Category Archives: Marestella Torres

“Jump-Starting Philippine Athletics” by Joboy Quintos

Hardly anyone ever remembers Simeon Toribio and Miguel White. Toribio was the dominant force in Asian high jumping back in the 1930’s, lording it over the old Far Eastern Games, the pre-cursor of today’s Asian Games. The Boholano won the Philippines’ first medal in athletics at the 1932 Los Angeles Games, a bronze in the high jump. Four years later in Berlin, White emulated Toribio’s feat in the 400m low hurdles.

The Philippines is in the midst a running boom. Hardly a weekend goes by without a running event in the offing. A multitude of companies (from pharmaceuticals to bakeshops) utilize running events to better market their respective products. The past few years have seen the arrival of professional East African distance runners who regularly take part – and dominate – the cash-rich road races all over the country.

One can consider the running boom as just a fad. However, running has perhaps been embedded deeper than billiards, boxing and badminton. With the multitude of running events, surely, the running bug has afflicted quite a large number of citizens. Besides, running is a relatively cheap physical activity – if you don’t join those expensive races, that is. To get that addictive runner’s high, one only needs a good pair of shoes and comfy clothes. Running, apparently, is here to stay.

As an athletics junkie and a track athlete, I’ve often wondered how this exponential interest in running could trickle down to the other disciplines of the sport. After all, the far less popular track events are, in principle, similar to these road races. The object of a sprint race and a road race is simple: to reach the finish line in the shortest possible time. Despite vast differences in tactics, training, strategy and event rules, the ultimate objective remain fundamentally the same.

The sport has almost been completely neglected by the media, corporate sponsors and the general viewing public. An infusion of interest, trickling down from the running boom, could be the driving force for an athletics renaissance.

To illustrate the current state of Philippine athletics, the medal-winning performances of Toribio and White are still competitive against the current generation of track & field athletes. For instance, Toribio’s 1.97m leap, accomplished using the old-school straddle method, at the 1932 Olympic Games high jump final is still good enough for the top three at the 2011 Philippine National Games. Similarly, White’s 52.8s time in the low hurdles would wallop most of the country’s top-level intermediate hurdlers.

Aside from a resurgence in the Gintong Alay days and a brief revival in the early oughts, Philippine athletics has been on a sharp downtrend. Since those double bronze medals in the thirties, the best finish of a Filipino in the Olympic Games was Hector Begeo’s semi-finals appearance at the 3,000m steeplechase. Even the great Lydia de Vega and Isidro del Prado could only reach up to the second round.

Although our lean and mean athletics squad is fairly formidable in the Southeast Asian Games, they wither in higher-level competitions such as the Asian Games. Our last medal in the said quadrennial event came way back at the 1994 Hiroshima Games. The Olympic “A” and “B” standards for athletics are much too high for the majority of our track & field elite; hence, the country only sends a handful of wild card representatives.

With these forgettable performances, it is unsurprising that athletics, despite its status as the centerpiece of the Olympics, languishes in terms of popularity and funding.

It is unfortunate considering the huge amounts of talent our country has to offer. Despite our lack of an honest-to-goodness grassroots development program, hordes of young athletes crowd the Palarong Pambansa and the Batang Pinoy Games. The cream of the crop progresses to the country’s top universities. As these talents grow older, however, their ranks thin. Except for a talented few that joins the ranks of the national team or the Armed Forces, graduation almost always means retirement from the sport. Case in point is the Philippine National Games. Some senior events were held as a straight-off final, with the athletes barely going beyond eight in a heat. In the youth and junior competitions, qualifying heats could number up to four.

To make a living out of the sport is grossly inadequate, especially when the prospective elite athlete has to provide for one’s family. In light of the gap in terms of elite-level performance and our local talent, a sustainable career in the international professional athletics circuit is next to impossible.

Nevertheless, a schools-based sports system, albeit crude; exists for local track & field. A clubs-based system is imperative to lift the dismal standing of the sport. One can start from the existing Armed Forces teams. The multitude of companies that sponsor weekly road runs could perhaps invest in their respective corporate teams, similar to the commercial athletics squads in Japan, an Asian track & field powerhouse. Moreover, university teams could field their crack varsity teams bolstered by select alumni.

