Category Archives: Distance Events

Track Beauty of the Week: Molly Beckwith

Molly Beckwith is this week’s Track Beauty!

The United States is not just the world’s last remaining superpower, it is also the world’s foremost athletics nation. A strong testament to this lofty standing is the American resurgence in middle- and long-distance running – events that have been dominated for so long by East and Northern Africans and the occasional Russian talent.

Article by Joboy Quintos

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Track Beauty of the Week: Ingvill Måkestad Bovim

Ingvill Måkestad Bovim is this week’s Track Beauty!

Måkestad Bovim is Norway’s best middle distance runner. She holds the Norwegian records in both the 800m (1:59.82, 2010) and the rarely run 1000m (2:36.7, 2011). [1] Ingvill’s 1500m run personal best is 4:02.20, only two seconds from the legendary Grete Waitz’s national record. As a junior, she specialized in the two-lap event before shifting to the longer distance as she grew older.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Emma Coburn

Emma Coburn is this week’s Track Beauty!

The United States has the best athletics team in the planet, as shown by the results of the London Olympics. It is remarkable to note the credible American presence in a wide variety of track & field events, not just in the major crowd drawers. Up and coming athletes like Emma Coburn signify this formidable U.S. representation.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Yuliya Zaripova Юлия Зарипова

Yuliya Zaripova (Yuliya Zarudneva Юлия Михайловна Зарипова) is this week’s Track Beauty!

The women’s 3000m steeplechase is one of the newest events in athletics. It made its first appearance in the World Championships in Helsinki back in 2005. Since then, the Russians have dominated the event, with Gulnara Galkina (Гульнара Самитова-Галкина) holding the world record of 8:58.81 set at the Beijing Olympics.

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Saudi Arabia’s First Female Olympians

This is historic. Saudi Arabia will be sending two female athletes to the London Olympics. The oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom was the last to heed the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) moves to end sexual discrimination in sport, following Qatar and Brunei. Judoka Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and middle distance runner Sarah Attar will the first Saudi female Olympians.

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Kathrine Switzer the Pioneer

In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became famous as the first female runner to complete the Boston Marathon. A furious race organizer tried to stop Switzer from completing the race, shouting “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.” Her boyfriend came to the rescue and shoved the official aside.

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South Sudanese to compete in the Olympics

Guor Marial is an Olympian, but he won’t be representing his country – on paper, at least. Marial is South Sudanese, the world’s youngest nation. Since South Sudan has yet to establish a national Olympic committee, its citizens can compete in the Olympic Games only as Independent Olympic Athletes.

Since he fled from his homeland back in 1993, Marial has been to a multitude of countries. He has been based in the United States since being granted asylum in 2001. The 28-year South Sudanese graduated from the Iowa State University in 2011, earning All-American honors.

According to the CNN interview, Marial refused offers from the Sudanese athletics federation to compete under the Sudanese flag: “Never. For me to even consider that is a betrayal. My family lost 28 members in the war with Sudan. Millions of my people were killed by Sudan forces. I can only forgive, but I cannot honor and glorify a country that killed my people.”

Interestingly, Marial is listed as a Sudanese national in his IAAF biography.

Marial is an elite athlete and not just a token bet. He has a personal best of 2:14:32 from 2011, set on a flat course. Marial had run 2:12:55 this year, albeit on a downhill course in San Diego. His times are still far off from Kenyan Ayele Abshero’s world leading 2:04:23, so a podium finish is not really realistic.

Should Marial be able to fix his U.K. and U.S. travel documents, his presence in the London Games would nevertheless be an achievement in itself – for both Marial and his young country.

Snapshots from London 2012

In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, and broadband connections, it is a lot easier to be a sports fan. One can subscribe to their favorite athlete on Twitter and Facebook, and get instantaneous updates straight from those sports personalities. Social media work hand-in-hand with traditional media to create a multi-dimensional sporting experience.

