They met six years ago on the eve of the Texas Relays, two fast
kids with no money and big dreams, eating cheap fried chicken
and biscuits together in Austin on a windy April evening and
woofing about how they were going to beat Carl Lewis in the 100
meters the next day. They were 20 years old, Maurice Greene from
Kansas City, Kans., and Tim Montgomery from Gaffney, S.C.,
callow sprinters plotting to take down the biggest name in track
and field, blissfully naive and unshakably confident.
The next afternoon, Greene stunningly outran Lewis in a strongly
wind-aided 9.88 seconds to give an unmistakable glimpse of the
talent that would soon blossom spectacularly. "I remember Maurice
throwing up after the race," says Montgomery, who finished fourth
that day. In the years that followed, their careers took
different paths. Greene broke the world record (running 9.79 in
1999) and won two world titles and the 2000 Olympic gold medal,
thereby earning a spot on any list of the greatest sprinters.
Montgomery ran fast (9.92 in 1997) but was left in Greene's
They met again on Sunday in the final of the 100 meters at the
World Track and Field Championships in Edmonton, lined up in
adjacent lanes on a rust-colored track striped with late
afternoon shadows. In the weeks leading to the worlds, Montgomery
had become a genuine player in the sprint game, a threat to
Greene's dominance, having run 9.84 last month in Oslo, the
fastest time in the world this year before Edmonton. "I know I'm
faster than Maurice," Montgomery said before the final. "I know
my time is coming." He talked of a 9.75.
The matchup gave the meet a needed jolt. Last weekend's events at
the first world championships staged in North America played to a
half-empty Commonwealth Stadium (capacity 40,000), and yet
another doping scandal hung over the proceedings, as 5,000-meter
runner Olga Yegorova of Russia was suspended and then reinstated
over a positive test for the banned--and popular--hormone
Monday evening brought a far greater shock, when 2000 Olympic
100-meter champion Marion Jones, winner of 42 consecutive finals
and undefeated since 1997 in the 100, was beaten by Zhanna
Pintusevich-Block of Ukraine in one of the biggest upsets in
track and field history. Jones's dominance of the 100 was best
measured by the margin of her Sydney victory, .37 of a second,
the widest such spread in 48 years. Women's sprinting had become
her playground, and defeat seemed unthinkable.
However, in 2001 Jones, weary from her Olympic campaign and going
through a divorce from husband C.J. Hunter, had appeared a little
less invincible. Her best 100 had been 10.84, well off her best
After surprising Jones in the semifinals Monday afternoon,
Pintusevich-Block beat her out of the blocks in the final. Jones
closed but lacked her usual killing finish. At the end Jones
staggered forward in a desperate lean, but Pintusevich-Block, a
finger raised in triumph, was the clear winner, in a personal
best of 10.82. It was a particularly delicious victory, given
that Pintusevich-Block had been narrowly beaten by Jones in the
1997 worlds final in Athens. As in Edmonton, Pintusevich-Block
had celebrated, thinking she had won, but her exultation was
short-lived. "I've dreamed about this for four years," she said.
"I didn't come here expecting to lose," a shocked Jones said on
Monday evening, "but Zhanna was the better sprinter tonight.
People get beat sometimes. It shows you're a champion when you
can come back." She gets that chance on Friday, when in all
likelihood she will run in the 200-meter final.
Barely 24 hours earlier, Montgomery spoke prophetically when he
eyeballed Greene on the track moments before the start of the 100
and said, "Let's give these people what they came for."
"Let's do it," said Greene.
The race was delayed by three false starts, the last charged to
Montgomery, who flinched before the gun. ("He moved; they called
it correctly," said his coach, Trevor Graham.) It was a costly
jump. Montgomery knows that it's nearly impossible to run down
Greene without being very close to him at the start. Because a
second false start would have meant disqualification, Montgomery
had to sit back, spotting Greene .025 of a second out of the
blocks, according to official reaction times. Forty meters out,
Greene led Montgomery by a stride.
However, a good start might not have mattered for Montgomery. As
Greene's coach, John Smith, watched him preparing on the warmup
track before the final, Smith whispered to Greene's manager,
Emanuel Hudson, "He's somewhere else today, in another
dimension." Despite tendinitis in his left knee, Greene said
later, "I've never felt better before a race in my life."
Montgomery, though, bit into Greene's lead after the halfway
point, and in the final strides, Greene began to pull up,
grimacing. The two hit the line awkwardly--Greene leaning back to
take pressure off his cramping left quadriceps and hamstring,
Montgomery bobbing, trying to win with a lean. He missed by a
tiny margin. Greene won in 9.82 seconds, the third-fastest time
in history (he also has the first two) and the fastest ever run
into a headwind (0.2 of a meter per second, a light breeze).
Montgomery was timed in 9.85, while Bernard Williams, in 9.94,
completed the first U.S. 100-meter world championships sweep in a
decade. Five runners broke 10 seconds into the wind, making this
race comparable to the epic 1991 worlds final, in which six
runners went under 10 with a tailwind.
After revealing that his leg had cramped "in the final 10 or 15
meters," Greene watched a tape of the race with training partner
Larry Wade, and both agreed that Greene had begun to wobble at
least 40 meters from the finish. "That was a 9.77 race if I
didn't get hurt," said Greene.
Montgomery's camp bemoaned the false start. "If he had gotten a
better start, Tim would have broken the world record," said
Graham. Said Montgomery, "The start cost me the race." Greene
dismissed their comments. "Tim's a great competitor," he said,
"but I was going to win this race, period."
Later, Montgomery's agent, Charlie Wells, sounded like a European
railroad conductor as he listed his man's upcoming schedule:
"Zurich, Gateshead, Brussels...," throwing down the gauntlet to
Greene who, alas, might be finished for the year. (On Sunday
evening Greene said he was withdrawing from the 200 and the 4x100
relay in Edmonton.) No matter, the battle is alive. After two
years with Graham, who also trains Jones, Montgomery has gone
from a 140-pound pop-up starter to a 170-pound low-driving power
runner. "I'm going to keep getting better," he said. "Whenever
Maurice wants to race me again, I'll be ready."
Greene is content to nurse his injuries and to savor his most
hard-earned title. Late on Sunday night he lounged in his hotel
suite, where a bottle of champagne sat unopened on ice and his
gold medal lay on the table. "When there are bigger obstacles in
your way," he said, "it's a whole different feeling when you
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKES Line dancing Wobbling at the finish, Greene (1167) held off the lunging Montgomery (1188) by .03 of a second, as Ato Boldon dipped for fourth.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKES Lean times Pintusevich-Block (left), a narrow loser to Jones in the 1997 worlds, redeemed herself, winning in a personal-best 10.82.