What the sport needs is a winning figure: a marketable, articulate athlete that can act as the lightning rod of attention for this neglected discipline. It doesn’t have to be at the same level as a Manny Pacquiao, Efren Reyes or Paeng Nepomuceno. Someone who excels at the Asian level (the Southeast Asian level is much too small) would be a viable candidate. Having a world-beater as a national icon would jump-start the lethargic sport.

A promising niche market, national interest and larger-than-life track & field star could perhaps provide the catalyst for an athletics boom in the Philippines. If countries like Jamaica (sprints), Cuba (jumps and hurdles), Kenya (distance running) and Ethiopia (distance running)– whose level of economic development is more or less comparable to our own – I see no reason for the Philippines to find its own niche in this medal-rich Olympic event.

The resurgence of athletics will not happen overnight. It will take generations to overhaul our highly politicized system to equip the Filipino athlete as a world-beater.

Each time I read about a promising provincial lad making waves in the Palarong Pambansa or see a bunch of kids exuberantly running laps around Ultra with their running-bug afflicted parents, the future of the sport looks bright. Perhaps some time in the not-too-distant future, a Filipino could once again stand on the coveted Olympic podium, this time with the “Lupang Hinirang” proudly playing in the background.

Article by Joboy Quintos

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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)

“London Olympics Preview: The Long Jump” by Joboy Quintos

The long jump is one of the most exciting discipline in athletics. The London Olympics will feature a good mix of upcoming and current athletes, going head-to-head for a memorable competition.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s Long Jump

Brittney Reese (7.12m SB outdoors, 7.23m SB indoors) has dominated the women’s long jumping scene the past few years. Reese made her international debut at the Osaka World Championships in 2007, where she placed eighth in the final, as the Russian troika of Tatyana Lebedeva (Татьяна Лебедева), Lyudmila Kolchanova (Людмила Колчанова), and Tatyana Kotova (Татьяна Котова) made a clean sweep of the medals. Since then, the unorthodox former basketball player had won two World titles (2009 and 2011) and two World indoor crowns (2010 and 2012).

Reese at the 2010 World Indoor Championships. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Although the American has shown chinks in her armor in some long jump competitions, Reese has displayed nerves of steel in the championships that count the most. Only an Olympic medal eludes her collection. The rest of the long jump field will be hard-pressed to top a motivated, healthy and techinically-proficient Brittney Reese.

This is hard for me to say, considering that I’m a big fan of Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина: The American is poised to win the Olympic long jump title.

But then again, Reese had shown erratic jumping in the past. She could be beaten in a major championship. The in-form Russian, Olga Kucherenko Ольга Кучеренко (7.03m SB outdoors, 6.91m SB indoors); the defending Olympic champion, Maurren Higa Maggi (6.85m SB); and the prolific Darya, are at the vanguard of Reese’s challengers.

   

Klishina (L), Kucherenko (C), and Maggi (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen, sport-vlg.ru, and Agência Brazil/Janine Moraes)

Kucherenko, who has a personal best of 7.13m from 2010 and the silver medalist from Daegu, has displayed sterling form this year. Reese, Anna Nazarova (7.11m), Chelsea Hayes (7.10m), Nastassia Mironchyk – Ivanova (7.08m), Kucherenko, Janay DeLoach and Veronika Shutkova have all gone beyond 7 meters this season. Brazil’s Maggi has experienced a resurgence the past two years. A 7.26m jumper at her best, The 36-year old Maggi had gone tantalizingly close to 7 meters in 2011.

Note: Klishina and Kucherenko did not make the Russian Olympic Team.

These athletes are in the running for a spot on the podium.

Sostene Moguenara (6.88m SB outdoors) and Shara Proctor (6.84m SB outdoors, 6.89 SB/PB indoors) have also displayed excellent form in 2012.

