Monthly Archives: July 2011

Return to Rizal (30 July 2011)

I went back to Rizal Memorial Stadium for the first time since the Philippine National Games. Thanks to a tropical storm that skirted Luzon, gray skies and a steady drizzle greeted my homecoming. There were still traces of the Azkals match, with the benches, FIFA-labeled sheds and advertisement banners at the sidelines.

 

I warmed up at the grandstand to escape the rain. And lo and behold, I was awestruck by the spanking new plastic seats! The guys from the PFF (I think) took out the scratched, rotting wooden benches of the past. Too bad track athletes can’t lie down on these individual seats!

 

Save for a few security guards and the occasional street cat, I had the stadium to myself. Of course, the memories of that splendid game was fresh on my mind. Being a hardcore track athlete, what struck me most was the history of the place. Whilst warming up, I could almost feel the aura of past Filipino champions from a bygone time – Simeon Toribio, Miguel White, Isidro del Prado and Lydia De Vega.

I learned the ropes of the sport in Rizal. I’ve experienced my biggest triumphs (to date) and my most crushing defeats in the decades-old Art Deco stadium. Despite being antiquated and run-down, Rizal shall always be home.

Circuitous (29-30 July 2011)

I started the week with a bang, but lost steam in the middle. A typhoon and a simmering bout with colds necessitated bed rest. A crucial football game, believe it or not, made me skip last Thursday’s training.

The two-day hiatus did wonders to my body and mind. By the time I got back on Friday, I was eager to train again. Gone was the feeling of subtle staleness that had haunted the workouts of the past days. My left leg, which I mildly strained the week before, was back in tip-top shape.

Since it was loading week, I made the workouts extra harder. I had three training sessions in a span of two days – which was a relatively heavy load in light of my full-time day job and weekend morning classes. I did speed endurance work on Friday night.

After class in Makati the morning after, I headed out to good ole Rizal Memorial for a badass session of hurdle drills and some light speed work. I had a high quality hurdles session. I was focused entirely on the task at hand, trying to correct the deficiencies in my form. I practically had the entire Rizal Memorial Stadium to myself, until my friend Ninoy came in. Two hours later, I rode the train, the jeep and drove all the way to Celebrity Club in Quezon City for a gym workout to top the tiring day!

Despite shuttling between a classroom and two different training venues from opposite ends of the vast concrete jungle of Metro Manila, I had great fun!

Lemaitre Streaks to 9.92s!

Christophe Lemaitre, for the nth time, lowered his French 100m record to 9.92s. Lemaitre edged out walloped fellow youngster Jimmy Vicaut, the newly-minted European Junior Champion, for the French national title.

The rangy Lemaitre started sluggishly (as usual), as Yannick Lesourd powered on to an early lead. In his trademark second-half burst, Lemaitre turned on the afterburners en route to his seventh trip under the ten-second barrier. It was a high quality field as Vicaut (10.07s) and Martial Mbandjock (10.17s) strutted world-class times, speaking volumes about the depth of French athletics.

Read the IAAF write-up here

The 21-year old shaved off two-hundredths of a second from his erstwhile PB, a new European U23 record (his fourth for this year), the ninth fastest time in 2011 and the third fastest time by European since Francis Obikwelu (9.86s) and Linford Christie (9.87s).

With Lemaitre’s penchant for last-ditch heroics, it is apt to compare the Frenchman to nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis – in the sprints, at least. Lewis clocked 9.92s and 9.99s en route to winning the Seoul and Los Angeles Olympic Games. But then again, those were vastly different circumstances than today’s.

View more posts about Lemaitre here

Nevertheless, expect Lemaitre to at least barge into the 100m and 200m finals come Daegu.

Track Beauty of the Week: Alina Talai Алина Талай (Alina Talay)

Alina Talai Алина Талай is this week’s track beauty!

The Belorussian sprint hurdler is an upcoming talent in the event. Still only twenty-one years old, Talai had racked up her experience level in high quality meets. She has a personal best of 12.87s from 2010, ranking her among the elite of the 100m hurdles.

 

Photos from klbviktoria.com and belmarket.by

Talai’s best finish in a major international competition was semifinals appearance at the 2010 World Indoor Championships in Doha. She has been more successful in the European senior competition, having barged into the final of the 60m hurdles at the Paris European Indoor Championships.

The Belorussian missed out on a podium finish at the 2008 World Junior Championships, but redeemed herself by landing a bronze at the European U-23 Championships against older opponents a year later. Talai edged out the more fancied Swiss, Lisa Urech (who had set a PB of 12.62s, sixth fastest time in 2011), for the European U-23 hurdles crown. En route to her continental title, the Belorussian stopped the clock in season’s best of 12.91s, against Urech’s 13.00s.

