Category Archives: Allyson Felix

London Olympics Preview: The 4x100m Relay

The team aspect makes the 4x100m relay exciting. Since the athletes are going at full speed, the margin for error in terms of baton passing is small. Teams, especially the hastily formed ones, are susceptible to passing lapses. In the 4x100m relay, the squads with inferior aggregate flat out speeds can draw level or, at times, triumph over the highly touted teams.

Read: “The 4x100m Relay – Where Underdogs Thrive”

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Ironically, a larger country such as the U.S. could get disadvantaged because of its depth of talent. Having a large pool, with the uncertainty of the U.S. Olympic Trials providing the suspense, do not exactly provide ample time for teams to prepare. The smaller countries have, more or less, determined its relay lineups months before a major competition.

Women’s 4x100m Relay

The Americans have run two of the fastest 4x100m relay times this season (42.19s, 42.24s), followed by the Germans (42.51s – Leena Günther, Anne Cibis, Tatjana Pinto, Verena Sailer) and the Ukrainians (42.61s –  Nataliya Pohrebnyak Наталія Погребняк, Mariya Ryemyen, Olesya Povh Олеся Повх, Viktorya Pyatachenko). Netherlands (42.80s – Kadene Vassell, Dafne Schippers, Eva Lubbers, Jamile Samuel), Poland (43.06s – Marika Popowicz, Daria Korczynska, Marta Jeschke, Ewelina Ptak), and France (43.12s – Carima Louami, Ayodelé Ikuesan, Jennifer Galais, Christine Arron) are the next fastest countries. The Jamaicans are few rungs lower with a season’s best of 43.31s.

In terms of the Olympic qualifying period, which stretched from January 2011 to July 2012, the Carribean sprinting power is second on the list (average of 41.97s) behind the Americans (41.75s). Ukraine (42.57s average), France (42.65s average), Germany (42.77s average), and Nigeria (42.84s) round up the next four.

Screenshot from the IAAF

The defending Olympic Champion, Russia (Evgeniya Polyakova Евгения  Полякова, Ekaterina Kuzina, Ekaterina Voronenkova, Olga Belkina), is eight on the list with an average time of 42.86s.

On paper, the lead U.S. and Jamaica are the strongest contenders for gold. Its respective lineups are peppered with a multitude of individual sprinting talent in the likes of Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Allyson Felix, and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce.

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

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

Jamaica has won Olympic gold only once, in 2004. The Jamaican women lost out on a potential gold in Beijing when they failed to finish the race. The Americans are historically the dominant force in the event, winning nine gold medals since the 1928 Paris Olympics. However, their last Olympic title came in 1996. Like the Jamaicans, the Americans have been bedeviled by erratic baton passing in the last two editions of the Games.

The Americans are the reigning World Champions, while the Jamaicans are the victors from Berlin.

Once Jamaica and the United States get their acts together, and pass their respective batons efficiently and with minimal loss of speed, these two countries are unbeatable.

If the two sprinting powerhouses commit lapses, Ukraine and Germany are the most likely to capitalize. The Ukrainians have world class sprinters in Olesya Povh and Mariya Ryemyen, while the Germans are led by the comebacking Verena Sailer. The Ukrainian and German teams have the benefit of competing at a relatively recent major championships, whereas the Jamaicans and Americans  last big meet was the World Championships in Daegu. The confidence level of the Germans, in particular, are at record-highs in light of their smashing win in Helsinki.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: United States

Silver: Jamaica

Bronze: Germany/Ukraine

Men’s 4x100m Relay

In the men’s division, the Jamaican gap over the Americans is glaring. The Jamaicans have an average time of 37.54s to the Americans’ 37.85s. Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, and Yohan Blake are all set to compete in London. Barring any unforseen hitches, Jamaica looks poised to win back-to-back Olympic golds.

The Americans have dominated this event, having triumphed 15 times in the last 22 Olympic Games. Their record in major championships of late has not been as immaculate. The error-prone Americans narrowly missed the gold in Athens to an inspired British team. In Beijing, the American quartet crashed out of the preliminary rounds. They crashed out of the Berlin World Championships, disqualified for an illegal baton exchange. Daegu could have been a lot better, had it not been for the unfortunate collision between Briton Harry Aikenes-Aryeetey and American Doc Patton.

Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin will banner the American challenge. Gay and Gatlin, both former World titlists and the latter an Olympic Champion, will bring maturity and experience into the squad.

France (38.29s average –  Teddy Tinmar, Christophe Lemaitre, Yannick Lesourd, Jimmy Vicaut) Olympic hosts Great Britain (38.32s average), Trinidad and Tobago (38.40s average –  Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Aaron Armstrong, Richard Thompson), and Brazil (38.41s average – Ailson Feitosa, Sandro Viana, Nilson Andrè, Bruno de Barros) are the next fastest countries. Interestingly, the 10th ranked Hong Kong relay team (38.59s average – Tang Yik Chun, Lai Chun Ho 黎振浩, Ng Ka Fung, Tsui Chi Ho) is ahead of Canada (38.64s – Ian Warner, Oluseyi Smith, Jared Connaughton, Justyn Warner), Italy (38..65s average – Simone Collio, Jacques Riparelli, Davide Manenti, Fabio Cerutti), and the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Japan (38.68s average – Masashi Eriguchi, Ryota Yamagata 山縣 亮太, Shinji Takahira, Kenji Fujimitsu).

Read: “Japan’s Olympic Bronze”

Screenshot from the IAAF

Outside the top two countries, France is the standout talent. The French are led by the duo of Christophe Lemaitre and Jimmy Vicaut, both 100m dash finalists in Daegu. Lemaitre is a World Championships 200m dash bronze medalist.

The Olympic hosts will also send an experienced team, with Mark Lewis-Francis and Dwain Chambers leading the charge. Lewis-Francis is the only holdover from the gold medal winning squad in Athens. The talented youngster Adam Gemili will be around to give much-needed firepower.

As much as I would love to see Britain win gold again or the Americans break their Olympic drought, the Jamaicans are much too dominant.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Jamaica

Silver: United States

Bronze: France

Sources:

IAAF – Olympic Relay Lineups

Wikipedia

IAAF

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London Olympics Preview: The 200m Dash

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s 200m Dash

The ladies’ half-lap sprint, like most of the most of the dashes, will pit the United States versus Jamaica. With the Olympics barely two months away, the U.S. holds a commanding lead against the Jamaicans – on paper, at least.

 

Felix (L) and Campbell-Brown (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen)

Out of the top ten performances this year, nine were run by Americans. The only exception is Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Beijing 100m dash champion, who ran 22.10s at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Allyson Felix is the world leader at 21.69s, the the fifth fastest all-time. The other two American bets in the 20m dash, Sanya Richards-Ross (22.09s) and Carmelita Jeter (22.11s) are ranked 2nd and 4th, respectively.

The American squad is a potent mix of quarter-mile talent (Richards-Ross), brute explosiveness (Jeter), and all-around sprinting excellence (Felix).

Going head-to-head against the Americans are experienced Jamaican troika of Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown (22.38s), and Sherone Simpson (22.37s). The 27-year old Simpson is the 100m dash silver medalist from Beijing, behind Fraser-Pryce. Campbell-Brown is a living athletics legend, who is gunning for her third consecutive Olympic 200m dash title. VCB, as she is fondly called, ruled the 100m and 200m in Daegu, taking gold ahead of Jeter and Felix, respectively.

   

Richards-Ross (L), Fraser-Pryce (C), and Jeter (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen [Richards-Ross and Fraser-Pryce] and André Zehetbauer [Jeter])

Other candidates for a spot in the final are Murielle Ahoure, Nercely Soto, Semoy Hackett, Blessing Okagbare, and Sheniqua Ferguson. The strongest European hopes are Ukraine’s Elyzaveta Bryzgina and Mariya Ryemyen and the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers.

In terms of personal bests, Felix (21.69s – 2012) and Campbell-Brown (21.77s – 2008) are ahead of the pack, being the only two sprinters who had run below the 22-second barrier. Simpson has a personal best of 22.00s from 2006, set when she was just 21-years old. Richards Ross and Jeter, who had set their respective bests at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, are low-22 second speedsters.

Felix, Richards-Ross, Fraser-Pryce, and Jeter, in light of their recent lifetime bests, have the statistical upper hand. But VCB, as the two-time Olympic champion and the reigning world titlist, could just make it three straight. A repeat of Felix and Campbell-Brown’s Daegu duel could happen. The 200m is tough to call; it could go both ways.

