Category Archives: Susanna Kallur

Sally Pearson vs. Susanna Kallur

The women’s 100m hurdles (0.838m) features comparably shorter hurdles than its men’s equivalent, the 110m high hurdles (1.067m). Hence, a gifted sprinter could get away with glaring technical flaws in women’s event, according to Coach Steve McGill of Hurdles First fame. The short distance hurdle races are essentially a sprinting event. The lower hurdle heights of the women’s event puts less emphasis on technical profiency than being fleet-of-foot. Hence, it is unsurprising to see century dash Olympic champions like Gail Devers power their way to sprint hurdling dominance, albeit in an erratic fashion.

Australia’s Sally Pearson and Sweden’s Susanna Kallur are two of the most prolific hurdling technicians the modern athletics world has seen. Gifted with speed, these ladies have amassed a considerable amount of medals between themselves.

Pearson is the most illustrious of the two, stamping her class at the 2011 World Championships, becoming the fourth-fastest sprint hurdler of all time (12.28s). The older Kallur is the world record holder in the 60m hurdles (7.68s) and holds a personal best of 12.49s in the outdoor race.

With the Swede being hampered by injury since 2008, Pearson has improved dramatically. Whilst Kallur crashed out of the Beijing Olympics in tears, a jubilant Pearson won an unexpected silver medal.

Should a healthy Kallur clash with an in-form Pearson, whom amongst the two would prevail?

Hurdling Technique: An Even Match

One cannot find fault in their flawless hurdling techniques, unlike some of their top tier competitors. The way both Pearson and Kallur clear the hurdles is picture perfect, and a joy to watch for this hurdling aficionado.

As long as the athlete gets the fundamentals – leading with the knee, the lean, the lead leg snap, the squared trail knee, the swooshing lead arm, the stable trail arm, and the trail foot being parallel with the hurdle crossbar – the differences in technique boil down to the hurdling nuances.

 

Photos from couriermail.com.au and newsgab.com

Hurdling is an art form. No two works of art are the same.

Although I prefer Sanna’s more pronounced lean over the hurdles, this nuance – this slight improvement or advantage, I dare say, is practically trivial in light of Pearson’s results. After all, one doesn’t need to lean too much over the shorter hurdlers.

Sprinting: Pearson

In terms of flat-out sprinting talent, Pearson has the upper hand. Sally started out as a sprinter first, before expanding her repertoire to the hurdles. At the World Youth Championships in 2003, the Aussie won gold in the 100m hurdles. A year later at the Grossetto World Junior Championships, Pearson landed third in the flat 100m while narrowly missing out on the 100m hurdle bronze.

Through the years, Sally has been a standout sprinting talent, winning numerous national titles in her native Australia. At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Pearson would have won the 100m-100m hurdles double, had she not been disqualified in the century dash for a false start.

Kallur’s sprinting curriculum vitae aren’t as rock-solid. The Swedes best sprinting finish in a major international sprinting event is seventh place at the 60m dash final at the 2007 European Indoor Championships. Pearson, in contrast, is a 100m dash semifinalist at the Osaka World Championships, on top of her World Junior bronze medal.

Sally has a 100m dash personal best of 11.14s (2007) compared to Sanna’s 11.30s (2006). The gap is even bigger at the half-lap, with Pearson’s PR of 23.02s (2009 and 2012) superior to Kallur’s 23.32s (2006).

Speed/Hurdling Endurance: Pearson

Italy’s Marzia Caravelli, herself a talented hurdler and sprinter, pointed out that Kallur tends to fade at the latter parts of a race. At the 2007 World Championships, the future 60m hurdles world record holder had a terrific start to snatch the lead.

Susanna was actually leading until the ninth hurdle, when the troika of Michelle Perry (12.46s), Perdita Felicien (12.49s – SB), and Delloreen Ennis-London (12.50s – PB) caught up with the Swede. She missed the bronze by one-hundredths of second, but still clung to a then personal best of 12.51s.

Pearson is peerless at the latter stages. In her groundbreaking races at the Daegu World Championships, the Australian ran 12.53s and 12.36s at the heats and semifinals, respectively. She seemed to go faster as the race progressed. She had a lightning fast start and was able to maintain her lead. She had the race from the gun to the tape.

How Pearson maintains her speed and form over the barriers could be attributed to her extensive experience over the 200m dash. Since both the sprint hurdles and the half-lap involve rhythm, the two events complement each other. An examination of Kallur’s IAAF biography show much less race exposure in the 200m dash compared to Pearson.

