Category Archives: Olympics

“Miguel White (1909 – 1942): Olympic 400m Hurdles Bronze Medalist” by Joboy Quintos

I was a nineteen year-old college sophomore when I first read about Miguel White. Despite the best of my efforts, I was stuck in a rut, unable to go below sixteen seconds in the 110 high’s and qualify for the finals. I spent a considerable amount of time poring over athletics books, to further my knowledge of the sport and to get a much-needed dose of inspiration amidst those troubled times.

I came across a mildewed book about Filipino sporting legends. The Philippines had won a handful of medals in the Olympic Games, a couple of those by track & field athletes. I was awestruck. It turned out that Philippine sports, athletics in particular, had a storied past. I found the exploits of Simeon Toribio and White more interesting than rampant politicking often featured in contemporary sports pages.

There were more material written about Toribio, who eventually became a lawyer and a congressman after his athletics days. Miguel White’s story, however, was shrouded in mystery. White had an American father and a Filipina mother. He competed for the Philippines at the Berlin Olympics, winning the 400m low hurdles bronze. He could have performed with equal distinction at the 110m, but fell in the qualifying heats, unable to finish. Unlike Toribio, who lived until he was sixty-four, White died during the Second World War.

In the past few years, I tried in vain to look for clips of White’s Olympic medal winning effort. Photos were just as scarce. A few days earlier, I stumbled upon a treasure trove Olympic programs (from the 1896 Athens Olympics all the way to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games).

White, Hardin and Loaring on the podium. A proud moment for the Philippines! (Photo from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

Lo and behold, there were photos of Miguel White, as well as the results of the qualifying heats. The Olympic program even included descriptions of the race conditions and the lane placements. For the athletics nerd that I am, these were priceless!

White went up against a quality field, among them Glenn Hardin of the United States, the world record holder at 50.6s. The Filipino topped the third heat in qualifying, stopping the clock in 53.4s, ahead of the eventual silver medalist, John Loaring (54.3s) of Canada. The American also qualified with ease, submitting a time five-tenths slower than White’s.

Miguel White from the Philippine Islands was the fastest hurdler in qualifying. In this day and age where Filipino athletes are hard-pressed to meet the Olympic “B” standard, reading about this was surreal! In the semi-finals, White (53.4s) finished behind Hardin (53.2s) in the first heat, securing a spot in the finals.

The first bend. Hardin and White are at the outermost lanes. (Photo from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

The world record holder stamped his class on the rest of the field. At the last hurdle, Hardin was a full stride from Loaring and White, who were locked in a tight battle for second place. The Canadian (52.7s) edged out White (52.8s) by a tenth of second.

Miguel White had emulated Simeon Toribio’s high jump bronze from  the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

A good shot of the final flight of hurdles. Hardin leads, with Loaring and White battling it out for the silver. (Photo from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

It is quite unfortunate that the Olympic feats of Toribio and White have been practically forgotten. Philippine sports may be in the doldrums, but perhaps looking back at our golden past might inspire a new generation of Filipino athletes.

Results (screenshots from the 1936 Berlin Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation):

1.) First Round:

Semi-Finals:

Final:

The Victors:

Article by Joboy Quintos

Source:

1936 Berlin Olympics Program (from the LA84 Foundation website)

“Freaks of Nature: Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson” by Joboy Quintos

In the sprints, an athlete aims to reach the finish line as fast as possible. Hence, he/she limits the time amount of time on the ground by being explosive. From the track literature I’ve read throughout the years, I’ve learned that stride frequency is genetic, while stride length can be improved through hard work. A sprinter can do as much explosive drills, plyometrics and Olympic lifts as humanly possible, but one’s stride frequency and explosiveness is limited by nature’s genetic endowment of fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Stride length and stride frequency are the major pillars of sprinting. A sprinter strives to achieve a balance between the two. To perfect the sprinting form, an athlete goes through a cacophony of running drills to master each facet of the deceptively simple picture-perfect sprinting form:

  1. Back erect
  2. Shoulders relaxed
  3. Jaw relaxed
  4. Arms pumping below eye level
  5. Hands relaxed, not tensed
  6. Knees pumping high like pistons
  7. The heel not going beyond one’s butt
  8. Toes dorsi-flexed

Among the elite sprinters, I like respective forms of 9-time Olympic Gold medalist Carl Lewis, 2007 Osaka 100m/200m World Champion Tyson Gay and 4-time Olympic Silver medalist Frankie Fredericks the best.