Talai has shown marked consistency in the 2011 season. It is important to note that despite the worst of conditions, the Belorussian had managed to keep her form together, as evidenced by her sterling performance at the European Team Championships where she placed a fighting second. This is certainly impressive, in light of her unexpected exit at the Barcelona European Championships after clipping a hurdle.

The hard-working Belarussian hurdler finally barged into the top 3 of a major international event. She clocked a season’s best of 7.97s to win bronze at the Istanbul World Indoor Championships, behind the prolific Sally Pearson (7.73s) and Britain’s Tiffany Porter (7.94s).

After the race, it turned out that Talai was clueless on her ranking in the final. Asking the mixed zone interviewer regarding her placing, Talai was pleasantly shocked to learn that she won bronze! It is a touchingly authentic scene rarely caught on tape!

Thoughts

I’ve been under the athletics radar the past few days, thanks to a bum hamstring and a mild cold. The hamstring felt better after a few days of rest and the mucus level had dramatically subsided. Nevertheless, I still feel out of sync. I was supposed to hit the track last night, but thanks to Typhoon Juaning (and to mucus-clogged nasal passages), I had to skip the workout.

I just hate it when unexpected occurrences derail my plans. Just when I was starting to shift into high gear, I have to pause.

I’m not training tonight too, since I’m gonna watch the second round of the Philippines – Kuwait football match-up. Besides, I am in such poor mental state. Perhaps a two-day respite from the routine would whip my mind into training shape again. Perhaps watching my countrymen face those Middle Eastern football giants despite the steepest of odds would fan the fires of (sporting) inspiration.

Many a time have I felt pumped-up after watching a Manny Pacquiao fight. Such is the effect of spectator sports. It enables myself to push my body to the limits, to will my mind to excel. Some people wonder why I pursue the sport despite the fact that athletics is a fringe Filipino sport. The statistics are against me. Chances are I won’t run fourteen seconds, much less thirteen seconds, considering my crude sporting background. In relative terms, I suck in the hurdles.

So why in the hell do I continue? What’s the point of doing something you’re not good at? From a rational point-of-view, I might as well pour everything I got into building up my financial career and my social relationships. Instead, I religiously do endless sprints, hurdle workouts and weight training exercises. To make things worse, I train alone. The solitude amplifies these thoughts a hundred-fold.

Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина on Trans World Sport

Our favorite long jumper, Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина, is featured on Trans World Sport!

View more Darya Klishina posts here

Thoughts on the Azkals-Al Azraq Match

Thanks to a mild hamstring strain, I stayed home for the better part of the weekend. After my morning class in Makati, I headed straight home to catch the UAAP festivities, the replay of the Monaco Diamond League and the PBA-NBA All Stars match. The Philippines was set to play mighty Kuwait early Sunday morning, in the second round of World Cup qualifying. Despite being exhausted by the heavy trading days the past week and the multitude of sporting spectacles listed above, I soldiered on.

After missing the past few editions World Cup qualifying, the now-popular Azkals made history by bursting into the second round. Pitted against a powerhouse Kuwaiti team that eked out hard-earned draws against regional powers Japan and Australia, the lowly-ranked Philippine team was cannon fodder – on paper at least.

Hence, I just had to endure the lure of sleep dust.

The first-half was action-packed. The Philippines’ ace striker Phil Younghusband had two golden opportunities to score, at one point in the match hitting the crossbar following a thunderous strike. Attacking midfielder Angel Guirado, who is of Filipino-Spanish descent, also nipped the bar with a powerful, point-black header.

A mighty counter-attack by the Kuwaitis ensued after Guirado’s close shave with scoring an upset goal. A Kuwaiti winger let loose an accurate cross to a teammate, who headed a searing shot to the back of the net, eluding the outstretched arms of Fulham’s Neil Etheridge. The home side went on to score two more goals, as it dominated possession all throughout the match. The Philippine defense was in seeming disarray, sans captain Aly Borromeo. Etheridge made some fine saves to keep the deficit from building up.

The Filipinos were unable score in the remainder of the match, against the well-oiled (pun-intended) Kuwaiti footballing machine.

I was disappointed, of course. But we had our chances. Kuwait was indeed at an entirely different level of football, in light of its relatively storied football pedigree. It was the first time I stayed up late for a football match – an unthinkable thought a few years ago for this hardcore athletics fan! Despite the loss, I enjoyed the game. I shouted passionately with each missed goal attempt, saying to myself that, hey, an upset is in the offing!

I don’t see myself following professional football matches or the UFL any time soon. My loyalties still lie with athletics and the occasional basketball (tennis, boxing, etc.) game. Most of the rules and nuances of the beautiful game are still alien concepts.