Although slowed down by an ankle injury last season, the 21-year old Klishina has the makings of a future champion. The 2011 European Indoor champion has an outdoor personal best of 7.05m from 2010. Darya is the second-best junior long jumper of all-time, behind the great Heike Drechsler. A healthy Klishina could foil Reese’s Olympic dreams.

But then again, Klishina and Kucherenko were not selected to the Russian Olympic Team, as they finished below the top three at their Olympic Trials. The Russian squad possess such depth that they can make do without a talented junior and an in-form athlete.

A total of eight jumpers have gone beyond 7 meters this season. Reese is my top choice for Olympic gold, with Nazarova and Mironcyk-Ivanova for silver and bronze, respectively.

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Brittney Reese

Silver: Darya Klishina Anna Nazarova

Bronze:  Olga Kucherenko Nastassia Mironchyk – Ivanova

Men’s Long Jump

If Dwight Phillips (8.74m PB), the 2004 Athens Olympic Champion and four-time World champion, did not figure in a car accident last May, he’ll be the favorite for the Olympic title. But then again, misfortune had plagued the long jump legend’s 2012 preparations.

C’mon Dwight! Time to go on Wolverine mode! (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Hence, the field is wide open for a flurry of names to rise to the occasion. The farthest jump this season is just a relatively humble 8.35m by the host country’s Greg Rutherford and Russian junior Sergey Morgunov, who rewrote the World junior record. Sebastian Bayer and Marquise Goodwin have respective season’s bests of 8.34m and 8.33m. A mere four centimeters separate the next six athletes in the 2012 rankings: Godfrey Khotso Mokoena (8.29m A), Mitchell Watt (8.28m), Henry Frayne (8.27m), Christian Reif (8.26m), Will Claye (8.25m), Jinzhe Li (8.25m), and Aleksandr Menkov Александр Меньков (8.24m.

The newly-crowned World Indoor champion, Mauro Vinicius da Silva of Brazil, has a season’s best of 8.10m.

 

Mokoena (L) and Watt (R). (Photos from Petritap and Erik van Leeuwen)

The contenders, save for the 34-year old Phillips, are a young bunch. The oldest is the 27-year old Reif, the 2010 European Champion. Will Claye, attempting the triple/long jump double is the youngest at 21-years old.

If the clock runs out for the recuperating Phillips, the battle for long jump gold will be two-pronged. Mokoena, the 2008 Olympic silver medallist, has the most considerable experience and the farthest lifetime best at 8.50m. Reif (8.47m PB) and Watt (8.45m PB) round up the next two.

   

Claye (L), Rutherford (C), and Reif (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and Eckhard Pecher/Arcimboldo)

Bayer has an indoor personal best of 8.71m from 2009. Although he had won the 2012 European title with his 8.34m leap, the European indoor record holder has been unable to replicate such high-quality jumping in major championships. Should Bayer get his act together, he could finally live up to his huge potential. Then there’s the young Russian Morgunov, who leaped to new World Junior Record of 8.35m. Should he be able to display the same level of consistency, he could figure in the top three.

Phillips is my sentimental favorite to win the long jump gold. Had he not been injured, he would have been a strong contender for the top spot.

Mokoena is the next best choice for top honors because of his edge in championship experience. The exuberant Claye could figure in a tight battle  bronze (or even silver). Rutherford, who has jumped personal bests of 8.35m twice this year, is another contender for a spot on the podium. The in-form Briton might just pull-off a Jai Taurima, albeit with none of the “cigarettes, pizza, and late nights.”

These jumpers certainly are capable of leaping beyond the humble season’s best of 8.35m. The prospects for the Men’s Long Jump competition are indeed exciting due to its unpredictability.