Among all the sprinters of the orthodox school, Usain Bolt epitomizes the synergy of stride frequency and stride length the best. At 6’5 (1.95m), Bolt is the tallest elite sprinter to date (Although the retired German 400m specialist Ingo Schultz is taller at 2.05m, his major achievement pale in comparison to Bolt!).  Naturally, Bolt has longer legs and longer strides than most other sprinters at the world level. His height does not prove a hindrance, however, as he seems to possess a degree of explosiveness more than sufficient to outclass his shorter competitors.

Bolt seems to have ample endowments of BOTH stride length and stride frequency, despite the apparent instability of his upper body relative to other sprinters – a minor aberration to this purveyor of speed!

At 1.85m (6’1), Michael Johnson is not as physically impressive as Bolt. Pound per pound, however, Johnson is more impressive than Bolt with the former’s erstwhile 200m world record of 19.32s and current 400m WR of 43.18s. His arched back, low knee lift and short strides defies textbook sprinting form.

Johnson relies on sheer explosiveness, leg power alone and out-of-this-world speed endurance, in light of his relatively shorter strides.

Usain Bolt may be the current toast of the athletics world (despite his recent loss to Gay). Bolt has single-handedly lifted the sport on his Zeus-like back. He is every inch the sport’s premiere icon, with his stellar 100m and 200m world records. But then again, there will come a time when someone just as tall and fast as Bolt, would emulate his feats.

The chances of another maverick who epitomizes Johnson’s sprinting style is even more remote.

Simply put, if there’s a index which rates one’s ranking in the freak of nature scale, Johnson ranks higher than Bolt in my book. But on the showmanship index? Bolt is up there along with likes of Shaq!

P.S.

Check out MJ’s reaction to Usain’s world record! This is priceless.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Photo credits:

ABC

“Simeon Toribio (1905-1969): A World-Class High Jumper” by Joboy Quintos

It has been eighty-years since Simeon Toribio won the high jump bronze medal from the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Ask any Filipino about Toribio and chances are, you’ll be met with a blank stare. I know for a fact that athletics in the Philippines is nothing more than a fringe sport. The days of Lydia de Vega are long gone. And despite the best efforts of our national athletes, the sport is hard pressed to break into mainstream consciousness.

Perhaps a look back into our storied athletics history could bring back a sense of pride, and lift our collective desensitation from decades of being sporting minnows.

I first read about the exploits of Toribio and Miguel White back in college, through the fine book entitled “Philippine Sporting Greats.” White, winner of the 400m hurdles bronze in Berlin, died during the Japanese invasion at the early stages of the Second World War. The Bohol-born Toribio, fortunately, survived that terrible episode and lived well into his sixties.

Toribio was a renaissance man in every sense of the word. In my readings of Jorge Afable’s “Philippine Sports Greats”, I was amazed at how he balanced a full-time job with a no non-sense athletics training regimen.[1] In his heyday, the tall Toribio reigned supreme in Asian high jumping circles. In a thirteen year period spanning from 1921 to 1934,[2] the Filipino champion won a staggering five gold medals in Far Eastern Games, the precursor to today’s Asian Games.

The Filipino made his Olympic debut in Antwerp back in 1928.[3] Bob King won gold with a superior mark of 1.94m.[4] The next four jumpers, Toribio included, had identical jumps of 1.91m.[5] However, Toribio missed out on the bronze in the ensuing jump-off.[6]

He reached the pinnacle of his career in Los Angeles, where he sailed over 1.97m to win bronze. The 1932 Summer Olympics was the Philippines’ most successful foray into the World’s Greatest Show, with three bronze medals. Teofilo Yldefonso snared his second Olympic third place finish in as many attempts, while boxer Jose Villanueva grabbed the bronze medal in the bantamweight division.

The high jump competition in Los Angeles was a long drawn battle, taking four hours according to Afable. With the top four jumpers all tied with clearances of 1.97m, another jump-off was held to determine the placings.[7] The competitors all failed to clear 2.007m and 1.99m.[8] The gold was awarded to Canada’s Daniel McNaughton, who had a first-time clearance over 1.97m, [9] while Bob Van Osdel of the United States took the silver.