When the Azkals (or the Malditas) are aired on live TV, I’ll be glued to the boob tube to cheer on my countrymen. Since matches and competitions featuring our various national teams are rarely given media coverage, I might as well take advantage of what’s readily available!

Track Race Turns Ugly as Baala Headbutts Mekhissi-Benabbad

French middle distance runners Mehdi Baala مهدي بعلة‎ and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad came to blows at the end of the 1,500m run at the Monaca Diamond League last week. The two athletes figured in a heated argument before Baala, the 2006 European 1,500m champion, headbutted Mekhissi-Benabbad, the 2010 European 3,000m steeplechase champion.

The elder Baala, despite the headbutt, was on the retreat throughout the bizarre encounter, as the younger Mekhissi-Benabbad threw four wild swings against the former’s single punch to the cheek.

Both athletes are top-tier athletes, having won medals at the World Championships (Baala) and the Olympics (Mekhissi-Benabbad). To say that the incident is shocking is an understatement! What a disgrace to the sport!

To get a clearer perspective of what the hell happened, read the following articles:

BBC

Reuters

AFP

Said BBC’s Steve Cram: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in an athletics meeting.”

Enough said.

Some Saturday Night Thoughts

I was a little bit of a basket case back in college, with my neurotic tendencies and all! Well, as Sam Mussabini from the movie Chariots of Fire said: “A short sprint is run on nerves. It’s tailor-made for neurotics.” I had occasional mood swings. But whether I’m in a good or bad mood, I almost always seem to channel the positive or negative energy into productive training.

Nevertheless, I ascribe to the “train happy” mentality espoused by my high school coach. Quoting the words of Peter Pan, he told his wards to “think happy thoughts before a race.” Throughout my decade-long athletics career, I’ve lived by this training mantra, even if at times I veered off this mindset.

Looking back, I’ve cleared countless hurdles (both real and figurative) thanks to Coach Ed’s borrowed lines. Mental toughness is important, now that I’m training alone. What keeps me coming back to the track, despite the difficulties, is my dream to be national champion – and to carry the country’s colors in international competition. At twenty-five years old, I don’t have much time left. I tried hanging up my spikes, but the call of the track was too loud to ignore.

I figured that ten or twenty years from now, I’ll look back at my quarter-life with a certain sense of pity, had I failed to will my body for a second shot at athletics glory. One does not stay young forever. The Holy Grail is nothing but a figment of fiction. Despite the seemingly daunting odds, I could not possibly steer clear of the hurdles.

I’m a hurdler and an athletics man to the core. I must soldier on to the best of my abilities.

Track Beauty of the Week: Ebba Jungmark

Ebba Jungmark is this week’s track beauty!

Jungmark is next in line to the long list of excellent Swedish high jumpers. The twenty-four year old won her first major international medal at the European Indoor Championships in Paris early this year.

Photo from Runnerspace

The young Swede set a new indoor personal best of 1.96m en route to her podium finish. Jungmark performed superbly despite the absence of her more illustrious compatriot Emma Green-Tregaro.

The Onsala-born athlete has won numerous Swedish titles as youth and junior athlete. Jungmark went to the United States for her college education. She made her mark across the pond, winning the 2008 NCAA Division I Indoor high jump title, a year after competing at the 2007 Osaka World Championships.

At the Istanbul World Indoor Championships, Jungmark – together win Russia’s Anna Chicherova  and Italy’s Antonietta Di Martino – all shared a spot on the coveted podium. All three athletes had equally identical scorecards, with each clearing a best height of 1.95m and having three failures at 1.98m. The comebacking Chaunté Lowe won the event with a 1.98m clearance.

Now that was a win-win situation!

Additional link:

WSU profile

The Blade Runner is Daegu-bound!

Oscar Pistorius stops the clock in 45.07s in Italy. The Blade Runner shaved off a good half second from his erstwhile best of 45.61s en route to meeting the “A” standard for the 2011 Daegu World Championships. After years of controversy and misses, the South African double amputee finally achieved the elusive qualification standard – in the nick of time!

Read: “The Blade Runner”

Read the BBC article here

The post-race celebration was especially touching. This would have to be one of my favorite moments of the 2011 season.

Congratulations, Oscar!

P.S.

Pistorius is a nice guy indeed. He sends direct messages to each and every tweeter who sent their respective congratulations!

Jessie Saint-Marc does a Redmond

I just can’t stand having “DNF” written beside my name. Perhaps it was due to the strong impact of Derek Redmond’s memorable Olympic moment. Hence, I’ve admired certain elite athletes who strove to finish the race despite injury, a slow time notwithstanding. John Stephen Akhwari actually preceded Redmond in this category, when the former limped to the Marathon finish line dead last despite dislocating his knee.

