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Category Archives: Orlando Soriano
December 8, 2012Posted by on
Here’s something I wrote shortly after winning my first UAAP Senior medal back in February 2006.
Finally. Got a silver this afternoon in the hurdles. I topped the overall list of qualifiers (15.85) but sadly, finished 2nd in the final heat. Damn. I was 0.03s away from the gold (Orlando Soriano – 15.72. I clocked 15.75s).
To add insult to injury, I celebrated too early by raising my arms half a meter before the finish line (Note: I actually rose from my dive too early. I did not celebrate early!).
That cost me the race since I wasn’t able to outlean the gold medallist, whom I edged out in the same qualifying heat.
Nevertheless, this feels great. How badly I had missed finishing at the top echelons of the field. The cheers of my teammates were incomparable treasures. Seeing them happy because of what I had achieved made this victory a hundred times more sweet.
The Men’s team had a splendid first day, with 3 silver medals (Bryan – 100m dash, John Gregorio – Javelin Throw). In addition, Nina finished second in the 100m hurdles. Three more days to go. The team has to maintain this momentum in order to achieve a podium finish.
June 9, 2011Posted by on
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.
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.
November 30, 2010Posted by on
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.
October 20, 2010Posted by on
Pound-per-pound, my strongest year in college was my pre-injury days. I was fresh out of a breakout junior year, unexpectedly winning a silver medal in the sprint hurdles. Coming into my senior year, I was given the honor of serving as the team’s co-captain.
As a 20-year old, I was running respectable hand-timed mid-15’s. That season, I brought down my hand-timed PR to 15.2s (from 15.8s a year earlier) and my automatically-timed PR to 15.65s (from 15.75s). My confidence was at all time highs. I was audaciously adventurous in my training approach, yearning to reach the thresholds of my bodily limits.
I was a man on a mission, hoping to finally snatch the UAAP gold that eluded me by a mere three-hundredths of a second.
The epitome of this spunky, glorious phase of my collegiate career transpired one particular September morning in 2006. We were competing at the PATAFA Weekly Relays. I came off the blocks slower than usual. FEU’s Orlando Soriano and UE’s Gabriel Quezada powered on to insurmountable leads.
The first race
At the end of the race, I was furiously disappointed. Despite my excellent training sessions, I couldn’t seem to notch a decent enough start. The faster sprinters almost always built up large leads at the start. More often than not, I had to play catch-up, relying on my superior hurdling technique.
When I got to the finish line to retrieve my things, my teammate Lech Velasco (who had a bad race as well) had the crazy idea of joining the next 110m high hurdles heat. I willingly obliged, wanting to vent off steam. As Lech and I assumed the starting position, I saw my befuddled coach look warily in our direction.
When the gun fired, I found myself at the forefront of the slower heat. At the halfway mark, I felt fatigue set in! I could barely sprint. Thankfully, my hurdling technique held true to form. I was able to stave off the fast-finishing Isagani Bayson of DLSU (a UAAP high jump champion and a decent sprint hurdler).
The second race (fast forward to 0:34)
I just ran two sprint hurdler races in a span of around 5 to 7 minutes. I timed a 15.6s in the first race and a 15.8s in the second.
At the finish line, I looked around for Lech. To my surprise I found him near the starting line! It turned out that he was actually referring to one more hurdle starts, not one more hurdle race! Nevertheless, I felt strangely vindicated as the endorphins set it. I was tired of course, but not exhausted – a testament to our fine conditioning regimen. More importantly, it felt great to finish first for a change!
Two months later, I broke my left forearm in a freak hurdling accident. Nine months later, I was back on the track. Physically, I was fully recovered from the injury. But something was wrong psychologically. Despite clocking much faster times in fifth and final year (new PR of 14.9s and 15.52s most of my races were low-15’s), something felt horribly out of place. Perhaps I never really did get the eye of the tiger back in such a short span of time.