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Mitchell Watt/Godfrey Khotso Mokoena

Silver: Greg Rutherford/Sebastian Bayer

Bronze:  Will Claye/Christian Reif

Article by Joboy Quintos

Sources:

2008 Beijing Olympics Results

2011 World Championships Results

2009 World Championships Results

2007 World Championships Results

2012 World Indoor Championships Results

2010 World Indoor Championships Results

IAAF Top List – 2012 Men’s Long Jump

IAAF Top List – 2012 Women’s Long Jump

Olympic Non-Participation

To be able to qualify for Olympic-level athletics, the aspiring athlete must meet a particular set of performance standards in specific span of time. For the men’s 100m dash, in example, there are the “A” and “B” standards, 10.18s and 10.24s, respectively. Ralph Soguilon’s 100m dash national record at 10.45s is more than two-tenths of a second slower than the “B” standard – light years away from  an outright Olympic slot. Such is the case for most of our national records.

Amongst our elite athletes, Marestella Torres is the lone exception. En route to winning the 2011 SEA Games Long Jump gold, Torres went beyond the 6.65m “B” standard by six centimeters. Her 6.71m national record is more than enough for an outright Olympic slot.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a story about Marestella Torres and Rene Herrera being given the mandatory athletics slots* for the 2012 London Olympics. I was particularly disturbed by the nonchalant tone. There was hardly any mention of the Olympic entry standards, save for single line from Go Teng Kok. Has Philippine athletics sunk so low that not qualifying for an Olympic slot has become the norm?

It’s sad to say that the answer is a resounding yes. Filipino track & field athletes have fallen so far behind the curve. Blame it on the sports officials, the media, the Philippine propensity for basketball or corruption: the fact remains that we are at the bottom of the athletics heap. If our homegrown boxers, swimmers, archers and taekwondo jins can bag Olympic berths, I’m sure our track & field athletes (with ample support, of course) can do the same.

One can harp about bagging dozens of medals in the Southeast Asian Games or dominating the general standings, even (think about the 2005 Manila SEA Games). But this doesn’t necessarily translate into Olympic success – or at the very least, Olympic participation. News of the Philippines fielding the smallest Olympic contingent in recent memory has been met with indifference. In contrast, the SEA Games debacle went, for a time, into the national headlines.

So long as our athletes struggle to even qualify for the world’s most prestigious sporting spectacle – as long as we prioritize low-key regional meets over the biggest stage of sport – I’m afraid that our dream of Olympic Gold will be no more than a far-flung fantasy.

* – Torres’ slot could be given to Melvin Guarte, should Torres’ 6.71m is formally recognized as meeting the “B” standard.

Thoughts on the 26th SEA Games

I’ve been reading about the Philippine athletics results  in the ongoing 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. To date, Filipinos have won only two gold medals, courtesy of Marestella Torres (Gold, Women’s Long Jump) and Rene Herrera (Gold, Men’s 3,000m Steeplechase).  Other defending champions did not fare as well as Torres and Herrera, with the likes of Arniel Ferrera (Silver, Hammer Throw), Rosie Villarito (Silver, Javelin Throw) and Henry Dagmil, To the casual observer, the initial reaction would be one of disappointment. After all, two gold medals is way off the target of six set by the NSA president, Mr. Go Teng Kok.

Come to think of it, we’ve been relying on these marquee names for the past decade. Most of our top athletes are in their thirties. The sport demands much from one’s body. Hence, it is unsurprising to see the likes of former champions win silver medals, instead of golds. Considering the fact that athletics in the Philippines is a fringe sport, our sporting heroes should be lauded. Aside from lucrative, mainstream sports, being a Filipino athlete isn’t exactly the most lucrative of careers.

Despite missing the fighting target, it’s good to see young turks like Melvin Guarte and Archand Bagsit excelling in regional competition. The 20-year old Bagsit snatched the silver medal in the 400m dash, thanks to a blistering finish, on top of his 4x400m relay silver. Guarte, still a junior, won silver medals in the 800m and 1500m runs, setting national senior and junior records in the former.

Regardless of how disorganized our local athletics scene is, the exploits of our young athletes speak volumes about the enormous potential of Philippine track & field. Should the ills of athletics and Philippine sports be miraculously cured, expect the Filipino athlete excel not just in the Southeast Asian Games, but also in the world stage.

*Special thanks to Yell Carreon and Andrew “The Ernie Baron of Philippine Athletics” Pirie for the SEA Games updates

Additional Links:

Pinoymiler’s SEA Games articles

Jad Adrian’s SEA Games write-ups

Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина with the Filipino jumpers!

