100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Maurice Greene, track

Maurice Green
Maurice Greene USOC mug.jpg
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 09:00:24-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For nearly six years, Maurice Greene was the World’s Fastest Human — the unofficial title bestowed on the reigning 100-meter world-record holder.

He’s also arguably the greatest Olympian ever from the Kansas City area.

Greene was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and graduated from F.L. Schlagle High School, where he also played football, in 1993.

There are still signs around KCK that declare it the “Home of Maurice Greene, World’s Fastest Human.”

In high school, he swept the Kansas Class 6A state championships in 100 and 200 three straight years from 1991-93 while also leading the Stallions to first-place finishes in the 400 relay each spring

The University of Kansas offered Greene a track scholarship, but he chose instead to attend school on a Project Choice scholarship from the Kauffman Foundation, which paid tuition and other expenses for students who maintained a certain grade-point average and abstained from drugs or teen parenthood.

Project Choice, which operated from 1988 to 2001 and sent roughly 1,400 students to college, from Westport High School or five high schools in KCK, including Schlagle.

Greene attended KCK Community College and Park University, eschewing college track to continue training independently with former KCK Community College and Nike Central coach Al Hobson, who began training Greene at age 8.

Under Hobson’s tutelage, Greene quietly emerged as one of the top sprinters in the U.S. during the the mid-1990s.

Only a few months after taking the track world by storm, beating Carl Lewis head-to-head at the Texas Relays, Greene failed to even qualify for the semifinals at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Dubbed “Mr. Confidence” by Track & Field News ahead of the meet, that failure drove Greene — a relative unknown at the time — to even greater heights.

He moved to Los Angeles and began working with legendary sprint coach John Smith.

He became a world champion in the 100 in 1997 in Athens and less than two years later broke Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey’s world record, clocking a 9.79-second 100 during a Grand Prix meet back in Athens.

Maurice Greene of the U.S., right, roars with celebration after breaking the world record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 9.79 seconds in Athens at the Tsiklitiria International track meet Wednesday, June 16, 1999. Seen left is Trinidad's Ato Boldon who finished in 9.86.

Two months after becoming the World’s Fastest Human, Greene became only the third sprinter in history to sweep the 100, 200 and win gold in the 400 relay at the 1999 World Championships in Seville, Spain.

Greene added a gold in the 100 at the 2000 Sydney Games. He swept his heat, quarterfinal and semifinal races before pulling away from Trinidad and Tobago’s Ato Boldon to finish the final in 9.87.

Greene also anchored the 400 relay to a gold medal in dominant fashion.

He added a third straight title in the 100 at the 2001 World Championships, cementing his status as one of the greatest sprinters in history.

Greene also set the 60-meter record (6.39) at an indoor meet on Feb. 3, 1998, in Madrid. That record stood for 20 years and Greene remains the only person in history to hold the 60 (indoor) and 100 (outdoor) records at the same time.

He won a world title at the 1999 World Indoor Championships, one of six world titles he won in his Hall of Fame career.

Greene also won U.S. championships in the 100 twice (1997, 2002), the 200 (1999) and the 60 (2001).

Maurice Greene
FILE- In thhis Sept 7, 1999, file photo, U.S. sprinter Maurice Greene reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 4x100 meters relay during the Golden League track and field athletics final at the Olympic stadium in Berlin. Devers and Maurice Greene were selected for the National Track & Field Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011.

Ahead of the 2004 Athens Games, Greene had been dogged by injuries — and added a tattoo of a lion with the word “GOAT” underneath, short for “Greatest Of All Time” — but he again swept the preliminary, quarterfinal and semifinal races en route to the U.S. Olympic Trials final — winning in 9.91 seconds to punch a return ticket to the Games.

Greene ran 9.87 again in Athens, finishing second behind fellow U.S. sprinter Justin Gatlin (9.85) and Portugal’s Francis Obikwelu (9.86).

Anchoring the U.S. in the 400 relay, Greene nearly made up a two-meter deficit after two early botched baton passes, but couldn’t quite overtake Great Britain’s Mark Lewis-Francis in a race decided by 0.01 seconds.

Still, the silver medal gave Greene four medals in his Olympic career.

When Greene retired in 2008, he’d run sub-10 seconds in the 100 a record 53 times.

After retiring, Greene competed on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2009, finishing fifth, among other TV appearances and started a career in coaching in Arizona.

He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2011.

The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.

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