Born February 17, 1967 in Dayton, Oh 6-0/1.83m 154lbs./70kg Stebbins HS, Dayton '86 Ohio State '90 PRs (outdoor): LJ 27-10/8.48m '95 (28-5/8.66[A]w '92) TJ 55-4.75/16.88m '89 (55-6.5/16.93w '90) PRs (indoor): LJ 26-8.25/8.13m '93 TJ 55-0.25/16.77m '89 Major Meets (LJ unless noted): 1988 14)NCAA Indoor 12)NCAA 10)NCAA TJ 16q)Olympic Trials TJ 1989 3)NCAA Indoor 2)NCAA Indoor TJ 1)NCAA 11)NCAA TJ 6)USA 3)USA TJ 1990 3)NCAA Indoor 11)NCAA Indoor TJ 17q)NCAA 3)NCAA TJ 11)USA 13q)USA TJ 1991 3)USA Indoor 17q)USA 4)GP Final 1992 2)USA Indoor 6)USA Indoor TJ 3)Olympic Trials 9)Olympic Trials TJ 3)Olympic Games 1993 3)USA Indoor 2)World Indoor 3)USA =14q)World Championships 1994 8)USA TJ 1995 1)USA Indoor 4)World Indoor 18q)USA 4)GP Final 1996 3)USA Indoor 2)Olympic Trials 3)Olympic Games
In the third round of the long jump at the Atlanta Olympics, Joe Greene stared his demons in the eye. Long labeled an inconsistent jumper, Greene knew he was something else as well, a great big meet jumper. He had a bronze medal from Barcelona to prove it. Now here he was in Centennial Olympic Stadium, 85,000 people staring at him, and he didn't have a mark to get him into the final three rounds. Time to put up or shut up.
Greene launched into his bouncy, light stride, hit the board nicely, and sailed to 27-0.5. The mark put him in second place, which held until James Beckford dislodged him in the last round. No matter. Greene had another medal, and his vindication. He joined the legendary Soviet Igor Ter-Ovanesyan in the distinction of being the only men to win two long jump bronzes.
Anyone who has followed Greene's career will agree that the former Ohio State star is good enough to do just about anything in the event. Greene's explosive talent has been unpredictable, hampered by technique that could probably be better.
In 1990, favored to finish in the top four in the NCAA long jump, Greene jumped only 23-10.25 in the qualifying, nearly three feet short of his seasonal best. In 1991, he jumped nearly two feet short of his best to finish 17th in the qualifying at the USA Champs. In 1993, a season when he went 27-4, he got stuck in the qualifying at Worlds. And in 1995, he jumped a PR of 27-10 prior to the USA Champs, yet produced only a meager 23-6 in the qualifying at that meet.
Yet for every downer in his career, Greene has had an inspiring success. In 1989 at the NCAA Champs in Provo, Utah, Greene languished in seventh after five rounds of the long jump, while Leroy Burrell led. Then, on his last try, Greene finally hit his steps right and sailed out to 27-7.25 for the win. The wind that aided the mark denied Greene the school record he chased for four years at Ohio State, Jesse Owens' 26-8.25. "You can't try and walk in someone else's footsteps," he said. "I have my own goals to achieve."
In 1992 he upset the formchart to make the Olympic team. He overcame a bad hamstring to leap 27-1.25 in the first round, a mark that held up in the tough Trials competition, even as Greene fouled his last four attempts. In Barcelona, Greene scared the daylight out of his fans in qualifying; he only made the final on his last jump, and then only with a quarter-inch to spare. In the final, he fouled half of his jumps, popping a fourth round 27-4.5 to move from sixth to a bronze medal (and give the U.S. a sweep). "I honestly thought I could win in Barcelona," Greene told Track & Field News. "I jumped a windy 28-5 in Sestriere making so many mistakes. But inexperience got me at the Games." Of the medal sweep, he said, "It was history-making, a feeling of pride you couldn't ever buy."
Trouble hit afterwards. Feeling tired and overworked, Greene skipped some post-Olympic meets and headed home. After only three weeks off he started training again, harder and harder. In December 1993, not long after his marriage to German long jumper Susen Tiedtke, Greene ended up in the hospital. "Two different doctors said, 'You either tested positive for having some type of parasite or a connective tissue disorder.'" The antibodies, says Greene, are similar. "They told me that my body's immune system was totally breaking down. My heart didn't beat right; my eyes couldn't see right. I was pretty upset, pretty sad. I didn't understand this. Why would it happen to me? At one point they said I had pneumonia. I just kept getting worse and worse."
Eventually, Greene's health slowly started turning around. "I changed the way I ate. I had to start drinking water, for a little while I had to go away from eating anything with sugars, flours, or starches. I had to start eating more organic things. I did a parasite elimination program, an intestinal cleansing program. I had to make sure I ate all my vitamins and minerals."
That program, along with plenty of rest and prayer, turned his life around. Greene, who holds a degree in social work, now says, "I'm still getting better. I'm thankful."
Only a 24-1 (wind-aided) jumper in high school, Greene came from an athletic family. An older sister, Denise, ran 11.75 in the 100 for Michigan State in 1978.
He has leaped 55-4.75 in the triple jump, and sometimes feels his best potential is there. "The triple jump is not very strong right now," he says. "It might be pretty easy for me to make the team. I do want to pursue triple jumping in the next year or so, but I really, really, really, really want to jump really long. It's a lot harder to do both and be really good at it." The long jump will have to come first.
In 1995, Greene started his season on the right foot, capturing the USA Indoor long jump with a leap of 26-9.75. "I wasn't 100% this year at all. Nowhere near it," he says. "I pulled my quad indoors and it never healed." At the outdoor nationals, he failed to make the finals, despite jumping a PR of 27-10 a month earlier.
"It was a rough year," he said, "but I was happy. It just makes a big difference in your life when you think you can't do something and all of a sudden you can do it again." Outdoors, he saw his share of ups and downs, and was surely distracted by his wife's troubles.
Tiedtke-Green, a 22-11.75 jumper, ranked number 10 in the world in 1993. After the wedding, the two moved to Dublin, Ohio, where they coach each other. In March 1995, she reportedly tested positive for oral-turinabol in a random test just 24 hours after winning the bronze at the World Indoors. However, there have been many charges of irregularities in the handling of her case. She remains unable to compete.
"It's going to be a great story when everything comes out and she's able to compete again," says Greene. "We believe that everything is going to be all right. She's a strong woman, so that makes it much easier to handle this."
Greene tries to focus on what he wants out of the sport: "I don't know how much time I have left in track and field, but I view it a little differently now. God blesses you with talent, but you only have a little bit of time in your window. If you don't capitalize on what you've been given and do it, then somebody else is going to do it. I hope to God that I do well. If I don't make it, at least I'm going to give it my best."