The Philippines’ top long jumper, Henry Dagmil, posted photos of him and Marestella Torres with none other than Darya KlishinaДарья Клишина !

 

Salamat sa litrato, Kuya Dags!

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

19th Asian Athletics Championships Rundown

The Asian championships were held in the Japanese city of Kobe from 8-11 July 2011. This is the region’s most prestigious competition, a good warm-up for the Daegu World Championships in August. The big guns of Asian athletics took center stage, despite the absence of a few. Japan (11-10-11), according to an IAAF report, topped the medal standings for the first time since 1981, edging out powerhouse China (10-12-5).

Liu Xiang 刘翔, as expected, lorded it over the sprint hurdles field, setting a new championship record of 13.22s. Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 (13.56s) was a far second as he overtook South Korean veteran Park Tae-Kyong 박태경 (13.66s). Thailand’s Chamras Rittedet was the fastest Southeast Asian as he went under the thirteen second barrier (13.96s). Malaysia’s Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian ran 14.03s.

Mutaz Essa Barshim‘s 2.35m winning mark in the high jump was, without a doubt, the highlight of the meet. The reigning World Junior Champion tied the second best mark in 2011, en route to setting his nth Qatari record. Barshim, at merely 20 years of age, is a potential medalist in Daegu – should he overcome the nerves of high-level senior competition.

Read Jad Adrian’s posts on the Kobe Asian Champs here

Read Pinoymiler’s post here

The Philippine delegation came home empty-handed, as defending long jump champion Marestella Torres missed out on a podium finish. The Filipino record holder could only managed a best leap of 6.34m in the fourth round, way off her 6.51m winning jump in Guangzhou two years ago. Torres has a season’s best of 6.38m, set in Bacolod during the PNG. Rene Herrera clocked 9:12.34 in the 3,000m steeplechase, good enough for eighth place in a race dominated by naturalized Africans. Arniel Ferrera, meanwhile, narrowly missed the sixty-meter mark in the hammer throw (59.25m), placing ninth in a field of eleven. Ferrera set a season’s best in Kobe. Heptathlete Narcisa Atienza scored 5,041 points and ranked seventh.

As expected, Japan’s 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Yukifumi Murakami 村上 幸史 dominated the javelin throw his 83.27m fourth round flick. Murakami’s third round throw of 80.93m was also better than Jae-Myoung Park’s 80.19m.

Host country Japan stamped its class on every single relay event. The winning margins were quite massive. The Japanese men won by a straightforward eight-hundredths of second in the 4x100m relay over the Hong Kong squad, which surprisingly beat regional powers China and the slick-passing Thais.

On the distaff side, Japan was even more dominant. Anchored by 200m gold medalist Chisato Fukushima 福島 千里, the Japanese women led by a comfortable 0.18s over the Chinese.

In a high quality men’s long jump competition, four men went beyond eight meters. Su Xiongfeng won gold with his 8.19m leap second round leap. The 2009 World Youth Champion, Suphanara Sukhasvasti, clinched second with 8.05m. According to Jad Adrian, this is the best ever jump by a Southeast Asian.

Despite the absence of 2010 World Indoor Champion Olga Rypakova, Xie Limei 谢荔梅 entertained the Japanese crowd with her world-class 14.54m mark in the women’s triple jump. Uzbekistan’s Valeriya Kanatova (14.14m) placed second as India’s Mayookha Johny മയൂഖ ജോണി won bronze en route to setting a 14.11m Indian record.

Additional links:

IAAF article (Day 1)

IAAF article (Day 2)

IAAF article (Day 3)

IAAF article (Day 4)

Full results from the JAAF

Videos

Aoshin0507’s Youtube account

The Philippine Asiad Athletics Campaign

The Philippine Amateur Track & Field Association (PATAFA), one of the country’s best-performing NSA’s sent a crack team of Southeast Asian Games champions in the likes of hammer thrower Arniel Ferrera, steeplechaser Rene Herrera and distance runner Eduardo Buenavista. Henry Dagmil, a near 8.00-meter long jumper, and javelin throwers Danilo Fresnido and Rosie Villarito, also competed.