Toribio at the 1936 Los Angeles Olympics. (Photo from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

Afable wrote about a peculiar competition rule from that era that required athletes to stay at the competition grounds during the entire event, and opined that had Toribio not been burdened by the “call of nature,” he could have cleared 2.007m.[10] Coming into the Games, the Filipino had a personal best of 2.00m set in 1930. Perhaps because of discomfort, the then 26-year old Toribio took three attempts[11] to negotiate 1.94m and 1.97m – heights well within his capabilities.

A helpful Japanese coach lent a blanket for Toribio to cover himself in as he relieved his bladder!

The world record at that time was at 2.03m, with the Olympic record at 1.98m.

McNaughton, Toribio, and Van Osdel. (Photo from the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics Program/LA84 Foundation)

Toribio competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, his third Olympiad, but finished outside the medals. During the War, he narrowly escaped arrest by the Kempeitai when a Japanese officer saw one of Toribio’s mementoes from an athletics competition in Japan (If my memory serves me right, it was a memento from the 1923 Far Eastern Games in Osaka. I’d have to verify this by reading “Philippine Sports Greats” again).[12] Since it was the Japanese emperor’s birthday, the Kempeitai officer spared Toribio.[13]

The Filipino high jumper went on to become a congressman in his native Bohol, serving his constituents for 12 years.

Eighty-two years since Simeon Toribio set his 2.00m personal best, the Philippine high jump record has improved by a mere 17cm. Nowadays, it is a rarity to see a Filipino athlete qualify for an outright Olympics slot, much less make it to the top eight. It is sad to note that in local collegiate- and national-level track & field meetings today, a 2.00m clearance is still deemed competitive.

Curing the ills of Philippine athletics will be a hard fought struggle. Let us remember – and honor – our past heroes, and draw inspiration from their world-beating feats.
Results:
Article by Joboy Quintos
References:

  1. Afable, Jorge (1972). “Philippine Sports Greats.”
  2. “Simeon Toribio.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simeon_Toribio. Retrieved 8-19-2012.
  3. Afable 1972.
  4. “Athletics at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games: Men’s High Jump.” http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/summer/1932/ATH/mens-high-jump.html. Retrieved 8-19-2012.
  5. “Simeon Toribio.”
  6. “Athletics at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games: Men’s High Jump.”
  7. “Athletics at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games: Men’s High Jump.”
  8. “Athletics at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games: Men’s High Jump.”
  9. “Athletics at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games: Men’s High Jump.”
  10. Afable 1972.
  11. “Simeon Toribio.” http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/to/simeon-toribio-1.html. Retrieved 8-19-2012.
  12. Afable 1972.
  13. Afable 1972.

An Emotional Embrace

I was gutted for Andy Murray when he lost in the 2012 Wimbledon final. During the customary post-match speeches, one could feel the appreciation of the British crowd for Murray, who was always considered as too dour. Being an athlete myself, I found his emotional display heartwarming.

Perhaps no other moment could better signify the newly-minted Olympic Champion’s ascendance into British hearts than Henry Caplan’s memorable hug.

Read: “You’re my hero and you deserve a hug! Schoolboy’s embrace with Olympic champion Andy Murray captures buoyant mood of the nation”

Sally Pearson’s Heartwarming Gesture

It was heart-wrenching to see Brigitte Foster-Hylton crash out in the qualifying heats of the London Olympics. The evergreen Jamaican has a season’s best of 12.51s and was one of the favorites to land a medal in the Games.

Understandably, Foster-Hylton was almost hysterical when she crossed the line. Lolo Jones tried to console the dejected hurdler, but Foster-Hylton fell on the track in despair the moment Lolo touched her.

The eventual Olympic Champion, Sally Pearson, cut short her post-race interview the moment she saw Foster-Hylton. The Australian put an arm around the Jamaican as they walked off the mixed zone together.

“It was really hard,” said Pearson in an Associated Press report. “She’s trained with me for a long time. Rough sport.”

People admire Sally for the way she hurdles and wins titles. Her display of sportsmanship, camaderie, and the Olympic Spirit has endeared her to millions more.

Sally Pearson. Respect.

“You are my adversary, but you are not my enemy.
For your resistance gives me strength,
Your will gives me courage,
Your spirit ennobles me.
And though I aim to defeat you, should I succeed, I will not humiliate you.
Instead, I will honor you.
For without you, I am a lesser man.”

