Category Archives: Alonzo Jardin

Unso Smashes Philippine 110m High Hurdles Record

Patrick Unso ran a lifetime’s best of 14.58s to finally better Alonzo Jardin’s 14.75s Philippine record. Unso, the youngest son of Renato Sr.(the current 400m LH record holder and the former 110mHH record holder), wound up sixth in a quality field composed of former SEA Games champions Hassan Robani (MAS), Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian (MAS) and Jamras Rittedet (THA).

Read: “Alonzo Jardin: The Hurdling Artist” here

View the complete results

The fast-finishing Rittedet, the 2009 SEA Games champion, was too classy for Rayzam (13.86s), the surprise 2007 champion. The Thai was half a stride ahead of the Malaysian, stopping the clock at a new games record of 13.77s. Robani (14.14s)  had to dig deep to edge out Vietnam’s Nguyen Ngoc Quang (14.19s) for the bronze.

The 19-year old Unso, still a junior under IAAF rules, was the youngest amongst the top six. As such, the newly-minted Philippine senior record holder is also the junior record holder, over the official 1.067m high barriers. Those who finished ahead of the Filipino are all grizzled veterans. The troika of Robani, Rayzam and Rittedet – the region’s best 110m high hurdlers – all have major championship experience. Pach, in contrast, is on his first ever SEA Games.

Read Jad Adrian’s account of the 110m high hurdles final here

With all due respect to Jardin, it was about time someone broke 14.75s. For far too long, the local hurdling scene has been left in the dustbins of insignificance. Pach Unso’s sixth place finish, while light-years away from a SEA Games podium finish and the Olympic “B” standard, augurs well for Philippine sprint hurdling. Perhaps the young Unso is the spearhead of the new generation of faster, more competitive Filipino sprint hurdlers.

Once Pach’s record is officially ratified, father and son will have their names engraved as reigning senior Philippine record holders for the low hurdles and the high hurdles, respectively. The young Unso also holds the 110m high hurdles (0.99m) national junior record.

*Special thanks to Jad Adrian Washif and Andrew Pirie for the timely updates.

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Competing against a Sub-14 Sprint Hurdler

Prior to the Philippine National Games, the fastest sprint hurdlers I’ve competed against were national record holder Alonzo Jardin (14.75s), UAAP record holder Orlando Soriano (14.96s); my teammate, three-time UAAP 110m high hurdles champion, Michael Mendoza (14.97s); and Robin Tuliao (14.98s)*. In terms of hand-timing, Mike (14.6) and Soriano (14.8) are on top of the list.

Talking with Coach Ceril Yap of Kota Kinabalu, I was excited to find out that Malaysia’s top hurdler, Rayzamshah Wan Sofian, was set to compete in Bacolod. Rayzam, then 18-years old, came from nowhere to snare the SEA Games sprint hurdles crown four years ago in Thailand, stopping the clock in 13.91s. With Tuliao, Jose Unso and Emman delos Angeles also in the field, my comeback race was relatively well-stocked with local hurdling talents.

During the warm-up, I tried not to observe Rayzam’s routine, as I focused on preparing for my first race in three years. Nevertheless, I was awestruck at his pinpoint hurdling clearance. His lead leg skims the hurdle. The Malaysian champion’s trail leg was just as snappy as it cuts over the barrier. Being a sub-10 100m dash sprinter, Rayzam possesses blistering speed in between barriers.

View my account of the PNG 110m high hurdle race here

Read my PNG wrap-up here

For my warm-up, I placed two hurdles at the far side of the track. Soon enough, all the hurdlers were sharing the barriers that I set up. Rayzam, apparently uncomfortable at running at the eighth lane, politely asked if he could move the hurdles to the adjacent lane. All throughout his warm-up routine, the Malaysian was a picture of calmness. He seemed quite at ease even with the alien surroundings, in light of the depth of his international experience.  The entire hurdling motion – from sprint to hurdling clearance – appeared easy for the guy.