October 18, 2010Posted by on
I’m excited as hell to compete again. In light of this competitive renaissance, I’ve been dusting off the cobwebs of my repertoire of pump-up songs – to get myself into the proverbial zone. Since’ I’m a fan of the Rocky series (except the last two films!), Survivor’s 80’s classic “Eye of the Tiger” has been a fixture in many a play list.
I’m planning to finally start the long-delayed 2010 season on 20 (or 21) November 2010 by taking part in the 100m dash. I’ll be running my first 110m high hurdles race by 4 (or 5) December 2010.
For the first time in years, I’ll be competing without pressure of carrying the school colors and chasing a particular collective goal. Of course, there’s the pride factor. Since Filipino track & field athletes are mostly school-based, competitors rarely go beyond being 24 years old. Those older than 24 are either national team members or athletes aspiring to be part of the elite national training pool.
Being the elder statesman, I have a reputation to protect. In the final two years of my college days, I never went below 4th place in all of my sprint hurdle races (competing against the likes of UAAP record holder Orlando Soriano and three-time UAAP gold medallist Mike Mendoza, one is bound to get relegated to the lower rungs of the podium!). Despite our relatively slow times, we were the best sprint hurdlers in the country.
The current crop of track athletes were mere teenagers during seasons 2006 to 2007.
With my contemporaries, aside from the hard-working Robin Tuliao formerly of UST, long since gone, I am faced with an unfamiliar field. Come to think of it, I haven’t even competed against the top 3 sprint hurdlers of the UAAP! I am that old!
One can argue that going against U-23 athletes merits advantages in terms of physical maturity and experience. After all, at almost 25 years, I’ve been hurdling since 2000 – 10 years (minus the two years I spent retired). But there’s the rub! The time I spent away from the sport had stunted my hurdling proficiency. Even if the day-by-day improvement is rapid, I can’t deny the fact that I’ve been away for far too long.
As the date of my comeback draws near, I’m having mixed emotions of fear, self-doubt and enthusiastic exuberance. I know for a fact that the first two feelings are bound to disappear – as soon as I regain the eye of the tiger! As for the latter, it’s an emotion I last felt when I was in the midst of my breakout 2005-2006 season.
Whatever happens, I’m thankful for being a second chance to hurdle again – to do what I love best!
October 17, 2010Posted by on
Since it’s Unigames time again, allow me to resurrect another one of my old entries. I wrote this piece during the dark months after UAAP 70. I was then unemployed and had lots of free time. I was still dealing with my ignominious UAAP exit; I wrote quite a lot of entries in an effort to face reality head on.
Good luck to the Ateneo Men’s and Women’s Track & Field Teams! Bring home the bacon!
Panaad Stadium circa 2006. One my favorite stadia in the Philippines.
The sun shone brightly. It was a perfect Negros afternoon.The final heat of the 110m high hurdles was about to start, but I was on the stands videotaping an event wherein I wanted so badly to run.
A day earlier, I faltered in the qualifying heat, clocking a measly 17.9s, way slower than my then-PB of 16.9s. I was a sophomore back then and my warm-up routine was not yet refined. Furthermore, my hurdling fundamentals were built upon shaky ground. I was entered as a late replacement for Tim Robles (who instead focused on the upcoming 400m dash final) in the 4x100m relay. I ran my leg superbly, but ultimately, the quartet wound up with a 4th place finish.
Still tired from the relay, my hurdling warm-up proved ineffective. I got out of the blocks slower than usual, floated over each barrier and sprinted lackadaisically in between each hurdle. It was supposed to be my breakout race, after breaking the 17-second barrier for the first time. I was devastated. I sobbed at the dugout and vowed there and then that I shall have my redemption.
The same feeling pretty much summed up the emotions of the men’s team. We came to Bacolod with the intention of actually winning something, but wound up with virtually nothing but two measly 4th place finishes. Despite the best of our efforts in training and in competition, we were simply outclassed.