The Rundown

The Philippines sent its best athletes, led by 2010 Asian long jump champion Marestella Torres, to the Guangzhou Asiad, only to come home empty-handed. The Philippine athletics medal drought continues, with the country’s best hope, Torres, losing the bronze medal on count back.

  • Marestella Torres (4th, Women’s long jump)
  • Henry Dagmil (6th, Men’s long jump)
  • Rosie Villarito (9th, Women’s javelin throw)
  • Arniel Ferrera (9th, Men’s hammer throw)
  • Danilo Fresnido (10th, Men’s javelin throw)
  • Rene Herrera (13th, Men’s 3,000m steeplechase)
  • Eduardo Buenavista (17th, Men’s marathon)

Read “Torres Lands 4th at the Asian Games”

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 2 round-up

Photo from Daylife and Zimbio

Aside from Torres, the closest to the medal standings was Dagmil at 6th place with his 7.45m leap. The Men’s long jump was won by South Korea’s Kim Deok-hyeon’s (김덕현). The Olympic and World Championships veteran was far from his lifetime best of 7.99m and his season’s best of 7.77m.

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 3 round-up

Read “South Korea’s Twin Long Jump Golds”

Photo from Zimbio and Getty Images

SEA Games hammer throw record-holder Arniel Ferrera placed 9th (58.06m). Tajikistan’s Dilshod Nazarov topped the field with his 76.44m heave. Likewise, Herrera finished 13th in the 3,000m steeplechase despite stopping the clock at season’s best of 9:02.93. The event was won by Tareq Mubarak Taher (8:25.89), a Kenyan-born Bahraini.

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 1 round-up

Photos from Daylife and Getty Images

The ageless Danilo Fresnido threw the javelin to 70.35m, good enough for 10th. Japan’s 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Yukifumi Murakami 村上 幸史 dominated the competition with his 83.15m mark. On the distaff side, Rosie Villarito (48.87m) finished second to the last at the women’s javelin throw competition. Japan scored a golden double in the javelin with Ebihira Yuki’s winning heave of 61.56 m.

Read GMA7’s article on Asiad penultimate day

Read Pinoymiler’s article on the Asiad Javelin Throw and Marathon

Read Pinoymiler’s Asiad Day 4 round-up

Buenavista, the country’s long-time distance running ace, ran a puzzling if not utterly shocking race in the Men’s marathon (2:45.07), a far cry from his national record of 2:18.44. According to a report by the Manila Standard, Buenavista will be facing a PATAFA inquiry on his Asiad performance. (As an athlete myself – and a huge admirer of Vertek – I do not want to judge. Let us hear it from the man himself. For all we know, he could have been nursing an injury. Let us keep in mind that Vertek has competed with distinction for Flag and Country in countless other meets).

Post-mortem

SEA Games success does not automatically translate into Asian Games success. Save for Torres and Dagmil, the level of competition in the Asiad was simply too much for our best track & field athletes. The government and the private sector did not spend millions on our track & field athletes, unlike the Smart Gilas Basketball team which finished 6th overall Filipino track athletes, like most Filipino athletes not playing in the PBA or not named Manny Pacquiao, are marginalized. Our lone IAAF-accredited stadium is currently under renovation with much controversy. Even if Torres and Dagmil had training and competition stints abroad, our domestic jumping facilities pale in comparison with our Asian neighbors.

The rest of the Asiad athletics campaigners aren’t as well-supported like Torres and Dagmil.

Indeed, you reap what you sow.

With their circumstances in mind, I cannot in all honesty lay the blame on our athletes alone. In fact, I’m welling up with much admiration for those eight brave souls – to go against Asia’s best for one’s motherland is an honor accorded to so few!