As much as I’d like to see VCB take her third, straight half-lap gold, I have a strong feeling that London 2012 will be Allyson Felix’ dance with Olympic glory.

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Allyson Felix

Silver: Veronica Campbell-Brown

Bronze: Carmelita Jeter/Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce/Sanya Richards-Ross

Men’s 200m Dash

The top two spots in the men’s race is a two-pronged slug fest between training partners Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.

 

Bolt (L) and Blake (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen)

Bolt’s recent double defeats to Blake have exposed chinks in the Lightning Bolt’s armor. While his 100m dash defeat was not entirely shocking, considering the starting lapses Bolt has made of late, Blake’s 200m dash win is more surprising. Even if the 2011 100m dash World Champion owns the second fastest 200m clocking of all-time at 19.26s, Bolt’s 19.19s from Berlin is considerably faster.

At his best, the 100m/200m world record holder is undefeatable in the half-lap – even to an in-form Blake.

   

Lemaitre (L), Spearmon (C), and Martina (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen [Lemaitre and Martina] and Eckhard Pecher [Spearmon])

With the absence of the injured Walter Dix (19.53s PB) and the comebacking Tyson Gay (19.58s PB) in the 200m dash field, the next best, non-Jamaican challenge will come from Wallace Spearmon (19.95s SB). Spearmon is the seventh fastest in over the distance, having a personal best of 19.65s from 2006.

France’s Christophe Lemaitre (20.31s SB) has a fair chance of landing a podium spot. Still only 22-years old, the Frenchman has a lifetime best of 19.80s from the 2011 Daegu World Championships where he took bronze, behind Bolt and Dix.

The other protagonists are Churandy Martina (19.94s SB) and Warren Weir (19.99s SB), both sub-20 sprinters this season. Martina initially won 200m dash silver in Beijing, but was disqualified due to a lane infraction.

Top Three Predictions

Gold: Usain Bolt

Silver: Yohan Blake

Bronze: Christophe Lemaitre/Wallace Spearmon/Churandy Martina.

Source:

IAAF

Thoughts on Felix and Tarmoh’s Dead Heat

I’ve always been fascinated by the touching story of Sueo Oe 大江 季雄 and Shuhei Nishida 西田 修平.  The two Japanese pole vaulters won bronze and silver at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The two vaulters were very good friends. When they arrived in Japan, they went to a jeweler and had the two medals cut in half. Both Nishida and Oe had equal halves of bronze and silver, aptly called the Medal of Eternal Friendship.

Read: “The Medal of Eternal Friendship”

In sport, people often say that only one person (or team) can emerge victorious. True enough, that is almost always the case in competitive sport, especially in athletics. Unless there is a dead heat.

The U.S. Olympic Trials featured one of the most high profile deadlocks in a running event the past few years. At the 100m dash final, the fast-finishing Allyson Felix caught up with her training partner Jeneba Tarmoh. Third place – and the coveted spot in the U.S. lineup – was originally awarded to Tarmoh. A closer review of the photo-finish tapes revealed that the sprinters actually clocked identical times of 11.068s.

The U.S. Trials is a cutthroat method of selection, where the top three finishers in each event are automatically given outright slots to a major championships, provided that they had met the entry standards. Considering the vast talent pool of the U.S., the competition for those berths are naturally tough (even tougher than the Olympic Games itself, some say).

Read: “Running a Dead Heat – Twice”

However, it turns out that there was no clear cut policy on settling dead heats in the running events. Since countries are only allowed to send a maximum of three participants in the Olympic Games, a clear victor must be chosen between Felix and Tarmoh. After much deliberation, the USATF crafted a set of guidelines in dealing with these rare occurrences:

Screenshot from the USATF Website

Read: USATF Dead Heat Procedures

Felix and Tarmoh, simply put, will be given the option of a coin toss or a run-off. Considering how competitive these ladies are, it is almost certain that the latter will be chosen.

Dead heats, because of its rarity (well, not for Yevgeniy Borisov and Konstantin Shabanov, I guess), is a refreshing twist to the black & white outcome of a track race. As spectators and competitors alike, we have been accustomed to seeing one person stand on each rung of the podium. In this day and age of fast-pace lifestyles and cut throat ways of life, it seems almost heartwarming to see two (or even three) people share a coveted prize.

For Felix and Tarmoh, however, they can share the bronze medal but only one can be sent to London.

