By Rob Cole
Dai Greene’s remarkable renaissance continued in South Africa as he won the first Athletix Grand Prix race of the season in Ruimsig, South Africa to rocket to No.3 in this year’s 400m hurdles world rankings.
On Tuesday night the former Commonwealth, European and World champion ran his fastest time in five years to achieve the required standard to take up his place in Team Wales for next month’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.
It was his second race in low key meetings in Potchefstroom, but on his return to the big stage on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where he went to try to crack the 49.50 sec barrier he needed to break to go to the Gold Coast, he proved he is back to full race fitness.
What Greene showed in the Grand Prix race is that he is now capable of stringing together some consistent times and taking on some of the best athletes in the Commonwealth.
Just behind him was LJ van Zyl, the Springbok whose Commonwealth crown he took in Delhi in 2010, while another top-class South African, Constant Pretorius, was back in fourth.
Pretorius and Van Zyl finished ninth and 10th respectively in the IAAF world rankings last year, while the South African who finished third, Hamman Le Roux, was 12th. Namibian Hardus Maritz, back in fifth, also reached the world top 20 last year.
Greene admitted to being highly emotional after Tuesday night’s race, affording himself the chance to shed some tears, but after his improvement two days later he should be jumping for joy.
With five weeks to go to his first race Down Under – which comes the day before his 32nd birthday – he is only going to improve.
“Dai has proved so many people wrong and we are all thrilled for him. Everyone is buzzing for him and having him in camp with the rest of the Welsh team for three weeks before the Games will be fantastic for us,” said Scott Simpson, head of coaching and performance for Welsh Athletics.
“I just had a feeling he would do it and that’s why we pushed so hard to get him into the team. The times he has run in South Africa could get him into the final and then who knows what might happen?
“It is five long years since he has been able to produce times like these and this kind of form and he has come back from some terrible injury problems and so many lows. It just shows how much he wants this.”
Athletix Grand Prix 1, Ruimsig, Johannesburg
1 Dai Green (Wales) 49.38
2 LJ Van Zyl (SA) 49.64
3 Le Roux Hamman (SA) 49.66
4 Constant Pretorius (SA) 49.72
5 Hardus Maritz (Namibia) 49.72
6 Stephane Yato (France) 50.68
7 Kurt Cuoto (Mozambique) 50.89
8 Aron Koech (Kenya) 51.30