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Only the best will do - an interview with Jack Green

by Editor
Monday 27th February 2012
Tags  Jack Green   |   Malcolm Arnold   |   makeitcount   |   Nike   |   Nike Running

John Levison chatted to the Nike-sponsored, fast rising young star of British 400m Hurdles Jack Green, and found a 20 year old more than happy to say "I wouldn't be in the sport if I didn't think I could become the best in the world and win everything... and I will."

While the stereotypical British reserve may shudder at such (over?) confidence from one so young, rather than label him as arrogant, John came away as a new fan of an athlete who aspires to be 'that guy that came from nowhere to win'. If Jack Green has his way, he plans on being the breakthrough act of London 2012.

John Levison chatted to the Nike-sponsored, fast rising young star of British 400m Hurdles Jack Green

"I just couldn't accept losing" is a great line to explain the motivation to give up football and take up athletics full time. Football's loss may yet prove to be a massive win for the marquee sport of the Olympic Games.

British 400 metre hurdler Jack Green is just 20 years of age and has "only been training properly for a year", but the thought of continuing in a sport where he could be the best player in a game - and yet the team still lose - is not one that sits comfortably on the increasingly broad shoulders of this fiercely competitive and driven newcomer to the world stage of possibly the toughest event on the track.

He doesn't set politically correct goals, at least publicly, of 'wanting to make the final' or 'hoping to run well', he only wants to be the best. While 2012 might (?) come a little early for that - and he'll have to beat training partner and reigning World Champion Dai Greene amongst others to reach that end - you could never accuse him of being a shrinking violet or lacking in confidence either. Arrogant? Cocky? Not in my eyes. After 15 minutes of stimulating chat with the still growing youngster - he's now 6ft 4inches tall and has "gained 14kg of muscle since training with Malcolm (Arnold)", I find myself thinking that I really would like one those elusive 2012 tickets for the 400m hurdles final ...because Jack Green leaves you with an energy, confidence and belief that he will be there. I'm a new fan.

A summer athlete, winter soccer/rugby player as a youth, how did he end up with the 'man-killer' event of the 400m hurdles? "I think it's very much around me - I don't think many people choose the 400 metre hurdles. I went from 800m and cross-country, and I found I always had a lot of speed relative to the 800m runners and endurance runners, and so I did some 4*400m relays. When I first started doing some hurdling I was 6 foot tall at 15, so I figured why not add some hurdles, shouldn't be much of an issue...and that's kind of how it all happened."

With that height now a further four inches (so far...) advanced, is that a benefit for the event, or is it perhaps detrimental to the all important hurdlers stride pattern? "Oh it's a huge benefit for someone of my age. I'm only really now learning about the event, training, stride patterns and everything else... but the height in the end, will certainly help."

Malcolm Arnold is a legend of hurdles coaching renowned worldwide for his knowledge and skill. Jack is well aware of his abilities stating directly; "he's the best coach in the world and I'm very lucky. I've had some strong and very motivational people in my life and he just works well for me. He's very firm, but also very understanding... I certainly wouldn't be doing as well without him." Training partner and 2011 World Champion Dai Greene is actually a primary reason why Jack is now training in Bath under the wise tutelage of Arnold. He said to Jack "'you need to come to Bath' ...originally I was going to go to University in America." The Sports Performance undergraduate at Bath University has just deferred his second year to concentrate fully on his athletics, and sees his long term future very clearly: "I wouldn't be in the sport if I didn't think I could become the best in the world and win everything. I'm not that sort of person, I'm not here to be an extra ...I want to win things, and I will."

I did mention confidence, didn't I...?! "I want to be that guy that came from nowhere... a lot of people don't agree with that, which I think is a shame that in this country we put people down for having these goals."

2011 saw a Gold medal at the European Under-23 Champs, a first sub-49 second clocking and a semi-final at the World Champs in Daegu. How did that measure up to his expectations? "The only thing I didn't do was reach the final of the World Champs, but, that was a very high aim... and so it was a dream year really, setting me up well for 2012, but as an athlete and a person I always want more." The learning points from that World's experience? "I've been exposed to the highest level of competition outside of the Olympics at a young age...when I go to the Olympics this year (note, no mention of "if"...) I'll be much more familiar with a major championships set up."

Entering only his second year of 'proper' training under Arnold, how have things progressed this winter? "I'm a completely different athlete really, taller, have gained weight/strength, faster." With the A-standard qualifying time already in the bag, a top-two in the trials would see him safely set for Stratford later this year.

If the improved strength is indeed a strength, a quick review of Jack's racing shows that the final part of his race is certainly a Green asset, as when others 'die' in the home straight he often comes to life and slices through the opposition, perhaps also reflecting his 800m / endurance background. "It can be a problem though, especially at the elite level because if athletes go out hard, they don't come back as easily...it's something we've been working on, to improve the first part of my race. Ultimately though, I think that finishing ability will always be a trademark - it's just the way I'm built."

The Green training regime is a 9-1pm, six days a week with Saturday off, a significant departure from his twice a week 'training' of less than two years ago. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday are run days with Monday and Wednesday in the gym with circuits, weights and conditioning.

20 years old, on the way up and sponsored by global sporting giant Nike - that's a great position for an athlete to be in? "When you are an athlete, especially a young one, looking up at the sponsored athletes then Nike is really what you aim for and want - when I had a good year as a junior and Nike came calling, well, I was going to sign that contract straight away. It's great."

"I'm so far ahead of last year ...I just can't wait to get out there an race." If Jack Green can deliver as he hopes, British Athletics has a new star in the making - remember the name.

John Levison chatted to the Nike-sponsored, fast rising young star of British 400m Hurdles Jack Green

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