Post-Race Interviews:

With Felix:

With Tarmoh:

Additional Links:

IAAF article

Bob Kersee’s Thoughts

Track Beauty of the Week: Allyson Felix

Allyson Felix is this week’s track beauty!

The great American sprinter shares the same birthday as yours truly – November 18, 1985. Her impressive sporting achievements notwithstanding, Felix is an apt choice for this week’s track beauty.

A victorious Felix at the 2007 Osaka World Championships (Photo from Wikipedia)

At the relatively young age 26, Felix had amassed a formidable array of medals. Since 2004, the American had won a total of two Olympic silver medals (200m dash – Athens, Beijing) and an Olympic gold (4x100m relay – Beijing). Her record in the World Championships is even more astounding, with her 8 gold medals since the 2005 Helsinki World Championships. As a bonus, she also added a gold medal in the indoor 4x400m relay (Doha 2010).

It was only at the 2011 Daegu World Championships where Felix fell short – by her standards, at least – succumbing to marquee performances by compatriot Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Amantle Montsho. Nevertheless, Felix remained undaunted as she strives for the difficult 200m-400m dash double, on top of her duties in both relays.

Going through Felix’s stat sheet, one immediately notices her versatility as a sprinter. She has personal bests of 10.93s, 21.81s and 49.59s in the 100m, 200m and 400m dashes, respectively. If there’s anyone who could pull off a four-gold medal athletics romp in London 2012, Felix is certainly on top of the short list.

Happy birthday, Allyson Felix!

Doping in Athletics: A Perennial Plague

A few days ago, the Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings tested positive for a masking agent, barely two weeks before the Daegu World Athletics Championships. Mullings holds the third fastest 100m-dash time in the world this year, at 9.80s, and was expected to be amongst the top contenders for the century dash crown. A few days after, the American sprinter Mike Rodgers (fourth fastest in the 100m at 9.85s), also made the headlines for testing positive for a banned stimulant. Rodgers, according to his agent, apparently drank an energy drink containing the prohibited substance.

Doping is an ever-present threat to the credibility of elite sports, not just athletics. The aforesaid failed doping tests brought to mind the infamous Ben Johnson scandal. Who could ever forget the brooding, powerfully built Johnson? The fast-starting Jamaican-born Canadian blasted out of the blocks at the 1988 Olympic 100m dash final in a world record time of 9.79s. Johnson was disqualified days later for failing a drug test. He was stripped of his gold medal under much controversy.

In the investigation that followed, Johnson’s coach, Charlie Francis, insisted that they had been set-up. The type of steroid (stanozolol) that came out at the failed post-Olympic test wasn’t Johnson’s drug of choice (it was actually furazabol). The duo admitted to using drugs, but countered that the practice is widespread among the track & field elite.

According to a New York Times article, Francis actually tried to persuade the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the sport’s governing body, to put a stop to the doping practice in the late 1970’s. The exhortations fell on deaf ears and Francis allegedly turned to the drugs themselves to level the playing field for his athletes, said a former Canadian sports official in the aforesaid article.

Since Ben Johnson, the powers-that-be has been more vigilant in policing its ranks. But the cheaters found ways to break the rules. Through the years, the BALCO scandal tainted big names like multiple-Olympic medallist Marion Jones and her husband former 100m-dash world record holder Tim Montgomery. Weeks before the 2004 Athens Olympics, the host country’s top medal hopes, Kostas Kenteris (200m gold medallist in the Sydney Olympics) and Ekaterini Thanou faked a motorcycle accident in an effort to explain a missed drug test. Months earlier, several Indian athletes flunked doping tests administered at a training camp, casting doubts at the validity of India’s breakthrough performance in last year’s Commonwealth Games.

The Mullings case prompted the IAAF to impose mandatory drug testing for all the 2,000 athletes competing in this August’s World Championships. Amidst the renewed slew of failed tests – regardless of the reason or gravity of the offense – one bears in mind the allegations of Ben Johnson and his coach about doping being deeply ingrained.

However, drug testing has been quite stringent – among the developed countries at least. In Britain for instance, athletes are required to submit their schedule (specific to the hour) months in advance, to facilitate the random drug testing (read Tom Fordyce’s series of posts to get a clearer picture). Big names like Allyson Felix and Bryan Clay have volunteered to participate in Project Believe, where frequency of the drug testing goes beyond global accepted standard.