Olympian Rene Herrera and journalist Ed Lao share some of their photos from the hustle and bustle of faraway London.

For more London 2012 updates, please subscribe to Rene Herrera’s Facebook page.

Ed Lao, Rene Herrera, Marestella Torres, and Joseph Sy. (Photo from Ed Lao)

Philippines reprezent! Rene proudly sports his Hypersports shirt as Jasmine Alkhaldi flaunts her PH credentials. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

The Philippine delegation with members of the Filipino community. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Team Philippines enjoying a sumptuous Filipino meal. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Marestella Torres looking relaxed, despite the gloomy weather! (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Rene Herrera is all smiles as the Olympic Games draw near. (Photo from Rene Herrera)

Godspeed to Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera!

The Philippines will be sending two representatives to the Athletics competition in the London Olympics – long jumper Marestella Torres and steeplechaser Rene Herrera.

The 32-year old Torres is the national record holder for both the long jump (6.71m) and the triple jump (12.67m). She is a multiple Southeast Asian Games long jump  gold medalist. Upsetting the biggest names in regional long jumping, Marestella won the 2009 Asian Championships title in Guangzhou. The powerfully compact Torres is a veteran of numerous major international events, having competed in three editions of the World Championships  and three in the World Indoors. Her season’s best stands at 6.62m. Marestella is on her second Olympic team.

Read: “London Olympics Preview: The Long Jump”

Like Torres, Herrera is a multi-titled national athlete. He has won five Southeast Asian Games gold medals in the 3000m steeplechase, from 2003 to 2011. The 33-year old has made the final in two editions of the Asian Games, an event spiced with a multitude of African-born athletes. He has a personal best of 8:49.39. His best time in 2012 is 9:05.84, set while winning the National Championships in Dumaguete. Rene will make his Olympic debut in London.

Torres has what it takes to barge into the long jump final, but it’s going to be an uphill climb as she goes head-to-head against a multitude of 7-meter and near-7 meter jumpers. The rainy and soggy London weather might just level the playing field a bit.

The Philippines’ hopes in Olympic Athletics might not be at par with the world’s best, but this won’t keep me from cheering my compatriots. Godspeed to Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera!

Sources:

All-Athletics

IAAF

Hoping for the Best

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

I was ten years old when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Even though I have hazy memories of the fight, I can still feel the disappointment. Since then, our best Olympic hopes had fallen in the last three editions of the quadrennial event. Like the rest of the nation, I kept my hopes up each time our fancied amateur boxers and taekwondo jins donned the national colors in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing.

But an Olympic gold, much less a medal, has remained elusive.

I find it farcical each time our sports officials and politicians dangle cash incentives to our athletes, months or weeks prior the Games.  Although it would surely add to the motivation for doing well, training for Olympic Glory takes more than just financial rewards. Even if our athletes excel in regional-level competitions, the international scene is several notches higher. You can’t turn a Southeast Asian Games medalist into an Olympic contender overnight. Our propensity for cramming is not a tried and tested approach to Olympic success.

Amidst all the internal bickering in Philippine sports and its structural flaws, I found myself disillusioned in the run-up to the London Olympics. I have written numerous articles on past Olympic champions from other countries. Except for the sporting feats of our past champions, but my mind goes blank each time I juxtapose the Philippines and the London Olympics.

As an athlete myself, I’ve always been enamored the Olympic ideal. The founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, makes an apt description: “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well.” In the years I’ve spent devouring all sorts of media about the Olympics, I consider John Stephen Akhwari’s and Derek Redmond’s experiences as the most moving.

Akwhari was a Tanzanian marathoner who finished dead last at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968. Despite a painful knee injury, he hobbled on to the finish line to the loud cheers of the few spectators and volunteers left. Redmond competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. At the 400m dash semifinal, he pulled a hamstring midway into the race.  In tears and in obvious pain, the Briton bravely limped to complete the race, as his father ran to him from the stands.