Verdict: Pearson

With both athletes possessing impeccable hurdling technique, Pearson’s flat-out sprinting power, sprinting experience and speed/hurdling endurance makes her the superior hurdler – an obvious understatement considering the Australian’s achievements and stature.

But then again, one often wonders how an injury-free Susanna Kallur would match up with Sally Pearson. Kallur was at the cusp of Olympic success in 2008, as evidenced by her sterling world indoor record. Had she been healthy in 2008, would she have eventually ran at the same level as Pearson did in 2011?

At 32 years of age, Kallur is far from being a spent force. Should the Swede regain her top notch 2008 form, such a match up would be one for the books.

Additional Links:

Sally Pearson’s IAAF bio

Susanna Kallur’s IAAF bio

Women’s 100m hurdles All-time Top List

Women’s 60m hurdles All-time Top List

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My Deficient Hurdling Form

A few days ago, I stumbled upon an excellent feature by Trans World Sports on Norway’s reigning World Youth and World Junior Champion, Isabelle Pedersen. The powerfully-built Pedersen reminds me of a young Susanna Kallur, with her raw sprinting power and technically-sound hurdling fundamentals.

In the clip, Pedersen was doing hurdle walk-overs. I noticed that her trail arm (her right arm) had an open palm ala Carl Lewis throughout the entire arm action. Then it hit me, why not do the hurdle walkovers Pedersen style? Instead clenching my left arm in a loose fist, I could make an open palm to instill the proper relaxed arm swing motion on my left trail arm.

During the formative months of 2005, when I overhauled my entire hurdling technique thanks to Coach Toto, I never corrected this blatant flaw in form. I’ve always had a problematic trail arm. Instead simply swinging backwards and forwards during clearance, my trail arm always jerks towards shoulder (or chin!) height, before the resumption of a more orthodox arm swing. As a result, the path my center of gravity travels during the hurdling motion becomes mildly erratic, instead of being as stable as possible. The arms, after all, are key in providing balance against the enormous torque produced during the hurdling action.

Sprinting-in-between becomes harder, in light of this split-second break in momentum.

Nevertheless, I corrected all the other aspects of my hurdling: (1) lead arm (whereas before, it used to swing from a high arch, I corrected it to mimic Liu Xiang’s sword-like arm swing) and (2) trail leg (the squaring of the trail knee become more forceful, the foot became parallel with the hurdle top bar). Despite my troublesome trail arm, I improved dramatically because of the hours I spent drilling over the hurdles.

At left is my deficient form. At right is the proper trail arm action, courtesy of non-other than Liu Xiang himself!

Photos from Karla Lim and BBC/AP

The flaws of my hurdling technique becomes even more apparent during the lead leg action. By this time, the trail arm had settled beside my hip, albeit quite tensely. As you can see from the photo below, I bring my lead knee up too high. The result is more hang time, as the lead leg needlessly exerts excessive upward force.

Photos from Karla Lim and Xinhua

Mind you, I wasn’t like this before. In the summer of 2006, I remember how my thighs almost always graze the hurdle top bar – a good feeling for a hurdler! However, a spate of injuries (hamstring and a terrible forearm fracture) stunted my hurdling finesse. From then on, I couldn’t seem to replicate the sensation of precise clearing. Even if I ran faster times, the hurdling clearances almost always felt lacking.

Despite the aforesaid flaws, my hurdling technique has some good points too. I am particularly proud of my squared lead leg and parallel trail foot. My lead arm swing is also efficient, enabling my trail leg to smoothly clear the hurdle. Needless to say, I am quite proud of my overall trail leg action!

Photos from Karla Lim and IAAF

I am light-years away from an efficient hurdling technique, much less to even approach Liu Xiang’s form – or any other world- or regional- class hurdlers for that matter!

As soon as I wrap-up the 2010 season and take a breather, I’ll head out to the track again to correct the deficiencies in my technique. I believe that a smoother hurdling clearance can shave off as much as two-tenths of a second from my personal best.

I’ll start with the most basic of hurdling drills – the hurdle walk-overs. Hopefully, an open-palmed trail arm would promote a more relaxed arm action.

“The Borlées: En Route to Olympic History” by Joboy Quintos

When the words “siblings” and “athletics” come together, the first name that pop  into my head are the Kallur twins. Susanna Kallur, in recent years, had distinguished herself in the women’s sprint hurdles, breaking the 60m hurdles world record and topping the 2006 Goteborg European Championships. Her twin sister Jenny, older by four minutes, has been a fixture in the athletics circuits, but hasn’t reached the same level of success as Sanna.