– Adversary, from the IOC’s Celebrate Humanity Campaign

Brave Liu Xiang 刘翔

Four years ago in Beijing, Liu Xiang 刘翔 left the Bird’s Nest in pain, not even clearing the first hurdle of his qualifying heat. Four years later in London, Liu’s dreams of an Olympic comeback crumbled yet again.

Following his shock exit in 2008, Liu has been beset by recurring injury. He could not seem to find the old form that brought him an historic Olympic gold, a World Championship title, and a then-12.88s world record in the 110m Hurdles. The Chinese hurdler almost won another world title in Daegu last year, if not for an accidental clash with rival Dayron Robles.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The Sprint Hurdles”

In the run-up to the London Games, the 29-year old had drawn level with Robles’ 12.87s world record, albeit with slight wind assistance. Liu had gone beyond 13.00s twice, stamping his class on the world’s best sprint hurdlers. The stage was set for Liu’s great Olympic comeback in the British Isles. But fate, it seemed, had other plans.

Through the choppy images of my live streaming link, I saw the unfortunate events transpire frame by frame. When the starting gun fired, the rest of the field powered on to the finish line. At the left side of the screen, I saw a lone figure lying on the track clutching his right leg.

The commentators’ gasps of disappointment and regret confirmed my worst fears: Liu’s Olympic campaign had come to an abrupt end.

Read/View: “Hurdler Liu Xiang turns fall into heroism”

Liu headed out to an exit near the starting line, but a venue official apparently led him back to the race area. The 2004 Athens Olympic champion hobbled on the straightaway. Limping on his one good leg, Liu veered towards his original lane and gave the final hurdle a kiss. One of his competitors, the Hungarian hurdler Balazs Baji raised Liu’s arm, proclaiming to the entire stadium the latter’s symbolic victory.

In a touching display of camaraderie, hometown boy Andy Turner and the Spaniard Jackson Quinonez helped the ailing Liu to a waiting wheelchair.

The sprint hurdles is an unforgiving event. The event demands a certain degree of flat out speed to sprint nimbly in between the barriers, and a high level of technical proficiency to skim efficiently over the 1.067-meter high hurdles. The margin for error is small; a single mistake in clearing could spell a premature end to the race.

A Xinhua article revealed that Liu was suffering from an injury. “In Germany, Liu felt pain in the foot where his old injury was,” said Sun Haiping, Liu’s long-time coach.

Ever since Liu Xiang emphatically won the 2002 Asian Games gold, I’ve considered him a role model. Throughout my track career, I looked up to the guy. I can still remember that fateful night back in 2004, when the 21-year old Liu stormed to the finish line in first place, matching Colin Jackson’s world record. One of my cherished possessions is an autographed copy of his autobiography, which I brought to every single major race as a talisman.

Read: “Sidekicks”

My initial reaction, of course, was one of disappointment and disbelief. Seeing him claw his way back to the top, only to succumb once again to injury tore my heart out. But when I saw Liu bravely limping to finish the race – and the subsequent reaction of the spectators and his competitors – a poignant realization dawned on me.

He has won every, single major title: the World Indoors, the World Championships, and the Olympics. Perhaps, this Derek Redmond-like display of character was the defining moment of Liu’s career, should he decide to hang up his spikes there and then.

“For some athletes, it’s just a job,” said Liu in a pre-Athens Olympics interview with Time Magazine. “For me, it’s what I love.”

Liu Xiang shall be back. I just know it.

“For that to happen to one of the greatest hurdlers of all time is a tragedy” – Aries Merritt (quote from NYT)

“I just think he made a small little mistake and ran up on the hurdle a little too quickly and wasn’t prepared to take the hurdle at such a velocity.” – Aries Merritt (quote from Stuff.co.nz)

“I regard him as probably the best hurdler in history and have so much respect for him. It was horrible seeing him limp off like that so you have to go and help people.” – Andy Turner (quote from BBC)

“We know Liu Xiang has been suffering with his Achilles. He had to push hard and when you have to reach for the first barrier and you’ve got a stress injury like an Achilles it can cause you hell and he couldn’t even take off.” – Colin Jackson (quote from Stuff.co.nz)

“My heart goes to Liu Xiang.” – Allen Johnson (from Allen’s Twitter account)

The Legend of Felix Sánchez

When I was writing my London 2012 event previews, I had a strong gut feeling that Felix Sanchez would do something monumental. His career has undergone a renaissance the past few months, as he placed fourth in the Daegu World Championships final. Despite having a season’s best of just 48.56s coming into the Games, Sanchez had taken the scalp of 2011 World Champion Dai Greene in Rabat back in April.