Two years later, the team was back in Bacolod for Unigames 2006. Things were different. It was a strong and vicious team. The greenhorns were now battle-hardened veterans.
Unigames 2006 was the very first podium finish for the men’s team. Nearly everyone brought home medals. The performances of Rob Sargan and Ryan Dalman were inspiring. And the supporting cast gave ample support.
My experience was bittersweet. Bitter, because I could have done better if I didn’t get sick or got carried away by matters of the heart. Sweet, because I finally had my redemption.
A few days before the qualifying heat, I was already feeling the initial effects of an upcoming tonsillitis case. My throat felt itchy, my body burning with fever. My condition deteriorated. In fact, the night before the race, I was wrapped up in mountains of clothing and blankets to stay warm. I even turned off the air-conditioning in our room because of the unbearable cold, much to the chagrin of my roommates!
I was in disbelief at the unfortunate turn of events. I was nearing the peak of my collegiate career. I was aggressive and deeply inspired, eager to finally make up for that disaster two years ago. This was yet another case of my out-of-town competition jinx.*
But through a lot of prayers (and due to my mom’s concoction of calamansi and virgin honey), I felt a lot better in the morning. The fever had subsided and I actually felt great.
That time around, my warm-up routine was solid and effective. I was focused on the task at hand. Nothing could have shaken me from my fearsome determination to run the perfect race. I felt unusually fast before the heats. I felt so pumped up. My legs were raring to go. After my warm-up sprints over three flights of hurdles, I pumped my fists with glee. I liked what I felt. I was a very dangerous man back then.
I was slated to run in the first heat. The USPF athlete beside me, the National Junior Champion and the PRISAA champion, got out of the blocks early; hence, a yellow card was charged to the entire field. I was in for a great battle, I told myself. I love going head-to-head against strong sprinters despite my dearth of speed.
Evenly-matched (Photo from Charles Banez)
My start was quite good as the USPF athlete’s [Harren Millendez edged out my teammate Mike Mendoza during the 2006 Nationals] lead was a mere 1/4 of a step. As I cleared more hurdles, I felt my engine change into higher gear. I ate up his lead gradually. By the 7th hurdle, we were sprinting abreast. His speed was no match for my quick clearing. As soon as I sprinted over the last hurdle, I was somehow amazed at finishing ahead of everybody. It was surreal.
Frankly speaking I was not used to this. I sprinted the last 14.02m to the finish line in a blistering pace, diving emphatically to the tape.
15.2s! A new PB! (Photo from Charles Banez)
I ran a then personal best: 15.2s. As I went back to get my stuff, I was nodding my head and pumping my fist in self-adulation.
I could not seem to duplicate the same degree of intensity in the final heat the next day. Perhaps, it was due to the fever, which immediately came back as soon as the events of the first day ended. I finished a far third behind Orlando Soriano and Gabriel Quezada, with a fairly average 15.6 clocking [still ahead of a fast-finishing Mike Mendoza – the future 3-time UAAP gold medalist!].
Nevertheless, I was smiling at the finish line. I just ran in the finals despite being ill; I won’t be going home empty-handed.
Soriano and Quezada appeared at the Inquirer sports pages the day after. A good 2/3 of my body was included in the photo too!
Partially-hidden! (Photo from Maita Mendoza)
* – I ALWAYS get ill (In my first Unigames in 2003, I was stricken with asthma and fever. In Baguio 2005, I was down with fever and asthma and in Nationals 2006 in Nueva Ecija, stomach flu and fever).
October 13, 2010Posted by on
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.
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.
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.
July 27, 2010Posted by on
My most eloquent moments seem to come at the heels of heartbreak. I wrote the following piece days after my final UAAP. My confidence was shattered; I was aimless. A months-long period of emotional erosion – then healing – took place.
Now that I’m older (and wiser, hopefully), looking back at these turbulent yet formative chapters evokes fond feelings of nostalgia.
11 February 2008
Ah the race.