But then again, the words of POC’s Romasanta (a former Gintong Alay official) sounds promising. He emphasized focus on medal rich sports like gymnastics, swimming and athletics. I am not lambasting the well-meaning support of Smart for the country’s national basketball program since like most Filipinos, I’m a basketball fanatic as well. I’m just hoping that some kind corporate entity back an honest-to-goodness athletics program, similar to golf’ and shooting’s respective grassroots development schemes.

I’m a firm believer that a million pesos spent in the course of an athlete’s years-long preparation is money well-spent than a million peso reward given after winning a SEA Games, Asian Games or Olympic Gold.

Sources:

Gma7 news

Pinoymiler

Gz2010.cn

Yahoo News

IAAF

Wikipedia

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.

Torres lands 4th at the Asian Games

Ace Filipina long jumper, Marestella Torres, narrowly missed landing a podium finish at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. Torres made only one legal jump (her first round attempt of 6.49m), which was good enough for 4th place. The Filipino national record holder at 6.68m lost to the Ukzbekistani Heptathlon Champion, Yuliya Tarasova, on countback.

Photos from Daylife and Getty Images

South Korea’s Jung Soon-Ok 정순옥 won top honors with her modest 6.53m leap. The 2010 World Indoor Champion in the Triple Jump, Olga Rypakova, grabbed the silver (6.50m).

Photos from Daylife and Getty Images

Torres was tantalizingly close to becoming the first-ever Filipino track & field athlete to win an Asian Games medal since the legendary Elma Muros-Posadas’ long jump bronze in the 1994 Hiroshima Games. In fact, the powerfully-built long jumper held the lead for the first two rounds, before Rypakova (the Asian triple jump record holder at 15.25m!) bettered Torres’ leap by 1 cm. Torres is a three-time SEA Games long jump champion and the surprise winner in last year’s Asian Athletics Championships.

Watch the ABS-CBN feature on Torres

According to a Manila Bulletin article, Torres twisted her ankle in the 2nd round.

Read the Manila Bulletin article here

Read the Inquirer article here

With Torres’ heartbreaking 4th place finish, the last Filipino hope for an athletics medal is long jumper Henry Dagmil. The long jump is an unpredictable event. In the event where the word “Beamonesque” was coined, anything can happen. Unless you’re a Carl Lewis, rock-hard consistency is hard to come by.

The competition could have gone both ways. Had Maris made a legal jump in one of those failed  attempts, she could have won gold! A 4th place finish is a respectable result nonetheless.  We’re proud of you Maris! Your time will come!

Additional link

Long Jump results

Liu Xiang (刘翔) and the Asian Games

Since it’s Asian Games time again, I couldn’t help but watch  Liu Xiang’s 刘翔 gold medal-winning performances in Busan and Doha.  The 2002 Busan race was memorable. I was just starting out with the sport. I became an instant Liu Xiang fan once I saw him race! I even recorded the event on VHS; hence the grainy format.

Read my “Sidekicks” post on Liu Xiang

2002 Busan Asian Games – 110m High Hurdles (from Todor Krastev):

  1. Liu Xiang 刘翔 (CHN) – 13.27s
  2. Satoru Tanigawa (JPN) – 13.83s
  3. Park Tae-Kyong 박태경 (KOR) – 13.89s
  4. Dongpeng Shi    史冬鹏 CHN    13.92s
  5. Mubarak Atah    SAR    14.07s
  6. Mohammed Aissa Al-Thawadi    QAT    14.26s
  7. Mohd Faiz Mohammed    MAS    14.57s
  8. Jung-Ho Lee    KOR    14.61s
Satoru Tanigawa of Japan was a far second, almost six hundredths of a second behind the then 19-year Liu Xiang. 18-year old Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 – the other half of the high hurdling Chinese duo – dropped out of contention for the medals after he clipped a hurdle. 2002 was the year Liu Xiang broke Renaldo Nehemiah’s world junior record, when the latter stopped the clock at 13.12s (over senior hurdles, not the junior ones!) in Lausanne, Switzerland.Fast-forward four years later in the Doha edition of the Asiad. Liu Xiang is now a household name in China, with world championship bronze and silver medals, an Olympic gold and a world record (12.88s, also set in Lausanne) to his name.