In the initial version of my 400m Hurdles preview, Sanchez and Angelo Taylor were my choices for gold and silver! After all, it was anybody’s ballgame considering the fact that the tantalizingly fast times have not really come the past few years. I changed my forecasts at the last minute. Even if I knew deep down that they had an outside chance against the two favorites, Javier Culson and Greene, I had to consider what the statistics say.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 400m Hurdles”

And Sanchez did shock the world.

He breezed through the heats and sent out a strong message in the semifinals, stopping the clock at 47.76s – his fastest time since winning Olympic gold in Athens. All of a sudden, the grand old man of intermediate hurdling has regained the spring in his legs. People started to notice that the two-time World Champion could achieve what months ago would be deemed improbable.

Sanchez still had to contend with the world leader Culson, the hometown boy Greene, and Angelo Taylor – the Olympic champion from Sydney and Beijing.

As the 400m hurdles finalists walked into the stadium, that steely Sanchez determination was noticeable underneath his dark shades and his jacket’s hood. The person who had so valiantly attempted to defend his World title in 2005 despite an injury, who four years ago crashed out of the heats in Beijing, was back in contention.

Coming into the final bend, the Puerto Rican felled a hurdle, losing momentum. Sanchez kept on going strong towards the finish, ahead of everyone else in this quality field. The Dominican stopped the clock at 47.63s, the same time he had registered when he won in Athens eight years ago. The American champion Michael Tinsley (47.91s) ran the final meters like a monster, snatching silver ahead of Culson (48.10s) and the fast-finishing Greene (48.24s). Taylor (48.25s) finished in fifth place.

It was a touching sight, seeing Felix Sanchez take out the photo of his deceased grandmother which he kept inside his race bib. He fell to the track on his knees and kissed the photo of his late grandma, to whom he promised another Olympic gold.

Read: “Tears for the Second Coming of Sanchez”

Culson, the nearly-man, assumed the same position as Sanchez, this time in unpleasant disbelief. He had been undefeated this season after numerous close calls in winning the gold. A major championship title has remained elusive. Dai Greene sat on the track, shell-shocked at the enormity of the moment.

Sanchez cried tears of joy as the Dominican Republic’s national anthem played in the medal ceremony. It was a genuine display of emotion from someone who had been written off as over-the-hill.

When I was starting out in the sport back in 2003, I looked up to Liu Xiang and Felix Sanchez as my hurdling heroes. Liu had just won a groundbreaking bronze at the 2003 World Championships in Paris, while Sanchez had added a second World title to the one he won in Edmonton. My respect grew a hundred-fold when Felix valiantly attempted to defend his World title in Helsinki, despite a painful injury.

Culson and Greene are still young compared to the 35-year old Sanchez. They will have their time under the sun.

For now, the moment belongs to Felix Sanchez.

Additional Links:

Results – 400m Hurdles Final

Results – 400m Hurdles Semis/Heats

Felix Sanchez’ IAAF Profile

IAAF article on Felix’s victory

London 2012 Opening Ceremonies: My Top Six Moments

My first memory of the Olympics was Barcelona, and Antonio Rebello’s memorable lighting of the Olympic cauldron. I was somewhat indifferent to Atlanta and Sydney because of youth and my then lack of interest in sports. I found it difficult to appreciate the choreographed presentations in Athens and Beijing, as I looked forward to seeing the Philippines march in the parade of athletes and, of course, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

Although I came to appreciate certain poignant moments of the opening ceremonies of past Olympic Games, call me inattentive, but most of it came as blurry pomp.

London, Danny Boyle and the thousands of Olympic volunteers caught me off-guard. The mix of British humor, pop references, and nostalgia were just about right. The London opening ceremonies epitomized the word “cool” and “grand.”

The following are my favorite moments:

6.) The 500-strong workers who welcomed Sir Steve Redgrave at the stadium.

The workers lined up along the corridor leading to the track, wearing their ever-present hard-hats. This is a heartwarming salute to the blue collar worker.

5.) The British contingent marching to David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

The song “Heroes” could not have been more apt. I got goosebumps watching Team GB walk proudly, as Bowie sang the immortal line: “We can be heroes, just for one day.” The London Olympic Games is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the British athletes. They have worked so hard to earn their places in Team GB, now is their time to shine in front of their family, friends, and countrymen.