Read: Track Beauties of the Week: Susanna and Jenny Kallur

The Harrison twins used to be the finest example of sibling excellence, winning the 4x400m relay gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games – teaming up with Michael Johnson and the late Antonio Pettigrew. Alvin and Calvin were the first ever siblings – identical twins at that! – to ever win an Olympic track & field gold whilst part of the same relay team.

   

Kevin, Olivia, and Jonathan. (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen)

Belgium’s Borlee sibings threaten to usurp the aforesaid families. Trained by their father, Jacques, the Borlees are the most illustrious athletics family actively competing to today. Elder sister Olivia, a 200m specialist, already has an Olympic 4x100m relay silver to her name. The Belgian team finished 0.23s behind Russia in Beijing 2008.

Identical twins Kevin and Jonathan are en route to becoming fine quarter milers, with both brothers qualifying for the 2010 Euro Championships 400m final. In the 4x400m relay, the Borlee twins comprised half of the formidable Belgian team that won silver at the 2010 Doha World Indoor Champs and bronze at the Barcelona Euro Championships.

The future for Kevin (PB 44.88s) and Jonathan (PB 44.718s) looks promising. If the brothers can shed precious hundredths of a second off their respective bests, they could mount a decent challenge to the American hegemony in the 400m dash. If Olivia and the other female Belgian sprinters somehow reprise their fabulous bridesmaid finish at the London Olympics, with Kim Gevaert long since retired, the prospects for a three sibling Olympic romp becomes ever so bright.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my constant readings of Olympic (as well as World Championships) track & field history, three siblings each coming home with a medal is an unheard of fact.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Additional Links:

Video: 2010 World Indoor Championships 4x400m Relay

Video: 2008 Beijing Olympics 4x100m Relay

Track Beauties of the Week: Susanna and Jenny Kallur

Susanna and Jenny Kallur are this week’s track beauties!

Before Belgium’s Borlee brothers, Europe’s favorite twin athletes were the Kallur sisters. Born in New York, USA to a former professional hockey player, the Kallur sisters have been a fixture in the hurdling world, until injury reared its ugly head.

 

Photos from http://www.axa.se and aftonbladet-cdn.se

Susanna, younger by four minutes, is the more illustrious half. Sanna set the world indoor record of 7.68s in 2008 and won the 2006 European Championship crown in front a passionate Swedish crowd in Goteborg. Susanna was also twice European Indoor Champion (2005 and 2007), as well as the 2000 World Junior Champion in the 100m hurdles. Jenny won silver at the 2005 European Indoors behind her sister.

Photos from Olympicgirls.net

The twins were part of the bronze medal winning Swedish 4x100m relay team at the Santiago World Junior Championships – the first time they shared a podium together.

Photo from Daylife.com

Interestingly, the twins suffered stress fractures on their respective shins back in the 2008, requiring surgery.

Both athletes missed the Beijing Olympics and the Berlin World Championships because of the unfortunate setback. A nagging foot problem saw Jenny retire this year.

Additional links:

IAAF article on Kallur twins’ injury

“Lolo Jones vs. Susanna Kallur” by Joboy Quintos

Both athletes are without a doubt, certified track beauties and top calibre sprint hurdlers. In a hurdles race, however, my money’s on Kallur.

On paper, Lolo Jones has the better 100m hurdles time (12.43s). Susanna Kallur is five hundredths of a seconds slower at 12.49s. The roles are reversed in the shorter, indoor distance (60m hurdles), with the Swede owning the current world indoor record of 7.68s.

Photos from earclops.com and beijing2008.cn

I don’t like Jones’ tense disposition during the race. She grunts and grimaces with each clearance. In fact, Tyson Gay pointed out Lolo’s Sharapova-like grunt in a SpikesMag interview. Also, the 2008 World Indoor Champion’s trail arm hangs much too far from her body. Lolo’s hurdling style borders on the wild side; hence, she’s susceptible to race-ending errors like her unfortunate fall in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Lolo makes up for this slight facial dis-figuration with her post-race million dollar smile!

Photo from radiocontempo.wordpress.com

Kallur, in contrast, is a much better technician. How her lead arm draws a wide “C” – much like a graceful, sabre slash – is a fine example of textbook hurdling. The way her trail leg squares over those hurdles is just perfect. Sanna is also a prolific sprinter, being a consistent member of Sweden’s 4x100m relay squad. This potent combination of form and power makes Kallur one formidable hurdler.

Jones has a fine hurdling form too (she wouldn’t be World Indoor Champion if she has crappy form), albeit not as graceful to watch as Kallur because of the former’s grimace and tense demeanor.

Read up on Coach Steve McGill’s prolific piece on women’s sprint hurdling

A healthy Kallur and a consistent Jones in one race? Now that’s a must see.

Article by Joboy Quintos

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