Category Archives: Decathlon

Gallenero Hurdles

Culled from my old VHS tapes.

A clip of Fidel “Toto” Gallenero competing in the hurdles!

Pascal Behrenbruch and Dolph Lundgren

As a big fan of Sylvester Stallone’s “Rocky” series, I could not help but notice similarity between the German decathlete Pascal Behrenbruch and the Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren, who played the unforgettable Ivan Drago in Rocky IV.

 

Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and Gage Skidmore

The German champion is one of the world’s best decathletes. After two consecutive finals appearances in the World Championships (2009 and 2011), the 1.96m-tall German won the European Championships gold in Helsinki last July. He amassed an impressive 8,558 -point personal best to clinch the gold medal. However, his Olympic debut was fraught with disappointment as he failed to match his Helsinki standard. Behrenbruch could only finish in 10th place in London.

If athletics were more like professional basketball, where players take on colorful nicknames, “Ivan Drago” or “Drago” would be appropriate!

Class Acts: Bryan Clay and Jenny Meadows

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

The American and British Olympic selection systems are vastly different. Those who finish in the top three at the U.S. Olympic Trials, provided they had met the “A” standard in their events, are automatically selected. It is a no-nonsense, cutthroat method that leaves no room for appeal. The British model is a lot more complex. Prospective athletes still compete at the U.K. Olympic Trials, but there is plenty of room for subjective selections. Those who had met the “A” standard, even in meets outside of the U.K. Trials, have the upper hand.

The Americans have considerable depth of talent, so perhaps an unforgiving approach is ideal. The British, in contrast, have a smaller pool of available athletes. The two systems, although imperfect, seem properly suitable for the two countries.

 

Clay (L) and Meadows (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and Jonathan Charters)

Bryan Clay, the defending decathlon champion from Beijing, bungled the sprint hurdles and the discus events at the U.S. Trials. Clay finished in 12th place, his points total was considerably less than the “A” standard. He has not met the Olympic benchmark prior to Eugene.

Jenny Meadows‘ case is similar. Meadows is an 800m bronze medalist from the 2009 World Championships and the reigning European Indoor Champion. Although she had run the required “A” standard, Meadows was left out of the final lineup for Team GB, having missed the U.K. Trials and the European Championships due to injury. The British selectors chose the up an coming Lynsey Sharpinstead, despite having only “B” standard credentials.

Following Clay’s shock exit from Olympic contention, track fans clamored for Clay to complete an “A” standard decathlon. The loyal fans reasoned that the Olympic qualifying window extends up to 8 July, whereas the USATF’s self-imposed deadline is the end of each particular event.

Clay, in a statement posted at the USATF website, chose to stick with the rules:

“My love of the sport compels me to preserve its integrity… Though it pains me, I believe that the USATF Committee’s decision to take only two decathletes to London is the right one. Ultimately, it is in the best interest of the sport to keep the integrity of the rules in place, and to support and uphold the decisions of the USATF Committee.”

Click here to read Clay’s full statement

Meadows could have lodged an appeal for her inclusion. Since “B” standard athletes could only be sent if there are no “A” standard athletes in the lineup, a favorable ruling would drop the 21-year old Sharp out of the Olympic Games. In a BBC interview, Meadows said:

“I find it difficult [to appeal] the selection. Usually three ‘A’ standard runners are selected and there are currently four of us. So for me to appeal I would basically deselect Lynsey and I haven’t got the heart to do that.”

Click here to read the BBC article

The Beijing Olympics could have been Clay’s (32) and Meadows’ (31) last chance to compete at the quadrennial event. Despite the desire to represent their respective countries in the Olympics, the two acted selflessly in respect for the integrity of the sport and for a fellow athlete. In a sport where drug cheats cast a dark shadow, these acts of fair play, sportsmanship, and commendable conduct truly stand out.

I salute Bryan Clay and Jenny Meadows for being class acts.

Prefontaine Classic Preview: Clash of the Hurdling Titans

The 110m high hurdles in the 38th Prefontaine Classic has the makings of an epic race. Eugene, the United States’ Tracktown, is the fourth stop of the Samsung Diamond League.

Read: “Pre Classic Men’s 110-Meter Hurdles – Can It Get any Better Than This?”

For the first time since the controversial sprint hurdles final in Daegu last year, Liu Xiang 刘翔 will square off with world record holder Dayron Robles. Not to be outdone, a formidable array of American hurdling power is slated to defend home soil. At the forefront of the U.S. challenge is 2011 World Champion Jason Richardson, 2012 World Indoor Champion Aries Merritt and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver.

Britain’s Andy Turner, the bronze medalist from Daegu, will also be in the thick of battle, as well as Liu’s understudy, Dongpeng Shi 史冬鹏 .

An interesting addition is Ashton Eaton, the heptathlon world record holder. Eaton, who attended the University of Oregon, will go head-to-head against the aforesaid sprint hurdling specialists onhis home track.

In terms of personal bests, Robles leads the pack with his current 12.87s world record. Liu (12.88s) and Oliver (12.94s) are the only one who had run below the 13-second barrier. Merritt (13.03s) and Richardson (13.04s) have almost identical lifetime bests. Shi had run an impressive 13.19s at the Osaka World Championships final, but have failed to replicate that form the past five years. Turner (13.22s) and Eaton (13.35s) round up the bottom two.

Liu, the 2012 world leader with 12.97s, is my pick to win the race (of course!), in light of his dominating performance at the recently concluded Shanghai Diamond League. I expect Robles (who is still recovering from an injury) to figure in a tight battle for second place with the in-form American sprint hurdling troika.

The talented Eaton could spring a surprise. If Shi and Turner perform below par, they could get beaten by a multi-eventer.

I know I’m getting ahead of myself when I say this, but the Eugene protagonists could possibly figure in the greatest sprint hurdling spectacle of all-time. We could see a new world record, should the conditions be conducive. The foursome of Liu, Oliver, Merrit and Richardson could all dip under 13-seconds. We might even see a rare dead heat! Regardless of the outcome, this race shall be one for the books.

Istanbul 2012: Top Seven Performances

Amongst the major international athletics championships, the World Indoors is the most underrated. Big name stars like Usain Bolt usually opt out of the biennial meet, especially in crucial Olympic years. Indoor athletics has a far smaller reach than its outdoor counterpart, with the smaller venues usually found in the frigid countries of the northern hemisphere.

Photo from Wikipedia

Nevertheless, it has that obscure charm. When I first saw the start lists of some events, I thought that the rest of the non-European, non-American world was underrepresented. I thought wrong. As soon as the 60m dash heats came out, a cacophony of athletes from small countries – from Mongolia in the Gobi desert to Fiji in the Pacific – competed amongst their more illustrious counterparts.

Even if I had to rely on live streaming links and my less-than-perfect internet connection to watch the World Indoors, I must say that I had a grand time. Despite the absence of most of the track & field titans, the festivities were certainly not devoid of memorable athletics moments. The three-day event has seen former World Indoor champions like Elena Isinbayeva Елена Гаджиевна Исинбаева, Justin Gatlin, and Valerie Adams re-emerge on the big stage, whilst playing host to bevy of promising talent.

One Gold, Three Silvers (Photo from Zimbio/Getty Images)

The women high jumpers deserve special mention too, as the troika of Antonietta Di Martino, Anna Chicherova Анна Владимировна Чичерова, and Ebba Jungmark shared a the second spot on the podium, behind the champion, the come-backing Chaunté Lowe (1.98m). The three athletes had equally identical sheets, with each clearing 1.95m.

The United States topped the overall standings with a staggering 18 medals, 10 of which were gold. Great Britain had 9, while African distance powerhouses Ethiopia and Kenya won 5 and 4, respectively.

The following list enumerates my favorite performances from Istanbul (aside from the 60m hurdles, of course!):

Read more of this post

Doping in Athletics: A Perennial Plague

A few days ago, the Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings tested positive for a masking agent, barely two weeks before the Daegu World Athletics Championships. Mullings holds the third fastest 100m-dash time in the world this year, at 9.80s, and was expected to be amongst the top contenders for the century dash crown. A few days after, the American sprinter Mike Rodgers (fourth fastest in the 100m at 9.85s), also made the headlines for testing positive for a banned stimulant. Rodgers, according to his agent, apparently drank an energy drink containing the prohibited substance.

Doping is an ever-present threat to the credibility of elite sports, not just athletics. The aforesaid failed doping tests brought to mind the infamous Ben Johnson scandal. Who could ever forget the brooding, powerfully built Johnson? The fast-starting Jamaican-born Canadian blasted out of the blocks at the 1988 Olympic 100m dash final in a world record time of 9.79s. Johnson was disqualified days later for failing a drug test. He was stripped of his gold medal under much controversy.

In the investigation that followed, Johnson’s coach, Charlie Francis, insisted that they had been set-up. The type of steroid (stanozolol) that came out at the failed post-Olympic test wasn’t Johnson’s drug of choice (it was actually furazabol). The duo admitted to using drugs, but countered that the practice is widespread among the track & field elite.

According to a New York Times article, Francis actually tried to persuade the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body, to put a stop to the doping practice in the late 1970’s. The exhortations fell on deaf ears and Francis allegedly turned to the drugs themselves to level the playing field for his athletes, said a former Canadian sports official in the aforesaid article.

Since Ben Johnson, the powers-that-be has been more vigilant in policing its ranks. But the cheaters found ways to break the rules. Through the years, the BALCO scandal tainted big names like multiple-Olympic medallist Marion Jones and her husband former 100m-dash world record holder Tim Montgomery. Weeks before the 2004 Athens Olympics, the host country’s top medal hopes, Kostas Kenteris (200m gold medallist in the Sydney Olympics) and Ekaterini Thanou faked a motorcycle accident in an effort to explain a missed drug test. Months earlier, several Indian athletes flunked doping tests administered at a training camp, casting doubts at the validity of India’s breakthrough performance in last year’s Commonwealth Games.

The Mullings case prompted the IAAF to impose mandatory drug testing for all the 2,000 athletes competing in this August’s World Championships. Amidst the renewed slew of failed tests – regardless of the reason or gravity of the offense – one bears in mind the allegations of Ben Johnson and his coach about doping being deeply ingrained.

However, drug testing has been quite stringent – among the developed countries at least. In Britain for instance, athletes are required to submit their schedule (specific to the hour) months in advance, to facilitate the random drug testing (read Tom Fordyce’s series of posts to get a clearer picture). Big names like Allyson Felix and Bryan Clay have volunteered to participate in Project Believe, where frequency of the drug testing goes beyond global accepted standard.

These draconian measures are undoubtedly hard on the elite athletes, but are a necessary step towards cleaning up the sport.

This article also appears in In The Zone

A Long Shot: Asian Hopes at the Daegu World Championships

The Daegu World Athletics Championships is just around the corner. South Korea will play host to the most prestigious gathering track & field athletes after the Olympic Games, the third time for an Asian country to do so.

Sprinter Usain Bolt, in light of his spectacular array of world records, is the undeniable front-act. Other crowd drawers are triple jumper Teddy Tamgho of France (a stress fracture prematurely ended Tamgho’s season, unfortunately), high jumper Blanka Vlasic and javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway. The Kenyan 800m runner David Rudisha, fresh from a slew of world records last season, is on the hunt to rewrite the two-lap mark once more. The sprints, as always, will provide fast-paced action as the rest of the world pits their sprinting might against the dominant Jamaicans and Americans.

Read the rest of the article on InTheZone.com.ph

UAAP 73 Athletics Day 1 (26 January 2011)

Whilst stuck in EDSA traffic on my way to Ultra yesterday, I felt cold beads of sweat drench the old school Ateneo Track & Field warmer I was wearing. After an hour’s worth of snail-pace trudging, the familiar sight of the Blue and White greeted me.

The feel of UAAP 73 is entirely different from the years past. Aside from a handful of seniors, the rest of the current members of the college squads are mere acquaintances. A small number of my contemporaries from the other schools have turned to coaching. Even the venue itself brings forth an alien feel, in light of the fact that the UAAP has been held in Rizal for the better part of the league’s 73-year existence.

View the UAAP 73 schedule here

The Rundown

Freshman JB Capinpin missed the Long Jump top 8, after being disqualified for false starting at the 100m dash heats. Ateneo’s 1-2 sprinting punch, Soy Soriano and Franco Imperial barged into the century dash final in bombastic fashion, with the latter emerging the clear leader out of all qualifiers. In the final, Soriano overcame the fast finishing Jose Unso’s last ditch final burst, crowning himself as the fastest man of the meet at 10.8s.

Soriano (C) dominates his heat. (Photo from Joseph Angan)

Surprisingly, the Men’s 110m high hurdles was held as a straight final. Back in the day, we used to have as much as 3 heats for high’s, with each school sending at least entries. De La Salle University’s Unso ran his heart out, stopping the clock at a hand-timed 14.7s. Unso, eldest son of national 400m hurdles record holder Renato, won convincingly over UST’s Emman delos Angeles (14.8) and decathlete Jeson Cid of FEU (15.0). Ateneo’s Dean Roxas (15.4s) and team captain Zek Valera (17.6s) finished 5th and 8th, respectively.

DLSU’s Patrick Unso, the younger of the Unso brothers, was conspicuously absent due to conflicts with the release of his high school clearance.

On the distaff side, UST’s Bane-bane was just too classy for the rest of the field, running away with a dominant 15.1s win. Ateneo’s Anj Aquino, after a gutsy effort in qualifying, ran a hard-fought 16.7 in the final. Veteran thrower Mica Sibayan won silver at the shot put, notching a new personal best. State University’s Precious de Leon heaved the shot to a distance of 10.14m, enough to overhaul Sibayan’s 10.09m. A determined Ally Lim clung to a 5th place at the 5,000m walk, collapsing through sheer exhaustion. Lim’s lung-busting effort signified the no-nonsense fighting spirit of the current crop of tracksters.  Indeed, the women’s team had gone a long way.

With the departure of sprint queen Maita Mendoza, women’s track & field powerhouses FEU and UST reigned supreme at their traditional bailiwick, the 100m dash. FEU’s Hanelyn Loquinto ran 12.1s over UST’s Luville Dato-on.

The jumping marks were relatively lackluster, due to the substandard runway. FEU’s talented Cid could only manage a modest 6.46m leap – enough for the long jump gold. UE’s Gatmaitan, mentored by none other than the legendary Elma Muros, missed the women’s triple jump by a mere centimeter (11.79m). DLSU’s Felyn Dollosa won gold (11.80m).

View the official UAAP results from PATAFA

View partial UAAP results from Pinoymiler

Ateneo High School’s Chuckie Dumrique stormed through the 100m dash boys’ final. The talented Toledo almost threw 50m en route to a commanding victory in the junior javelin competition. The versatile Joaquin Ferrer, however, came short at the 110m high hurdles boys’ final. UPIS’ Nasis ran the (hurdle) race of his life to edge out the more fancied Ferrer.

Amidst all the action, the most memorable moment is Paco Razon’s desperate, last ditch heave for the bronze (article to follow). Ateneo’s Miguel Sibayan fell to fourth place. In a show of dominance, UST won both the gold and silver.

UP’s Javier Gomez was unable to defend his javelin (and decathlon) titles due to a recurring knee injury.

Razon's magical last-round throw. (Photo from Joseph Angan)

Post Script

Whilst watching the events with Jerome Margallo, the UAAP pole vault record holder said something that warmed my heart. Margallo admired the support given by former Ateneo athletes to the current team. Coming from a hardened veteran and an accomplished collegiate athlete, the compliment brought forth feelings of pride – and a sense of accomplishment. This strong sense of team was the main driving force behind the modest successes of our college years.

Even if three long years had passed since my last UAAP race, I still feel at home amidst the sea of familiar and not-so-familiar faces. As I cheer my heart out for this year’s young turks, I swell with pride at the thought that I too had once trodden upon those fertile field of dreams.

* Special thanks to Andrew Pirie for compiling results.

Photo credits

Joseph Angan (The Guidon)

“What is your profession?”

Whilst watching the pre-game analysis from last night’s Azkals game, the haughty Star Sports analyst made an interestingly poignant observation. He pointed out that most of the Filipinos, save for a handful of Fil-foreigners, are part-time footballers. When pitted against honest-to-goodness professionals, a glaring difference in “physicality” comes to the picture.

True enough, even the English-born Younghusband brothers are currently unattached. Our homegrown players are mostly members of the nation’s Armed Forces. Even though the Philippines has a nascent semi-pro football league in the UFL, this pales in comparison to its regional counterparts like Singapore’s S-League or the Thai Premier League.

One of the most famous scenes in “300” came into mind. Leonidas asked the Spartan allies, the Akkadians, their respective professions. The answers were diversely mundane. But when the legendary Spartan king asked his crack troops “what is your profession?” a loud and intimidating “ah-woo! ah-woo! ah-woo!” was their answer.

This is certainly the case for most Olympic sports, now that the lines of strict amateurism and professionalism has become porous. Aside from amateur boxing, professionals are allowed to run roughshod over major international competitions, putting the amateur at a major disadvantage.

There lies the underlying fundamental factor that spells the difference between victory and defeat. Take the example of athletics, for instance. I can only name a handful Asian medalists in recent Olympic history. Aside from the naturalized athletes of oil-rich middle eastern countries, only Susanthika Jayasinghe சுசந்திக ஜெயசிங்க்ஹி, Hadi Souan Somayli هادي صوعان الصميلي‎, Dmitry Karpov, Xing Huina 邢慧娜 and Liu Xiang 刘翔 had finished within the top 3. The Europeans have won countless medals in the aforesaid time period.

Truly, an amateur pursues his/her respective sport as a passion, as something on the side. Whereas the professional practices the sport as a career. Having the domestic infrastructure to support a professional league speaks volumes about a particular sport’s development. Take the case of the Philippine basketball. Despite setbacks in international competition the past few years, Filipino cagers rank among the best in Asia. In the newly-established ASEAN Basketball League, Filipinos play for our Southeast Asian neighbors as imports to beef up their respective locals.

The same cannot be said of football, athletics or any other sport not part of the Four B’s (Basketball, Boxing, Billiards and Bowling). In Athletics, for instance, the backbone of the sport is comprised of collegians. A club scene is virtually non-existent, with competition being mostly schools-based. After college, only the most talented and dedicated athletes progress to the national team ranks. A slot in the crack national squad merits a modest stipend. International exposure is afforded only to the elite few. World-class training and facilities are hard to come by. In contrast, the Europeans have a vibrant system of athletics clubs for all ages. Clubs like France’s Dynamic Aulnay Club, Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon and Germany’s MTG-Mannheim have produced successful internationals like triple jump sensation Teddy Tamgho, 2004 Athens Olympic silver medalist Francis Obikwelu and the 2010 European 100m dash Champion Verena Sailer, respectively.

Hence, there is continuity of talent. A career in sports can be a financially-adequate, even lucrative profession – where one is not bound to live in the margins of penury whilst pursuing one’s passion.

Alonzo Jardin: The Hurdling Artist

I had my first taste of national level competition back in May 2003. I was 17 years old, barely out of high school. I shaved off 1.44s off my personal best over the high hurdles, qualifying for the semis with a time of 17.55s. The 2003 Nationals was also the first time I encountered the Philippine national record holder for the sprint hurdles, Alonzo “Dudoy” Jardin.

More than 7 years since that day, my recollections are just vague flashbacks. But one instance stood out. At the dugout of the Rizal Memorial Stadium, I wished him the best of luck as he went head-to-head against Thailand’s Suphan Wongsriphuck, then Southeast Asia’s best sprint hurdler.

The Philippines is not known for its athletics tradition, much less the high hurdles. Aside from notable exceptions like Lydia de Vega-Mercado, Elma Muros-Posadas, Isidro del Prado and Marestella Torres, most of our athletes wilt under Asian-level competition. The Philippines’ last Olympic medals in athletics were won way back in the 1930’s (Miguel White in the 400m low hurdles and Simeon Toribio in the High Jump). Hence, it is not surprising that Dudoy’s 14.75s national record is light-years away from the Olympic “B” standard of 13.72s.

If I can choose one compatriot whom I look up to in the sprint hurdles, I can only name one – Alonzo Jardin. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate Coach Nonoy Unso’s hurdling prowess, but since I haven’t seen any footage of his best years, I cannot make an honest assessment of the athletics legend. The same reasoning applies to my mentor, national decathlon record holder Fidel Gallenero. Although he taught me the fundamentals of hurdling form, I haven’t seen him race.

In order for me to look up to someone – as a hurdler to another hurdler, I have to base my standards on more than just times and reputation.

Dudoy was different. Even if he shifted to the decathlon in the twilight of his competitive years, I had much respect for his hurdling technique. As a sprint hurdler myself, I put more importance in one’s efficiency of clearance than to brute sprinting power. Yes, the 110m high hurdles is a sprint race. But in order to fully appreciate this wonderful event, one must look at it beyond sprinting alone.

Hence, for me, hurdling is an art form. Everytime I watch Liu Xiang, Allen Johnson and Colin Jackson race clips, my jaws drop in awe at the symphony of speed. As a student of the event, I take much aesthetic pleasure from watching these great technicians demonstrate their craft.

In the past 10 years I spent as a sprint hurdler, Dudoy is – without a doubt – the best exemplar of the Filipino hurdling artist.

I had the privilege of racing the Filipino champion twice in my career. The first time was during the 2006 National Open. It was the finals of the sprint hurdles, Dudoy was at the lane beside mine.

I wound up a far fourth place (15.65s – a new PB) behind Romel of TMS Ship (15.1), Joemary Padilla (15.1) and Orlando Soriano (15.5s). It turned out that Dudoy didn’t even finish clearing the 1st hurdle, to save his legs for the grueling decathlon.

Months later, we went at it again. This time, he emphatically stamped his class, edging out Padilla of Mapua. I placed a distant 3rd (15.6). Dudoy ran a 15.1, if I’m not mistaken.

Emer Obiena and Fidel Gallenero once told me about an Australian trainer’s awe at learning that Dudoy is only a a high 14 second sprint hurdler. With his hurdling proficiency, the Australian reasoned, Dudoy should be running in the 13 seconds. Perhaps it was his lack of flat out speed (he ran the 100m in around 11.3 to 11.4). An Olympic-level hurdler should be able to run the 100m in at least 10.5s.

The last time I saw Dudoy was in 2009. I was in the midst of my first, ill-fated comeback. He was training again after tearing the ligaments in his knee after a freak javelin training incident.

Alonzo Jardin’s 14.75s national record is bound to be broken one of these days. The younger Unso has the most potential to reclaim the national mark of his illustrious father. In a country where athletes from the less popular sports tend to get marginalized, Jardin will probably be forgotten by the generations of tomorrow.

Writing this piece is the least I can do for a fellow hurdler. Never mind the results; never mind the accolades.

Alonzo Jardin is one of the best, if not the best, hurdling technicians this country of ours had ever produced.

360 Fitness Club Boot Camp Race… from Hell!

I was supposed to do some sprinting and hurdling workouts this afternoon. But it turned out that the guys from 360 Fitness Club had reserved the place from 3pm to 7pm. Since I got to the stadium a little past 2pm, I only had a good 30 minutes to do some quick hurdle drills.

Be a fan of 360 Fitness Club

I was quite pissed off at the ignorant PSC lady whom I talked to yesterday. She failed to inform me of the Boot Camp Race!

Photo from completethecircuit.com

But then again, I had to make the most out of my unfortunate circumstances. I did around 7 reps over 4 junior hurdles, five-stepping my way in between. I focused on form, particularly my errant trail arm. It was a good workout, like I always say, despite my week-long lay-off. Although my legs felt quite sluggish, my technique remained top-of-the-line.

I was just about to leave Ultra when I bumped into my college block mate Pat Cortez, one of the part owners of the innovative fitness club. Since I just had enough cash in my wallet to meet the Php 350 race fee, I signed up! I don’t usually join recreational running events, but the Boot Camp Race was more than just running. The kettle bell and the TRX stations piqued my interest.

Visit the Philippine Kettleclub website

And I also saw some familiar faces in Carlo Dizon (a former track teammate) and his bro Pao, some national athletes like 800m run national record holder John Lozada and decathlete Arnold Villarube, and my newfound blogger friend Dhenz of Running Pinoy fame.

Read Pinoymiler’s Legends Series: King of Pinoy Half Mile (John Lozada)

Read Running Pinoy’s account of the Boot Camp

If I only knew that I’d have to run a friggin’ 300 to 400m AROUND the track in between stations, I wouldn’t have heeded Pat’s advice to sign up for the Level 3 (Advanced) variation! Although circuit training have been a part of my training routine for the better part of the decade, I was a newbie when it came to lifting kettle bells or using the TRX! To make matters worse, I hardly sprint beyond 200m nowadays, since I’m at the competition phase of the track season.

I had to go through a literal hell of lactic acid just to complete the following stations, thanks to the excruciatingly long strolls around the oval.

  1. Station 1: 35 push ups
  2. Station 2: Stadium steps (3 rounds back-and-forth)
  3. Station 3: Kettle bell lifts (25 reps)
  4. Station 4: Step-ups (40 reps both legs)
  5. Station 5: Elevated ladders (3 rounds, but I did 4 or 5, thanks to the marshals!)
  6. Station 6: The so-called Maze (3 rounds)
  7. Station 7: TRX Station – Modified reverse row (25 reps)
  8. Station 8: TRX Station – Push ups with crunch

Aside from those accursed kettle bells, the stations weren’t all that difficult. I actually had fun doing the stadium steps and the TRX stations. I said it before and I’ll say it again, the wretched runs in between ruined KILLED me ten times over.

Instead of maintaining a steady pace during those BLOODY runs, I modified my pace to fit my currently inadequate endurance level. I walked a good 10m to 20m (sometimes longer!) before and after each station. I then shifted into a slow jog all the way into 70% sprinting effort during the latter parts of the Boot Camp from hell!

As I made my way out of the last station, I accidentally tripped over one of the metal supports for the pole vault mats. In a split second an image of a broken arm flashed in my mind! I cushioned the fall by landing on the track on my behind. Thank heavens nothing bad happened!

View pictures of my arm operation (warning: bloody pics galore)

I was a dead man walking after the 6th station. I asked myself, “why in the hell did I pay Php350 bucks to experience pain?” Frankly, I wasn’t concerned about the time (although I tried my utmost not to finish behind the lone powerfully built female who joined the level 3 race. I was a triumphant, thank heavens). Being inherently competitive, it was surprising how uninterested I was in my time for the course.  Never had the cliche “Run against yourself” been so relevant!

Perhaps I’ve lost a good measure of my competitive fire during the years I spend retired from the sport.

Nevertheless, the experience was a refreshing change from my usual routine.  Despite my crappy time, I was quite proud to be one of the finishers. The circuit course was well-designed – tailor-made to give this newbie one hell of an ass-whipping!

GREAT WORKOUT!

Tuesday Night Lights (12 October 2010)

The revival of the PATAFA Weekly Relays had infused new energy into my comeback effort. All of sudden, my Han Solo routine didn’t seem pointless anymore. Even if I’m still rusty, in light of my temporary retirement, every training day seems to bring me one step closer to athletic ideal.

Last Tuesday’s track training was one of the best – if not the best – session this season. I was able to hitch a ride with my office mate right up to the Ultra gate. I got to the stadium a little before 6. As I made my way down the driveway, I saw the track bursting with much activity. The Women’s national football team was using the field; hence, the track was (almost) totally bathed in artificial daylight. Since Christmas season means longer nights in my side of the world, this was a blessing for this working athlete!

As soon as I got dressed, I went to my usual spot – the 110m starting line. I saw familiar faces in the likes of former national team decathlete Obet Fresnido and 800m national record holder John Lozada – my former coach, Fidel Gallenero’s contemporaries in the old GTK army of the late 90’s and early oughts.

Read: “Fidel Gallenero”

Read Pinoymiler’s article on Lozada: “King of Pinoy Half Mile”

Coach Obet, Coach John and Co. are now personal coaches  to a group of 13 or so runners. Talking to those guys surely got me into the track & field groove. It brought fond memories of how Coach Toto whipped me into shape five years ago.

