Category Archives: Swimming

Call Me Maybe – 2012 USA Olympic Swimming Team

This is definitely the best cover of “Cally Me Maybe.”

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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)

Dara Torres: An Inspiration!

Dara Torres is a veteran of five Olympic Games, from the Seoul in 1988 all the way to Beijing in 2008. She had amassed a total of 12 Olympic medals, four of them gold. The then 41-year old Dara won three silver medals in Beijing. At the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, the 45-year old placed fourth in the 50m freestyle finals, narrowly missing a ticket to her fifth straight Olympics.

Read: “Dara Torres (USA, Swimming Legend)”

Dara Torres at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (Photo from Bryan Allison)

Aside from isolated episodes during my teenage years, I’ve always been a physically active person. Athletics took being just physically active to another level. In track & field, the most athletic person almost always wins. For the past decade, I’ve been breaking and building my body to be faster, stronger, and better.

Click here to read about Darya Klishina, my other source of inspiration!

Now that I’m retired from the hurdles, the time I spent doing exercise have declined. Instead of the usual five times a week, the training frequency had lessened to as low as three. This becomes problematic. I seem to get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t workout. I tend to imagine my tummy getting bigger, losing my washboard abs, and plyometric activity. These thoughts are nightmarish!

Athletes like Torres are an inspiration. To be able to compete at such a high level, despite the disadvantages of age, are truly remarkable.

Even if I’ve hung up my spikes, I would never ever give up the active lifestyle. Like Dara Torres, I’ll be pursuing ways to make my body perform better. Although I am still at a loss on what sport to pursue next, in light of my priorities in life, one thing is for certain: I’ll always be an athlete!

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)

Stephanie Rice!

My favorite swimmer!

Video credits:

hybridbackstroker

SunriseOn7

Lee Evans training with Ato Boldon

When I first saw the clip from the suggestions tab in Youtube, I thought it was about Lee Evans, the 1968 Mexico Olympics double Gold medalist, and Ato Boldon. But lo and behold, it tunred out to be Lee Evans the English Comedian! Watch it. It was filmed prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Watch the other Lee Evans training clips from this playlist. Evans gets tips from heptathlete Denise Lewis and swimmer Ian Thorpe!

Video credit:

eman7

Alberto Juantorena’s 400m/800m Golden Double

The 100m/200m double in elite track & field competitions is a significant achievement in itself. Great athletes like Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt had won the twin sprints at the Olympics. The 200m/400m combination is a much challenging pairing. In major meets, only Marie Jose Perec and the iconic Michael Johnson stand out as successful conquerors of the aforesaid sprint distances. A couple of years ago, Johnson’s heir apparent, Jeremy Wariner, attempted the double unsuccessfully. The lactic acid-filled 400m race is a much different race than the 200m dash, than the half lap is to the century dash.

But then again, the 200m/400m double is not as fearsome as the 400m/800m pairing. In the history of the Olympics (as well as all the other majors – the World Championships, the European Championships, etc.), only Alberto “El Caballo” Juantorena has achieved this unusual combination of gold medals. The Australian Tamsyn Lewis had reached some measure of success in the said distances, but certainly not at the level of Juantorena’s.

Before I did the hurdles, my first event was the quarter-mile. In my readings as high school junior, the great Cuban became one of my first larger-than-life athletics heroes. Juantorena, originally a 400m sprinter, revolutionized how the 800m was run. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he went out like a madman on the first lap of the 800m final, taking full advantage of his sprinter’s speed. The towering Cuban ran a 50.85s 400m split, his long strides clearly evident as he overpowered the field in a then world-record time of 1:43.50. He held on for a memorable gold medal, a world record at that. I can almost imagine the shock and awe of the orthodox middle distance runners at such a bold move. El Caballo followed this up with scorching hot 44.26s, the fastest 400m run at low altitude at that time.

Even though Juantorena never replicated his stellar form in Montreal (he finished a distant fourth in the 400m dash in Moscow 1980), the Cuban’s 400m-800m double remains unprecedented. Even in the youth and juniors divisions, one will be hard pressed to find examples of such eminent talent. Perhaps its because of the inherent difference between the two events. Whereas, the 100m, 200m and 400m are all sprinting events, the 800m is a middle distance event. A sub-10 second sprinter, for instance, possesses the necessary leg power to power his way to a low 45-second or a sub-45 second 400m dash. Tyson Gay is the epitome of the all-around sprinter, having bests of 9.69s, 19.58s and 44.89s in the three events.

The 400m and 800m are light-years apart. The former is classified as a “dash” while the latter is a “run.” The distance doubles, the time required to finish the distance more than doubles. For a quarter-miler – a sprinter who digs deep, but a sprinter nonetheless – such a change of pace can be disconcerting. Not everyone is as dauntless as El Caballo. In my readings the past half-decade, I can say that I’m astute with track & field history. But I have never encountered an elite level athlete attempting to duplicate Juantorena’s feat.

What makes Juantorena special? It has to be in his long-strides and powerfully-built body. A former basketball player, Juantorena had a 9-foot (2.75m) stride. This combination of free-flowing, rhythmic strides and a sprinter’s natural affinity for speed overwhelmed his competitors, who were mostly tactical middle distance runners. Down the homestretch, the wiry middle distance specialists had no answer to the White Lightning’s long-striding, fast-finishing ways.

Winning multiple Olympic track & field golds is not as easy as bagging multiple swimming golds. Unlike in swimming, the disciplines in athletics possesses inherently vast differences in terms of energy utilization and technical proficiency. Track & field may never see the likes of a Michael Phelps, but it has its fair share of multiple medalists in the likes of Emil Zatopek (5000m, 10,000m, Marathon), Carl Lewis (100m, 200m, Long Jump, 4x100m), Usain Bolt (100m, 200m, 4x100m), Michael Johnson (200m, 400m, 4x400m) and Alberto Juantorena, whose gold medal winning ways in Montreal 1976 are truly legendary, a feat that would take generations to emulate.

Additional links:

IOC profile (Juantorena)

Wiki

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