the squad. Now look at me. I've totally changed that around and I am a different person and I'm a totally different athlete. I've worked hard to get here. That's why I can deal with the expectation, because I remember being bottom of the pile."

Heinz has a slogan that suits nights like these. Good things, as the ad man says, come to those who wait. Just ask Greene and Van Commenee.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Andy Bull in Daegu, for The Guardian on Thursday 1st September 2011 21.13 Europe/London

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