4.) Mr. Bean playing “Chariots of Fire.”

Like many track & field athletes, the Oscar-winning movie about Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams have had a profound personal impact. But when I saw Rowan Atkinson hitting that definitive note of Chariots of Fire fame, I literally laughed out loud!

3.) James Bond escorts Queen Elizabeth II.

Need I say more?

2.) David Beckham drives the speedboat bearing the Olympic flame.

I’ve always admired David Beckham’s dedication to his international duties as a footballer. His significant role in London’s Olympic bid and his being evergreen on the pitch were more than enough to earn him a Team GB slot. His role as the speedboat driver to the Olympic torch bearer paid homage to his efforts to bring the Olympics to Britain.

1.) The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron.

Instead of picking one particular sporting great to light the cauldron, the organizers chose seven talented teenage athletes nominated by the biggest British sporting icons. It was a figurative and literal passing of the torch. It speaks volumes of a country that honors its past and nurtures is present and future athletes. I must admit that this unique way of lighting the cauldron caught me off-guard, but in a pleasantly emotional manner.

An Iraqi Olympian: Dana Hussein Abdul Razzaq دانة حسين عبد الرزاق (Abdulrazaq Danah)

My blogs have been getting quite a lot of hits thanks to Iraqi sprinter Dana Hussein Abdul-Razzaq دانة حسين عبد الرزاق (Abdulrazaq Danah). Dana had the honor of carrying the Iraqi flag at the London Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

Read: “Track Beauty of the Week – Dana Abdul Razzaq”

Dana definitely has the talent to excel in the world stage, having personal bests of 11.76s and 24.49s in the 100m and 200m. Remarkably, Dana trains in Iraq despite the security situation. The 200m dash is her best event, in my opinion. She is just a little over two-hundredths of second off the Olympic “B” standard.

Click here to read the full article…

EC2012 Triple Jump: Olha Saladukha (Olha Saladuha Ольга Саладуха) takes gold

I love watching the triple jump because of its highly technical nature. The way the athletes hop, skip, and step to amazing distances is a graceful exercise that evokes wonder for this athletics aficionado.

However, the event has not been given the same attention as the more popular disciplines like the men’s 100m dash. I got thoroughly pissed off while watching the Adidas Grand Prix, a Diamond League meeting, last month. The directors of the telecast opted to air round-after-round of a pedestrian long jump competition over the women’s triple jump competition!

Click this link to read the full article…

Track Beauty of the Week: Olga Rypakova Ольга Рыпакова

The Kazakh triple jumper is one of the best in her event. Rypakova has jumped 15.25m outdoors and 15.14m indoors, both Asian records. She also has a world-class personal best in the long jump at 6.85m. Olga is the 7th best triple jumper all-time.

Click here to read the full article…

Bleasdale vs. Isinbayeva

Pole vault world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva (Елена Исинбаева) always makes her first jump when everyone else had made theirs. The Russian usually isolates herself from the other competitors, opting to cover her face with a towel and nap. British Olympic hopeful Holly Bleasdale was not amused. She called Isinbayeva “disrespectful” and likened her to a “tramp.”

Click here to read the full article…

Portrait Silke Spiegelburg

Check out this documentary on German Olympic hopeful Silke Spiegelburg.

Silke has a personal best 4.82m, set in Monaco this year. She has won two European Indoor silver medals the past few years. Spiegelburg finished second at the Barcelona European Championships two years ago. Spiegelburg has been a finalist in two World Championships, this year’s World Indoors and the Beijing Olympics.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The Pole Vault”

Go Silke! You deserve a medal!

Sources:

Silke’s IAAF profile

Wikipedia

Christine Sonali Merrill’s Balancing Act and Olympic Hopes

Christine Sonali Merrill deserves a shoutout.

Christine Merrill. (Photo from Djh57/Wikimedia Commons

The American-born Sri Lankan hurdler will compete in the London Olympics as a wild card, having missed the Olympic “B” standard by almost two-hundredths of a second. She has a personal best of 56.83s, set during the preliminary rounds of the Asian Athletics Championships last year in Kobe. Merrill eventually wound up in 3rd place, thanks to a strong finish.

A mechanical engineering graduate of University of California (San Diego), Merrill juggles a demanding day job with serious athletics training. In this day and age of sporting professionals, this is a rarity.

Read: “10-for-10 – Marzia Caravelli’s Balancing Act”

I am familiar with such a routine. It is not a walk in the park.