I took advantage of the hurdles and the Tuesday Night Lights to do some much-needed technical hurdles training. After a few rounds of hurdle walk-overs, side-clearing and 5-step hurdle clearances, I was sweating profusely. Before I knew it, a good 45 minutes had passed and the track became crowded with hordes of running enthusiasts!

Focus was key since I was attempting to three-step over junior hurdles for the first time in almost three years. At first, the noises of the football players and the collective noises of the multitude of joggers were distracting. Moreover, it took quite some time for my eyes to adjust to the glare of the flood lights.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the moment. During my hiatus, I never thought that I’d end up competing again.

Before each rep, I visualized the movements  as I listened to pump-up music. I closed my eyes as I inhaled the crisp nighttime air, blocking myself from the world around me. Strangely, replaying Liu Xiang’s Athens 2004 gold medal win in my head almost always finds it way before each race. As I assumed the crouch start position, I kept saying to myself that “I am Liu Xiang,” only to correct it by saying “I’m Joboy Quintos – the best hurdler in the world. The best damn hurdler in the world.”

And it worked! Despite a momentary break in momentum approaching the 1st hurdle, my clearance was aggressive. The sprint-in-between was even better than last week’s session (when I cleared youth hurdles). After clearing the second and the last hurdle, I gave a monstrous dash to the imaginary finish line, emulating Colin Jackson’s famous dip.

I pumped my right fist (guts pose!) in jubilation as I walked back. What a night. What a night indeed.

Track workout:

Hurdle walkovers

Side-clearing

5-step hurdle clearance

3×1 hurdle starts (junior height)

1×2 hurdle starts (junior height)

2x150m sprints (all out)

Why Bruce, Why?

One of the most definitive phases in my college track career and my early adulthood came during the 2003 to 2004. I was juggling academics whilst struggling with the demands of the tougher senior races. Languishing at the cellars of my event during my freshman year, I gobbled up as much track & field and Olympic books as possible, in need of inspiration.

Photo from amazon.com

A teammate recommended “Decathlon Challenge”, a book on Bruce Jenner’s road towards the 1976 Montreal Olympic gold medal. I had the book photocopied in its entirety (a breach on intellectual property rights!) and read it twice. It was my first-ever glimpse at the life of an elite athlete, highlighting the importance of wholehearted dedication to achieve one’s goals in sport. Reading about how Jenner dedicated 4 years of his life to everything track & field ranks almost as high as Liu Xiang’s gold medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics in my list of Major Athletics Influences.

Read Sidekicks, a post I wrote about Liu Xiang

Beyond the culmination of Jenner’s Decathlon Challenge in 1976, I’ve lost track of my hero. I didn’t read up on Jenner as much as I did on, say, Liu Xiang and Allen Johnson.

About a year ago, I stumble upon an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. I was flabbergasted at the change in Jenner’s appearance. It was just horrid, seeing his surgically-altered face.

Photo from chikamuna.com

You’ll always be one of my track idols, Bruce. But I just can’t help but ask: “Why, Bruce? Why?!”

Video credit:

aels4276

Roman Šebrle: Decathlete Extraordinaire

One of my favorite world records is Roman Sebrle’s 9,026 points in the Decathlon. Sebrle is the only man ever to have gone above the 9,000 point barrier in the grueling 10-discipline, 2-day event. His countryman Tomas Dvorak (8,994), Dan O’Brien (8,891) and the legendary Daley Thompson (8,847) went tantalizingly close to breaking the barrier, but only the indefatigable Roman Sebrle himself was able to achieve this momentous milestone.

I’ve always admired and envied the multi-events. Admired – since they had to learn 10 disciplines, contributing to a holistic experience of the sport. Envied – because among all the events in athletics, the decathlon is without a doubt the most grueling and draining. Decathletes (and heptathletes) are “the world’s greatest athletes,” as King Gustav V of Sweden told the 1912 Olympic Champion, Jim Thorpe.

The elite level decathletes (and heptathletes) are the most impressive of all, needless to say. With their mastery of the 10 disciplines (or 7), the best times of a particular world-class decathlete can rival or even exceed the respective, individual national records of a small country like the Philippines. In Sebrle’s mythical 9,026 point performance, his 8.11m leap in the long jump and his 13.92s time in the 110m high hurdles  are better than the current Philippine records of 7.99m (Henry Dagmil) and 14.76s (Alonzo Jardin), respectively.

In terms of overall personal bests, Sebrle’s best clearance of 5.20m in the Pole Vault exceeds Edward Lasquette’s 5.00m vault. Likewise, the Czech’s farthest throw in the shot put, 16.47m, is better than Bruce Ventura’s 15.83m Philippine record.

Naturally, the Philippines’ best decathlete, my former coach Fidel Gallenero (6,963), was light years away from the standards of Sebrle.

If for some far-fetched reason, Sebrle switched allegiance to the Philippine flag at his prime, he could have set at least 5 national records in one decathlon!