I tried to stay with the leaders during the first part of my relay leg, but decided against it after the 180m mark. I disengaged and coasted for about 50m, stayed in position for another 70m, but as I prepared for the final burst my legs simply could not go faster. We were in 5th place when I passed the baton to Mike Mendoza. Even though Mike and JP Azcueta overtook DLSU to get 4th place, we simply could not meet the targets that were set. I put the blame entirely on myself. If I only stayed with the race leaders all throughout. If only I had more speed endurance – more heart.
It was like February 2006 again, when the team failed to win 3rd place by a measly 4.5 points behind UE. Only this time, we lost a bigger prize, the 1st-runner up trophy by the infinitesimal amount of 3.5 points.
Again, there are a variety of “what-if” scenarios, with the aforementioned 4x400m race included. It’s a Pandora’s Box of situations that hardly does any good. But hey, we scored the highest ever aggregate score among all the Ateneo Men’s Track & Field teams that have competed through the years. So many people rose to the occasion and excelled.
I remember writing something several years back, about giving it your all and owing it to yourself in the end. The sun has set and I’m preparing to go down from the hill. In this momentary calm, I recollect my thoughts; put them in order amidst the chaos of these nightmares.
I feel really bad, but it could have been a lot worse. I didn’t meet my goals, but it sure as hell was a great season. I seem to forget that only a year ago, I was struggling to recover from a broken arm. I did break 15 seconds, even if it was only hand-timed, and had an almost forgettable string of low-15 second races. In the UAAP, I clocked a measly 15.52s in the heats and 15.75s in the final. I could have done much better, but the start, the sprint-in-between and the clearing simply didn’t have its usual spring. It could have been psychological; my collapse – my being outclassed – baffles me.
February 7 (and the 10th as well) simply wasn’t my day.
After the relay, which was the last event of the four-day meet, I took my time going back to the bleachers. Ashamed of my performance, I didn’t want to face my teammates. While I was sulking at one of the benches – “wallowing in self-pity” is a more creative and apt term – Orlando Soriano came to me to give his jersey. For a moment, I forgot the negative things and realized that sport did go beyond winning medals and scoring points. For all of track & field’s simplicity – those who throw and leap the farthest, those who run the fastest, wins – it really goes beyond beating the “7 nameless and faceless guys standing in my way.”**
One of the most relevant sports-related quotes out there are the ones by Martina Navratilova, the many-time Wimbledon champion; and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Navratilova’s words are truthfully blunt: “Whoever said ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts’ probably lost.” For Baron de Coubertin, “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.”* At first glance, the two seem to lie on opposite poles, with the former viewing winning and losing from a black & white lens, and the latter, being more universal and philosophical.
If you made me chose between the two quotes a year ago, I would have chosen Navratilova’s. Now that I’ve been bitten by defeat’s rabid fangs, her words seem like virulent, bestial jaws devouring my skin – reminding me of the simple truth, that oh so painful of facts, that I’ve lost.
Through the excruciating pangs of failure, I had an epiphany – that these two quotes are not paradoxical. Each one complements the other; the latter builds upon the former: Indeed, sport is about winning; there can only be one winner, one gold medalist – one champion. But sport goes beyond winning and losing. Sport is beyond making a string of excuses that debunks sport’s very essence. Sport is about making goals and meeting them. Sport is facing adversity head on. Sport is about commitment, a wholehearted devotion to something that you love doing.
Sport is about winning yet it goes beyond winning.
In the end, I threw away all those notions of shame and negativity. I mustered enough courage to speak in front of the team – that fine collection of young men who had stood together, fought together, suffered and laughed together – to thank them for a lifetime’s worth of memories.
* – The Olympic creed actually came from a sermon by an American Bishop, Ethelbert Talbot, according to this BBC feature.
** – Quoted from Michael Johnson
*** – For a year after UAAP 70, I was unable to look at these video clips. It was pure agony at that time.