These draconian measures are undoubtedly hard on the elite athletes, but are a necessary step towards cleaning up the sport.

This article also appears in In The Zone

Trans World Sport Athletics Features

Before going to be last night, I watched clips Trans World Sport’s features on various track & field athletes. Aside from the regular Diamond League and Athletix Mag airings in Eurosport Asia, we Filipinos don’t get much athletics-related shows. The next best thing is Youtube. In this day and age of HD videos and broadband internet, the live-streaming site is the next best thing!

Isabelle Pedersen:

Jacko Gill:

Mutaz Barshim:

Allyson Felix:

Watch an older clip of Felix here

Steve Hooker:

And of course, Usain Bolt!

The aforementioned athletes are quite a combination – even if you take Bolt out of the picture. Hooker is the reigning Olympic, World, World Indoor and Commonwealth Games pole vault champion. Then there’s the versatile Felix, who can excel in all the flat sprinting events. Gill, Barshim and Pedersen are all World Junior titlists from Moncton.

Among all the athletes featured above, I’d have to say that I’m most impressed with Jacko. To be able to throw the 7kg shot beyond twenty meters at such a young age, that’s certainly historic! For a sprint hurdler who has scant knowledge of the throws, seeing a teenager heave the youth shot put beyond twenty-four meters is interesting, to say the least!

Watch at least one clip and you’ll get an instant dose of extrinsic, athletics motivation!

Additional links:

Shelly Ann Fraser

Kirani James

Xavier Carter

Donald Thomas

Harrison Dillard: The Man Who Won the “Wrong Event”

London Olympics, Dillard was so dominant in the high’s that in most of his races, Dillard’s opponents practically competed for 2nd place distinction. In the years immediately following the World War II, the army veteran set world record in the 120- and 220-yard hurdles races. In the U.S. Olympic trials for the London Games, misfortune hit Dillard. His streak of 82 consecutive wins in the sprint hurdles came to an end.

As a consolation, Dillard was able to eke out a third place finish at the century dash to qualify for the London Olympics. In the Olympic final, the finish was so close that it merited a review of the photo finish tapes. In fact, the more favored American, Barney Ewell, thought he had the race in the bag. Dillard had won gold in the “wrong event” – in world record time! Days later, Dillard won his second gold medal as part of the victorious American quartet in the 4x100m relay.

Four years later in Helsinki, Harrison Dillard finally topped the his favorite event.

Harrison Dillard is the epitome of the sprint hurdler. He possessed enough speed to slug it out with the best sprinters of his time and more than adequate technical prowess to lord it over the 110 high’s. Dillard won four Olympic gold medals in the 1948 and 1952 Games – double golds in the 400m relay, a 100m dash gold and 110m high hurdles gold. This is certainly a unique achievement, considering the fact that the 100m dash requires brute force, whereas the sprint hurdles is technically demanding. Other notable gold medal combos, like the 200m/400m (Michael Johnson, Marie Jose-Perec, Allyson Felix), 400m/800m (Alberto Juantorena) and the 5,000km/10,000km/Marathon (Emil Zatopek) were all relatively homogeneous.

Gail Devers had achieved a similar feat as Dillard in the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships, where she won both the 100m dash and the 100m hurdles. At the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, Devers suffered consecutive heartbreaks in the 100m hurdles (her favorite event), finishing outside the top 3. Like Dillard before her, Devers had a penchant for dead heats, with both of her two 100m dash golds requiring a second look at the photo finish cameras.

But then again, the women’s hurdles is less technically demanding the men’s race. With much lower hurdles, fleet-footed females can get away with glaring deficiencies in proper hurdling technique, whereas in the men’s race, the higher hurdles leave little room for bad form.

Say for instance, freak of nature in the mold of an  Usain Bolt/Liu Xiang 刘翔 hybrid suddenly takes center stage. A personal best of 9.58s (or better!) in the 100m dash is detrimental to the sprint hurdles. Too much speed in between hurdles, as Renaldo Nehemiah puts it, increases the likelihood of a hurdler hitting hurdles – called “crowding out.” Unless the hurdler has superhuman reflexes and flexibility, such pure sprinting power will be difficult to control.

In this day and age of specialization, the chances of someone emulating Dillard seems ever so remote.

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