Maurice Greene finally stopped talking about the 100-meter world record and broke it tonight in a time of 9.79 seconds.
The 24-year-old from Kansas City, Kan., shattered one of track's most important marks in an invitational race for the world's top sprinters, running on a nearly windless night in the stadium that will be used for the 2004 Olympics.
"I expected it," Greene said. "This is only the beginning."
The previous record of 9.84 was set by Canada's Donovan Bailey at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
At first, Greene's unofficial time was flashed as 9.78. The official time later was set at 9.79.
The crowd gave him a standing ovation as he hugged athletes and waved the banner of his track club.
The last American to own the record was Leroy Burrell, who ran a 9.85 race in 1994 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
All last year, Greene and his training partner, Ato Boldon of Trinidad and Tobago, talked about shattering Bailey's record. Greene's best allowable time was 9.90 and Boldon's was 9.86. Greene, ranked No. 1 in the world in 1998, also ran a wind-aided 9.79.
Canadian Ben Johnson ran a 9.79 at the 1988 Seoul Games, but he was stripped of the record and the gold medal for using steroids.
This year, Greene and Boldon said they would not discuss the record but would concentrate only on winning. A record would be a bonus, they agreed.
"I think it's very significant we came to the birthplace of track and field to break this record," said Boldon, who finished second in 9.86. Bruny Surin of Canada finished third in 9.97.
The .05-second difference between Bailey's mark and Greene's is the biggest drop the record has taken since the first officially accepted electronic record of 9.95 run by Jim Hines at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
"This is a special place for me," said Greene, who won the 1997 world championship on the same track in 9.86, his previous best allowable time.
Greene said his next goal was 9.76.
Initially, Greene planned to run only the 200 tonight, but he changed his mind after seeing the strong 100 field.
"I said, `They can't have a party without me,' " he said. "I knew something was going to happen with this race. I wanted to be part of it."
Greene began talking about the 100 record early last year after setting the world indoor mark in the 60 in 6.39 seconds. When it didn't materialize, he abandoned the discussion.
Earlier this month in Milan, Greene won the 100 in 10.16 and insisted he was only concerned about the competition and not the clock.
"I am not obsessed with the world record," he said.
Greene will defend his world title in Seville, Spain, in August. He also will try a sprint double in the 200.
Greene made his first national impact in 1995 when he beat Carl Lewis in a wind-aided 9.88 at the Texas Relays. He finished second in the 1995 national championships, earning a spot on the U.S. team for the world championships in Goteborg, Sweden. He did not advance past the quarterfinals.
Greene failed to qualify for the Atlanta Olympics, finishing seventh in his quarterfinal heat at the trials. He decided to go to Los Angeles and work under John Smith, a former great quarter-miler who holds the world record for 440 yards.
"The biggest thing we worked on with Maurice is having him run his own race," Smith said. "All I did was put him in consistent training, the mechanics, eating habits. He's got a great work ethic and attitude.
"Maurice knows how to compete. His biggest asset is that he isn't cowed by competition. On game day, he loves to match up against the best. . . . He can be around another 10 years."
After winning the world title two years ago, beating Bailey, Greene said, "I want to help put U.S. sprinting back on top where it belongs."
Less than 90 minutes after setting the record, Greene finished second in the 200 in 20.03, behind Boldon's winning time of 19.86.
Earlier, Boldon won the regular 100 in 9.97. Greece's Ekaterini Thanou won the women's 100 in 10.92 and Noah Ngeny led a Kenyan 1-2-3 finish in the 1,500 in 3:31.32.
The Fastest Ever
When Maurice Greene ran the 100 meters in 9.79 seconds yesterday, he erased doubt that anyone would match Canadian Ben Johnson's steroid-aided time at the Seoul Olympics. The history of the 100-meter world record:
Ben Johnson's records of 9.79 in 1988 and 9.83 in 1987 were erased after he tested positive for the steroid stanozolol.
Source: USA Track and Field
CAPTION: U.S.'s Maurice Greene bursts past finish line as fastest human ever.
CAPTION: Maurice Greene waves to crowd in Athens after breaking Donovan Bailey's three-year-old record with 9.79 in 100. Ato Boldon took second in 9.86.