Category Archives: 2009 Berlin World Championships

“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

Terrence Trammell and the Elusive Gold Medal

People say that one doesn’t win the silver, he/she loses the gold. The Celebrate Humanity ad featuring Robin Williams debunks the aforesaid statement with a weightlifter jumping wild with joy at winning an Olympic silver medal. For mortals like myself who can only dream of competing in the Olympics, a silver medal in the quadrennial games is a pipe dream.

But when one is among the elite of sports, would multiple silver medals be more of a curse?

Terrence Trammell is an athlete with an extensive collection of silverware. As a 22-year old collegiate champion, he won the first of his Olympic sprint hurdling  silvers in 2000, behind the Cuban Anier Garcia. 4 years later in Athens, Trammell again fell short of the gold, this time against Liu Xiang 刘翔. In Trammell’s third Olympic Games in Beijing, the veteran failed to advance to the final because of a hamstring injury.

The University of South Carolina graduate replicated his streak of silver medals in the three editions of the IAAF World Championships as well, finishing 1st-runner up in 2003, 2007 and 2009.  Trammell was edged out by a fast-finishing Liu Xiang in Osaka 2007 by two-hundredths of a second. Despite stopping the clock at 12.99s, the top spot remained elusive.

2009 should have been Trammell’s year to win that elusive major outdoor crown, with Liu Xiang and  Dayron Robles out with injuries. But Ryan Brathwaithe of the Bahamas played the role of spoilsport.
Trammell had won a total of six silver medals in three Olympic Games and three World Outdoor Championships.

Being a near-10 seconds flat 100m sprinter, Trammell has had more success in the shorter 60m hurdle indoor race. During the 2006 Moscow World Indoor Championships, the American notched a unique Gold-Bronze combination in the 60m hurdles and the 60m dash, respectively, winning his 2nd indoor hurdling title. Aside from Harrison Dillard and  Gail Devers, no other track athlete had as much success as Trammell in both the hurdles and the sprints.

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

According to the legendary Renaldo Nehemiah, having too much speed in the sprint hurdles causes “crowding out.” Without lightning fast reflexes that can cope with near 10-second speeds, a sprint hurdler’s sprinting prowess becomes a curse. Trammell’s inability to land an outdoor crown can be attributed to his prolific sprinting talent. Despite leading in the first few hurdles, Trammell almost always seem to fade at the latter parts – especially when pitted against excellent finishers like Liu Xiang.

Although not in the same caliber as Liu and Colin Jackson, the American has a  fine hurdling technique reminiscent of his former training partner, Allen Johnson. The former NCAA champion Trammell, with his (1) aggressive style, (2) slightly elevated lead arm carriage, and (3) slightly flailing trail arm, tends to hit hurdles. When pitted against accomplished hurdling technicians like Liu, these little things spell the difference between victory and defeat.

With the emergence of David Oliver as the pre-eminent American hurdler and Liu’s and Dayron Robles’ recovery from injury, 2011 seems like another exciting year for the sprint hurdles.

Do not count out the 33-year veteran just yet. Trammell, with his monstrous flat out speed, might just surprise the top dogs.

Track Beauty of the Week: Maryam Yusuf Jamal مريم يوسف جمال‎

Maryam Yusuf Jamal مريم يوسف جمال‎‎ is this week’s track beauty!

The Ethiopian-born Bahraini is one of the best middle distance runners in the world today. Jamal, once known as Zenebech Tola, won back-to-back World Championship crowns in the 1500m run in 2007 and 2008. Her best times of 1:57.80 and 3:56.18 in the 800m and 1500m, respectively, place her in the top echelons of all-time best performances. Jamal won the 16th Asian Games 1500m title, but failed to follow it up with a win in the 800m.

Photos from life.com, iaaf.org, wn.com, timeoutbahrain.com

The high level of competition for major championship slots in her country of birth, as well as rampant factionalism in sports, prompted Jamal to turn to foreign shores. She sought to gain Swiss, American, Canadian and French citizenship but wound up in the oil-rich nation of Bahrain instead.

Video credit:

sportsnetwork

Additional link:

Wiki

Track Beauty of the Week: Verena Sailer

Verena Sailer is this week’s track beauty!

The German sprinter came first international breakthrough in an individual event came at the 2009 European Indoor Championships, where Sailer won bronze. As a junior, the powerfully built Verena finished 5th at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Grossetto. The 24-year old and the rest of the German 4x100m relay quartet, performed magnificently in front of the home crowd at the 2009 World Championships.

Photos from sportgate.de, welt.de, sulekha.com, and fehmarn24.de

The Bavarian-born Verena competes for the MTG-Mannheim athletics club.

The German sprint queen was slowed down by a spate of injuries at the start of the 2010 season. But gradually, she recovered her fine form. In the Barcelona European Championships, Verena stopped the clock at a new personal best of 11.10s, winning an unexpected gold by the infinitesimal of margins.

This is a long overdue post! I originally wanted to do a Track Beauty post as soon as Verena stamped her class in the Barcelona century dash field.

Read: Barcelona 2010 Wrap-up – Underdogs and Finishing Kicks

As they say, it’s better late than never!

Track Beauty of the Week: Shannon Rowbury

Shannon Rowbury is this week’s track beauty!

I’m not really fond of distance running. Events higher than 400m evoke a certain, unpleasant kind of pain alien to this sprint hurdler. Hence, aside from established distance running legends, I’m not familiar with the dramatis personae of the endurance events as much as, say, the 110m high hurdles! However, Rowbury exudes a breath of fresh air. I like her laid-back demeanor, as seen in her Universal Sports video logs. It’s a departure from the apparently stoic, no-non sense approach of the African runners who dominate the endurance events.

Photo from Gary Rowbury

Rowbury is at the forefront of the resurgent American distance running scene. With a personal best of 4:00.33 in the metric mile, Rowbury ranks among the world’s elite. The 24-year old placed third in the 1500m during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. She went on to finish 7th at the Olympic final, the only American to qualify. A year later, Rowbury won her first ever major championship medal – a 1500m bronze at the 2009 Berlin World Championships.

Rowbury graduated Magna Cum Laude from Duke University, taking up Film and Women’s Studies. Interestingly, Rowbury was a former Irish step dancer as a child!

Additional links:

Shannon’s website

USATF profile

Wiki

Track Beauty of the Week: Jessica Ennis

Jessica Ennis is this week’s track beauty!

I first noticed Ennis back in the 2006 Goteborg European Champs. Kelly Sotherton was Britain’s top heptathlete at that time. Ennis was a young, 20-year old upstart. Because of stress fractures on her foot, she missed her shot at glory back in 2008. Ennis gradually crawled out of Sotherton’s shadow, winning gold at the 2009 Berlin World Championships – her first major international crown.

Photos from thesun.co.uk, bbc.co.uk and Wikipedia

Ennis, despite her small stature, is one mean competitor. Her personal bests in the 60m hurdles (7.95s) and the high jump (1.95m) are British National records. She recently scored a superb 6,823 points at the 2010 Barcelona European Athletics Championships, erasing the legendary Carolina Kluft‘s championship record. Fresh from her dramatic victory over Beijing Champion Natalia Dobrynska, it’s only fitting that we honor the newly-minted European Champion as the Track Beauty of the Week.

The multi-event specialist is, without a doubt, the poster girl of the 2012 London Olympics.

Additional links:

Wiki

Photo credits:

The Sun

BBC

Video credits:

EuroChampionships10

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