Sebrle is without a doubt a legend in athletics. Even at 35 years old, Sebrle is far from retired, having competed at the 2010 Doha World Indoor Championships. Being the elder statesman of the sport and his event, Sebrle is a role model for track athletes of all ages and ability.

And he can belch out a mean song number too, endearing the 2004 Olympic Champion to this karaoke aficionado!

Additional link:

Wiki

Video Credits:

throweraustria

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jezzevcik

The 4x100m relay: Where Underdogs Thrive

Track & field is an individual sport. There is some measure of teamwork in the distance events, where packs of runners can stay together throughout the entire race (like Flying Finns of the olden days) or follow a designated pace maker for particular stretches. But in the end, an athlete’s result for a particular event is credited only to the effort of one. The team aspect of the relays sets it aside from the other disciplines. Passing the baton from one sprinter to the other makes for an exciting spectacle. The speed involved makes little room for error, where the slightest mistake in timing and release could spell the difference between triumph and defeat.

Perhaps that is why the relays are traditionally held at the latter parts of an athletics competition. It is a fitting finale to the showcase of speed, strength and endurance that is track & field.

It is in the explosive 4x100m relay where an underrated quartet can overcome a faster set of opponents through slick passing. Unlike its longer counterpart, the 4x400m relay, the underdog squad can overcome glaring differences in aggregate speed at the shorter race. Whereas in the longer relay, the most dominant force in the quarter-mile, the Americans, almost always reign supreme.

2008 Beijing Olympics

My favorite relay race of all is the 2008 Beijing Olympics 4x100m relay, where the indefatigable Nobuharo Asahara anchored the Japanese team to an unprecedented bronze (38.15s).

Japan has always been a consistent qualifier to the 400m relay finals (4th – 2004, 6th – 2000, 6th – 1992, 5th – 1932); it was about time the Japanese won something big on the Olympic athletics stage. This proves that Asians, with the proper combination of fortunate circumstances and great teamwork, can distinguish themselves in the elite sprinting ranks.

And yeah, need I say more about the Usain Bolt-led Jamaican relay world record?

2002 Busan Asian Games

Thailand’s 2002 Busan Asian Games 4x100m victory is another favorite. The smooth-passing of the Thais (38.82s) overcame the advantage of the Japanese team (38.90s) in terms of aggregate speed. It’s important to note that Thailand’s fastest sprinter at that time was Reeanchai “Ultraman” Seeharwong at 10.23s. The other members weren’t as impressive:

The Japanese, in contrast, had near 10-flat sprinters in Asahara (10.02) and Shingo Suetsugo (10.05s in 2002, 10.03s lifetime best). The other two members have faster personal bests than the Thais:

On paper, the Japanese squad was the favorite. However, an underrated Thai team overcame the stark differences in aggregate speed with their flawless baton exchanges.

2004 Athens Olympics

The formidable American quartet of Shawn Crawford (9.88 – 2004), Justin Gatlin (9.85s – 2004), Coby Miller (9.98s – 2002) and Maurice Greene (9.79s – 1999) lost to the British by a hair’s breadth, thanks to the former’s faulty baton passing – a fixture in American relay races. On paper, the Brits were a lot slower than the Americans.

With a generous splattering of Olympic gold medalists and former/current/future century dash record holders in the American lineup, the gold medal was theirs to lose. And they lost it by the infinitesimal of margins, with Lewis-Francis edging out the fast-finishing Greene, 38.07s to 38.08s.

Among the aforesaid underdog feats, the most impressive (Asian bias aside!) in terms of performance, glamor and glitter would have to be the Great Britain’s 2004 upset win. Whereas the 2008 Japanese relay quartet won bronze with both the American and British teams disqualified prior to the final, the 2004 British quartet overcame a loaded U.S. squad composed of 3 Olympic gold medalists and marquee names in sprinting.

A decent enough aggregate speed and slick baton passing is imperative for a world-beating relay team. Although the traditional sprinting powerhouse, the United States, is well-endowed with prolific sprinters, baton passing has been an eternal thorn since American sprinters are a diverse group of athletes, spread among a vast country. As Shawn Crawford said during an interview, practicing baton exchanges becomes a difficult in light of the varying schedules and locales.

A much smaller country like Britain, Japan and Thailand could muster more frequent training sessions. From what I’ve heard, the Thailand team practically lived together as a team. The Japanese team, similarly, are a tightly bonded lot, as exhibited by the emotional farewell they gave to their long-time ace sprinter, Asahara.

The current Philippine national record stands at 40.55s, set during the 2005 Manila Southeast Asian Games where Philippine 100m/200m dash record holder Ralph Soguilon (10.45s), Albert Salcedo, Long Jump record holder Henry Dagmil and decathlete Arnold Villarube won silver. If the Philippines can assemble a formidable array of mid- to low-10 second sprinters and perfect the baton exchange, surely, a sub-40 clocking is a possibility.

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