Daily Archives: June 8, 2010

Guy Drut: The Stylish Hurdler

I’ve always loved reading about vintage track & field. Back in college, I drooled at the wealth of track knowledge contained in “A World History of Track & Field Athletics 1864-1964.” I was particularly amazed at how the athletics pioneers ran spectacular times despite a cinder track and spartan training methods.

Before the advent of hurdles with plastic top-bars, the barriers were once actual sheep hurdles (back in the 1800’s in Britain), shaped like an inverted “T” (harder to fall than today’s “L” shaped hurdles) or robustly built (with wooden top bars).

Photo from athle67.athle.org

Take a look at the following documentary about Guy Drut, who won the 110m high hurdles silver in the 1976 Montreal Games, behind the double-armed Rodney Milburn. Although the 70’s were a far cry from the cinder-track days of Paddock and Owens, the video still retains that nostalgic aura.

I like Drut’s style of hurdling. It’s efficient and a joy to watch. Not a single movement is wasted or exaggerated. Drut has a stable center of gravity all throughout the hurdling motion. Even though it lacks the sheer power of Liu Xiang and Allen Johnson (Drut is just a low 13 second hurdler), Drut’s graceful movements epitomize hurdling as an art form. Although the former world record holder could perhaps lean forward a bit more, Drut’s trail leg action snaps with so much vigor. If I were to choose one aspect of Drut’s hurdling that truly stands out, it is the snap of the trail leg.

Hurdlers of all levels can learn important pointers from the way Drut executes the various hurdle drills. Since the main point of drills is to isolate and perfect certain aspects of hurdling technique, Drut maintains an erect body throughout, enabling his legs to do most of the work. For instance, in the quick step hurdling drill variation (3:44), Drut shuns the aggressive forward lean of actual full-race hurdling technique in favor of a straight back. As a result, his hips and legs are isolated, enabling one’s muscle memory to retain the correct movements efficiently.

What I like most about the documentary (aside from the retro outfits!) are the voice-overs.

“Establish contact with the hurdles. True they are obstacles. But above all, they are indispensable instruments to the forthcoming 13-second [I didn’t quite catch the this term]. Tune-up with the hurdle. Harmonize with them.”

I’m not sure if the lines actually come from Drut himself, but if that’s the case, then it isn’t surprising considering the suppleness and ease of Drut’s form. Even though I don’t always exhibit the aforesaid approach to hurdling, we share the same fundamental hurdling principles – of relaxed, deeply-wrought intensity.

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Liu Xiang’s (刘翔) Comeback

Being a hardcore Liu Xiang (刘翔) fan, I must admit that it kills me to see my idol struggle. Although Liu remains his ever-cheerful self, its disconcerting to hear him say that he’s quite content with just landing a slot in the 2010 Doha World Indoor Championships or clocking a poor 13.40s to finish behind David Oliver and Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏.

A column from Universal Sports (which is a fine source of US-oriented track & field stuff, by the way) highlights Liu’s “injury and low confidence-induced rut.” When asked about his chances for London 2012, Liu replied: “The London Olympics is too far for me. I must start from the very beginning. I am not sure about myself now.”

But then again, one has to be an athlete himself to understand where Liu Xiang is coming from. Allen Johnson’s remarks on the prospect of Liu’s recovery is enlightening: “I don’t see why not. It’s still two years away… (Liu’s problems) will pass in time, it’s just a matter of working through.”

It turns out that Johnson himself went under the knife for that same Achilles injury. Being a fixture in sprint hurdling (and being Liu’s idol), Johnson’s words come with so much wisdom.

In a sense, there is wisdom in Liu Xiang’s mindset. He’s at a stage wherein recovery is painfully slow; overexertion is a clear and present danger. Hence, having a pressure-free perspective about competing could indeed facilitate a seamless transition from recovery to top-notch performance. It’s clear that Liu does not intend to raise the bar too high, that the former World, World Indoor and Olympic Champion does not want to set too high a summit only to see himself fail in the enterprise.

Liu vs. Johnson back in 2004

Liu Xiang with his idol

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Track Beauty of the Week: Kelly Sotherton

Kelly Sotherton is this week’s Track Beauty!

It’s a good thing to note that before the emergence of Jess Ennis, Sotherton was the UK’s top heptathlete, having won a surprise 2004 Athens Bronze and a 2007 Osaka World Championships Bronze. Sotherton could have churned in better performances, if not for her below-par javelin throws.

Since 2009, Sotherton has been plagued with injury. With Ennis on the rise, the erstwhile Queen of British Multi-events has been relegated to the sidelines. Don’t count her out just yet. – I’m not! She’s still targeting London 2012 despite her advanced age by then (36).

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Been sick for the past three days. It started with intermittent chills and a mild headache last week, probably from all the late nights and the epic beach trip last weekend. It worsened to a bad fever by Saturday night. By Sunday, I was bedridden – unable to do anything productive. I was forced to miss two days of work just to recover. My training calendar has been pushed back by a good one week.

I haven’t been this ill in months. I should indeed steer clear of those late night boozing.

My head still hurts, but I’m feeling a lot better now.

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