Liu was a monster in the race. He was a lot quicker in between hurdles; his technical proficiency was at a different level. Liu was the epitome of the complete sprint hurdler. Now 23-year old, Liu was approaching the peak of his physical fitness. The winning margin was not as glaring as in 2002, since Shi Dong Peng is a decent hurdler in his own right. Liu clocked 13.15s as he practically jogged to the tape once the victory was his. Big Shi ran a respectable 13.28s, one-hundredths of a second off Liu’s winning time four years ago.
2006 Doha Asian Games – 110m High Hurdles (from Wikipedia)
  1.     Liu Xiang (CHN) – 13.15s
  2.     Shi Dong Peng (CHN) – 13.28s
  3.     Naito Masato (JPN) – 13.60s
  4.     Park Tae-Kyong (KOR) – 13.67s
  5.     Tasuku Takonaka (JPN) – 13.88s
  6.     Mohammed Essa Al-Thawadi (KSA) – 13.89s
  7.     Lee Jung-Joon (KOR) – 13.91s
  8.     Hassan Mohd Robani (MAS) – 14.04s
Comparing the results of the two editions, one can see the dramatic increase in the level of competition. If the 2002 silver medalist, Tanigawa (13.83s) ran in Doha, he would have placed a dismal fifth! Perhaps the improvement in the quality of performances can be attributed to Liu Xiang’s rise to the top – and the subsequent emergence of the sprint hurdles as the centerpiece event in Asian athletics.Under much criticism, Liu was given a “free pass” to the Guangzhou Asian Games. The 2004 Olympic Champion was allowed to miss the national championships, in light of his recovery from his troublesome Achilles. I personally believe that an athlete of Liu’s stature should be given this special treatment. It’s not like he doesn’t deserve the extra lee-way. Despite all the challenges, I wish the best for my idol!

Also, godspeed to all the Filipino athletes competing in the 2011 Asiad, especially the tracksters – Arniel Ferrera (Hammer Throw), Mariz Torres (Long Jump), Henry Dagmil (Long Jump), Rosie Villarito (Javelin Throw), Danilo Fresnido (Javelin Throw), Rene Herrera (Steeplechase) and Eduardo Buenavista (Marathon).

Additional links:

Mika Santos answers the 10-for-10 quiz

Mika Santos answers the 10-for-10 quiz!

Santos started as volleyball player back in high school. In college, she gave track & field a shot. Although she had decent sprinting ability, her best event was definitely the pole vault. With her gymnastics background, Santos was tailor-made for athletics’ most technical discipline.

About a year after she started training for pole, Santos broke Marestella Torres‘ Philippine record with her 3.20m* leap in the Hong Kong Intercity Athletics Challenge. The comely Ateneo graduate competed in the 2005 Manila SEA Games.

The multi-talented Santos currently works as a travel writer, dabbles in the occasional print or TV ad and hosts her own travel-oriented show.

1.) How did you get started with track?
Felt I was too short to join the volleyball team

2.) What’s the most memorable moment of your track career?
Representing the Philippines for SEA Games 2005

3.) What’s your life-long dream?
Travel to Africa!

4.) Let’s lighten up a bit! What would you rather wear and why? Short shorts or tights?
Depends what event.. for long jump tights of course. For everything else, short shorts. Too hot in the Philippines!

5.) If you could be a Glee cast member, who will you be? And what song will you sing?
… I don’t know but I’d definitely date Puck.

6.) How I Met Your Mother or F.R.I.E.N.D.S.?
Both.. but FRIENDS is the classic I grew up with.

7.) Favorite movie?
Lots.. to name one, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

8.) Star Trek or Star Wars?
Star Wars

9.) If you could spend the rest of your days at any place in the world, which would you choose?
Siargao Island

10.) Name three things you just can’t live without.
Sunblock, laptop (work!), and salsa shoes

11.) Fill in the blanks: I’ll run an ultra marathon just to go out with _________.
Diego Luna

Thank you for answering, Mika!

* – Deborah Samson owns the current Philippine record of 4.11m.

Photo credits:

Mika Santos

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