Aside from sports like professional boxing, basketball, billiards and bowling, being a Filipino athlete is not a lucrative profession. Government support and public interest are scant, paling in comparison to the more established sporting nations. The national training facilities, at best, are spartan. To reach for one’s Olympic dreams is a struggle both athletic and financial.

As a Filipino, I’m hoping for a good result in London. Deep down, however, I know for a fact that another Olympic shut-down is possible. There will be finger-pointing when this happens, perhaps even a congressional inquiry. Expect to hear the usual pronouncements of new nation-wide sporting program. It’s all part of the vicious cycle of Philippine sports.

Our sports officials can bicker all they want, but one thing is for certain: our athletes are doing their utmost best under the circumstances  The distinction of competing at the world’s highest stage is an achievement in itself.

The beauty of sport lies in the unexpected. Sometimes, the enormity of the moment could enable an athlete to transcend and deliver. Perhaps if the stars align in favor of the Philippines, one of our athletes might just reach the podium.

I long for the day when a Filipino finally tops an Olympic event. When I do see our athlete stand on top of the podium and hear “Lupang Hinirang” play in the background, I might just shed tears of joy. Until that moment comes, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

To the Filipino Olympians, godspeed!

The Philippine Contingent to the 2012 London Olympics

Mark Javier (Archery)

Rachel Cabral (Archery)

Rene Herrera (Athletics)

Marestella Torres (Athletics)

Mark Barriga (Boxing)

Daniel Caluag (BMX)

Tomoko Hoshina (Judo)

Brian Rosario (Shooting)

Jessie Khing Lacuna (Swimming)

Jasmine Alkhaldi (Swimming)

Hidilyn Diaz (Weightlifting)

Rising Stars

It’s always great to see featured Track Beauty athletes do well in international competition.

The European Championships have seen the rise of Moa Hjelmer, Jiřina Ptácniková, Alina Talai (Alina Talay Аліна Талай), Laura Ikauniece, and Nikolia Kyriakopoulou (Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou Νικολέτα Κυριακοπούλου). Dafne Schippers and Gesa Felicitas Krause have also done well in Helsinki, as middle distance runner Katya Kostetskaya (Ekaterina Kostetskaya Екатерина Костецкая) made waves at the Russian Championships.

This confirms the fact that Track Beauty of the Week does not just feature mere eye candies, but women gifted with athletic excellence!

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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.

Track Beauty of the Week: Gesa Felicitas Krause

Gesa Felicitas Krause is this week’s track beauty!

Krause is the other half of Germany’s women’s steeplechase duo. The young German had a breakout year in 2011. After finishing fourth at the World Junior Championships in Moncton, Krause won the European Junior 3,000m steeplechase title in Ostrava.

The best was yet to come for German distance runner.

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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!):

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The Man From Seychelles: Gaylord Silly

I missed most of Day 1 of the World Indoor Championships in Daegu because of the Philippines – North Korea AFC match. While browsing through the tweets of Athletics Weekly for updates, I saw a reference to someone named “Gaylord Silly” ranking higher than Jessica Ennis in Twitter trends. At first, I thought it was some British fad I was unaware of.

Then I read more tweets about the unlikely name.

Read the Telegraph’s article on Silly here

It turns out that Gaylord Silly competed in the 800m run heats in Istanbul, setting a national record of 1:54.90 for Seychelles. A cursory Google search unearthed more information. The French-born Silly works as a tree surgeon. The 26-year old is a veteran of several international events – three editions of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and the 2009 World Half Marathon Championships.

And Silly also competes in the steeplechase! He’s also a hurdler – in a sense.

Photo from lanouvellerepublique.fr

Thanks to his unorthodox name, Silly has become a bit of cult phenomenon amongst athletics circles!

Additional Links:

Silly’s IAAF biography

The Gaylord Silly Facebook Fan Page

The Gaylord Silly Fan Club

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