Rome: Devout catholic Maurice Greene will be praying for a quick start when he runs in the third Golden League meeting here on Friday.
The Olympic 100m title-holder and three-time world champion was slow out of the blocks in Paris last week and finished a disappointing third behind Deji Aliu of Nigeria and winner Bernard Williams.
Seeking his fifth straight win in Rome, Greene is determined to rediscover the kind of form which saw him conquer all in 1999, with the world championships in France just six weeks away.
“I swear that I will win the world title. I was asleep in my blocks that’s the reason for my loss here,” said the 28-year-old American after defeat in France.
Dubbed the ‘Kansas Comet’, Greene has so far been eclipsed by former training partner and 2001 bronze world medallist Williams, who he faces once again at the Olympic stadium on Friday. Also in the hunt among the sprinters are Aliu — knocking on the door of a sub-10 second time having run 10 flat in Greece last month — and Australia’s Patrick Johnson, eager to prove his world-leading 9.93 seconds time back in early May was not a fluke.
European champion Dwain Chambers of Great Britain, who defeated world record holder Tim Montgomery in Glasgow last month, is another contender in a strong line-up. Montgomery, the current world record holder, pulled out earlier this week, to spend time with his family.
The American sprinter’s girlfriend, triple Olympic champion Marion Jones, gave birth to their first child, a baby boy, Tim Junior, on June 28.
World 5000m record holder Haile Gebrselassie will be out for revenge against Kenyan Abraham Chebii, who edged the 30-year-old Ethiopian last week. Meanwhile, Morocco’s Hicham el Guerrouj, the world record holder over 1500m, 2000m and the mile, races against in-form Kenyan William Chirchir in the 1500m.
A million dollar’s worth of gold is awarded to any athlete who wins their event in all six Golden League meetings and just turns up at the Grand Prix finals. If there is more than one winner, the prize is shared. Last year the jackpot was split between four athletes — Jones, El Guerrouj, Sanchez and Ana Guevara. Only two athletes are still in contention this year, Mutola and revitalised Bahamas sprinter Chandra Sturrup, who runs in the womens 100m.