He went on to win the race by a massive 0.7s over Robin (14.8). We talked a bit at the finish line. I found it amusing that he was in the Philippines for a holiday! He had quite a lot of anecdotes to share, from competing against the likes of Liu Xiang to his training regimen in Malaysia. For someone who has reached the pinnacle of regional competition, Rayzam was certainly laid back.

In jest, I thanked the guy for coming over to the Philippines and raising the level of play. Even if he considered his 14.1s time unremarkable, for us Filipino hurdlers, running so close to the thirteen second barrier was a surreal thought!

*- I only ran against Jardin twice, when he had shifted to the decathlon and was a shadow of his old hurdling self. I was sidelined by a broken arm when Soriano set the aforesaid UAAP record. When Mike went below 15-seconds, I was watching from the sidelines as a college alumnus, having used up all my five playing years. Tuliao set his PB at the Thailand Open a month ago.

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.

Sub-15 (13 October 2007)

The Philippines is far from a regional track & field power, much less a dominant sprint hurdling country. Almost all of our national records pale in comparison with current Olympic “B” standards. The discrepancy between the “B” mark of 13.72s in the 110m high hurdles and Alonzo Jardin’s 14.76s national record is glaring.

Hence, going below 15 seconds is a defining moment for a local sprint hurdler, despite the relative insignificance of such a time abroad.

In 13 October 2007, I did just that. I clocked a hand-timed 14.9s (a modest achievement) finishing behind my teammate and three-time UAAP 110m high hurdles gold medalist, Mike Mendoza; and current UAAP record holder Orlando Soriano of FEU. It was a special moment – a defining milestone. 11 months before that day, I badly broke my left forearm in a freak training accident. I just had my first hurdles race since the injury a month earlier.

Read my original post, “14.9”

View pictures of the operation

View video clips of the operation: Part 1 Part 2

Physically, I was in tip-top shape. Despite the plates and screws in my left arm, I was lifting heavier than ever. Prior to 13 October 2007, I had matched my pre-injury personal best of 15.2s after a 9-month layoff. Psychologically, however, the wounds were still quite fresh. I seemed to have lost that X-factor – the fearless, yet relaxed aggressiveness that defines a good sprint hurdler. Nevertheless, I shrugged off those inner troubles and did the best I can under the circumstances.

Three years later, that early Saturday morning remains vivid. I can still remember myself standing at the starting line, smelling the faint traces of alcohol from my teammate Mike, who celebrated his birthday the previous night with loads of booze! Before my injury, I went undefeated against the then 19-year old Mike. But in my first two races after the November accident, I was down 0-2 against the fleet-footed, audacity of one of the best ever Filipino sprint hurdlers.

I was proud as hell for my teammate and friend. Those two prior defeats seemed to have fanned the fires of revenge even more! I felt the same towards FEU’s Soriano. Since the heats of UAAP 68, the speedy Soriano had been on a class of his own, setting the current 14.96s UAAP record in the process.

I always compete to win. I hated to lose, but I was thankful to be given the chance to compete against the best Filipino hurdlers in two decades.

As the gun fired, Mike and I were running practically abreast. Soriano and I were on the lanes beside Mike’s. I was pleasantly surprised to be running head-t0-head with my much faster teammate. I usually get left behind by a good one or two strides due to my poor starts. All throughout the first half of the race, Mike maintained a narrow lead. I welcomed my teammate’s flailing right trail arm hit my own left trail arm as a good sign.

 

Photo from Lia Tagulinao

 

Despite Mike’s Bacchanalian pursuits the other night, he still ran a superb 14.7s. Until now, I remain dumbfounded at how my friend ran a friggin’ 14.7s whilst hungover!

I never went below 15 seconds again that season, despite a series of low 15 second clockings.  I wound up fourth in my last UAAP (the only meet that season which had automatic timing. I stopped the clock at  15.52s – a new PB – during the heats but clocked a measly 15.72s in the final). Mike went on to win his 1st gold medal in the sprint hurdles, adding two more in the next few years – going within a hundredth of a second from Soriano’s record.

It feels great to be back. Despite my temporary, 2-year retirement, I’m nearing the peak of my physical prowess. In the coming months, I’ll be doing my utmost best to rewrite this three year mark.

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!

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