Read: “Dorando Pietri, Derek Redmond and the Olympic Ideal”

In less dramatic circumstances, a hamstrung Shinji Takahira 高平 慎士 fought on at the Athens Olympics 200m preliminaries. David Alerte walked the remainder of the  Barcelona European Championships 200m final, after pulling his hamstring midway into the race.

Most recently, France’s Jessie Saint-Marc limped and grimaced in the 100m dash final of the European U-23 Championships in Ostrava. The brave Frenchwoman stopped the clock at 32.85s, light-years away from her 11.49s personal best.

I am not sure if her courageous effort was met with cheers. Nevertheless, she’s a winner in my book.

“My country did not send me to 5,000 miles to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.” – John Stephen Akhwari

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” – Pierre de Coubertin

Some Pre-Season Thoughts

I’m on the fourth microcycle of the six-week GPP program. I’ve been relatively more disciplined the past few weeks, despite the lazy urges. It seems that I have adjusted fully to my Han Solo routine. Gone are the reluctance so obvious in the training sessions from a year ago. Thanks to my successful participation (hey, I completed the race!) at the 2011 PNG, I’ve regained some sort of swaggah. It feels great to hurdle again!

I never thought I’d utter the words Sub-16 again. Ever since the latter parts of 2005 until UAAP 2008, I never went above sixteen seconds again. But then again, I’ve lost so much speed and technical proficiency during the two years I spent on the sidelines. To run a fifteen second hurdles race – and eventually, a fourteen second clocking – is the foremost of my goals.

I’ll also compete in the 100m dash by September. I’ve long since wanted to test my mettle against the sprinters, but I never did find the time under my old college schedule. Hence, this GPP would have to be more than sufficient to enable my legs to last the intense 11 seconds of a century dash. My last 100m dash race was way back in 2003, during a dual meet with CSB. If my memory serves me right, I clocked a measly hand-timed 11.9s. During the 2006-2008 seasons – my best years – I figured that I could have run in the mid-11’s, considering my low 15-second PB’s.

The prospect for the second half of the 2011 season is exciting. I’ve never felt this motivated in years. Let’s see how things go.

Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина Leaps 7.05m, Wins Ostrava Euro U23 Crown

Our favorite long jumper, Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина, won the gold medal at the European U23 Championships in Ostrava! The talented Klishina added the Euro U23 crown to her World Youth, European Junior and European Indoor titles.

Read the European Athletics article here

The Russian made only two valid jumps. She leaped to a new personal best of 7.05m in her very first attempt, sealing the outcome of the competition! Klishina took off a mere 1cm from the plasticine. Darya fouled in the second and fourth rounds, but managed a relatively modest 6.54m and a high quality 6.71m in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Her European arch-rival, Ivana Spanovic Ивана Шпановић or Serbia, won silver on count-back (6.74m). Klishina and Spanovic also placed 1-2 at the 2009 European Junior Championships.

View more Darya Klishina posts here

Klishina bettered her erstwhile personal best of 7.03m set last year – as a junior!

Sosthene Taroum Moguenara (6.74m) of Germany narrowly lost the silver, while Poland’s Anna Jagaciak wound up fourth (6.62m).

The Russian stamped her class in the qualifying rounds, leaping to a massive 6.81m – a then season’s best for the rising star.

Additional link:

Full results of the Women’s Long Jump

Luisito Espinosa’s Comeback Bid

I grew up watching Luisito Espinosa. Back in the day when live boxing matches were shown on free TV, with bearable amounts of advertising, Espinosa was the undisputed King of Philippine Boxing. I can hardly remember whom he fought, or the titles Espinosa won, for I wasn’t even in my teens yet. But one thing’s for certain: the name “Luisito Espinosa” shall forever be synonymous with boxing.

Photo from Wikipedia

It tore my heart reading about the decline of Espinosa. Luisito was hamstrung by unscrupulous promoters (he still hasn’t received his $150,000.00 from a fight back in the 90’s). After losing his boxing title in 1999, Lindol’s career went on a downtrend. From a once proud champion, Espinosa now cleans carpets for a California casino.  He was forced into retirement in 2005, suffering crushing losses to no-name upstarts.

According to articles by Inquirer’s Percy Della (7/16/11, PDI) and Phiboxing’s Gov. Manny Pinol, Espinosa is on a comeback trail at the advanced age of forty-four. Well, George Foreman had won titles at that age before, so it isn’t impossible. Will Espinosa do a Foreman? I hope to the high heavens that he does, for the sake of his body.

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