Even if the Merrill’s Olympic medal hopes in London seem distant, she gives hope to those athletes who strive to balance a day job with their sporting pursuits. And according to her coach, Merrill could make an impact at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympic Games.

Additional Link:

Christine’s Facebook Page

Sources:

IAAF

UCSD Tritons article on Merrill

Still an Usain Bolt Show

The Jamaican Olympic Trials were a revelation.

Usain Bolt’s 100m defeat to his young training partner, Yohan Blake, came as a surprise. Blake’s commanding victory in the 200m was even more astounding. Bolt has shown chinks in armor in the century dash, owing to his inconsistent start. But in the half-lap sprint, the great Jamaican sprinter has been peerless.

Bolt en route to the 200m dash gold in Beijing. (Photo from Richard Giles)

The aforesaid losses to Blake and rumors of lingering injury, have pushed some athletics pundits to tag Blake as the prime candidate for Olympic sprinting glory.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 100m Dash”

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 200m Dash”

Those views are not entirely baseless. On paper, the 2012 Bolt is a far cry from his 2009 self. The Jamaican champion’s 100m and 200m season’s bests are at 9.76s and 19.83s, respectively -light years away from his world records of 9.58s and 19.19s. Coming into the London Olympics, Blake is the world leader in both of the aforesaid events (9.75s and 19.80s).

True enough, Blake has what it takes to beat his compatriot. The 2011 100m World Champion (in the absence of a disqualified Bolt), is the third fastest in the 100m all-time list, behind Bolt and Asafa Powell. Blake has a personal best of 19.26s in the 200m a mark only bettered by Usain’s world record of 19.19s and is the only man who can challenge Bolt in the half lap sprint.

Powell, the former 100m world record, has the necessary tools edge out Bolt in the century dash. But the 30-year old has been a perennial underachiever in the major championships. Tyson Gay, the 100m and 200m World Champion from 2007, also enjoys the tag as a potential Bolt-beater. The oft-injured Gay is one of only two men to beat a post-Beijing Olympics Usain Bolt in the 100m (the other is, of course, Blake). Gay, recently recovered from a hip operation, owns the second fastest time in the 100m at 9.69s, behind Bolt’s 9.58s world record.

    

Blake (L), Gay (C), and Powell (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen, Eckhard Pecher, and Jonas Witt)

Judging by the stat sheets and the results of the Jamaican Olympic Trials, a monumental collapse by Usain Bolt is in the offing.

I beg to disagree because of four important factors.

First, Bolt has the most experience amongst the four contenders. The Jamaican has won sprinting titles in Youth, Junior and Senior World Championship events. He has been competing at the highest level of sport since he was 15-years old. No other athlete, save for Russian Pole Vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and New Zealand’s Shot Putter Valerie Adams, have shown such consistency amongst the different age groups.

And of course, Bolt is the defending Olympic Champion. Blake, Gay, and Powell have yet to win individual Olympic golds.

Second, Bolt is a freak of nature. Speed is a function of stride length and stride frequency. Bolt, with his 1.95m/ 6’5 frame, excels in both departments. No Olympic or World sprinting champion was as tall and quick as Usain Bolt.

Third, Bolt has been in similar circumstances before. As a talented youngster, Bolt owns the World Youth best and the World Junior record in the 200m. His transition to the senior ranks, however, was marked by injury and a seeming lack of focus. Despite being popular in Jamaica, he was an unknown outside immediate athletics circles. There was a lull in his career from 2003 to 2008, until the Beijing Olympics where he romped to three Olympic Gold medals.

Lastly, Bolt has the ability to dig deep. In the glitz and glamour of the short sprints, people tend to overlook the fact that Usain once excelled in the 400m dash in his younger days. As a 16-year old, the Jamaican ran 45.35s, the sixth fastest ever by a Youth athlete. Although Gay has a faster personal best than Bolt in the quarter-mile, the latter has the necessary championship pedigree in the event. In my opinion, his background in the 400m is what sets him apart from his competitors. It puts him in a vastly different mindset.

Because of his long legs, we don’t usually see Bolt get the fastest start in the short dashes. But once his pistons start firing in full throttle, the race is over – more often than not. Indeed, it takes guts and determination to snatch victory from behind.

Despite the snags of Bolt’s 2012 season, the London 2012 Olympics shall still be Usain Bolt’s one big sprinting party.

%d bloggers like this: