Tag Archives: 4x100m relay

Track Beauty of the Week: Élodie Ouédraogo

Élodie Ouédraogo is this week’s Track Beauty!

Ouédraogo is a Belgian athlete who competes in both the sprints and the intermediate hurdles. The high point in her career came at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she won the 4x100m silver together with Belgian sprinting great Kim Gevaert, Olivia Borleé, and Hanna Marien. The quartet stopped the clock at a new Belgian record of 42.54s. Élodie was also part of the Belgian squad tha won bronze at the Osaka World Championships.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Marika Popowicz

Marika Popowicz is this week’s Track Beauty!

Popowicz is a Polish sprinter who specializes in the 100m and 200m. Marika has a personal best of 11.38s and 23.15s in the aforesaid events, set during her breakout season in 2009.The young Polish speedster racked brought home multiple individual medals as well as a relay medal from the World Military Games and the World University Games.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Yuliya Gushchina Ю́лия Гу́щина

Yuliya Gushchina Ю́лия Гу́щина is this week’s Track Beauty!

The sprinter has been a fixture in Russia’s crack relay squads for the past years. As a junior, Gushchina won a hard fought 4x400m relay bronze at the World Junior Championships in Kingston. The Russian women, a proven power in the long relays, followed this up with European Junior title the next year. Ever since 2005, Yuliya has been part of almost all of Russia’s major senior championship relay teams.

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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

Verena is Back!

My favorite moment of the 2010 Barcelona European Championships was when Verena Sailer stormed to first place at the 100m dash. Since then, I’ve been a fervent supporter of Verena. Unfortunately, the German sprinter’s performance have been hampered by injury.

Read: “Track Beauty of the Week – Verena Sailer”

The Helsinki European Championships was her first major international since her breakout win in Barcelona a couple of years ago. The German champion performed magnificently. Sailer notched a season’s best of 11.14s in the 1st Round. Verena (11.17s) finished second in her semifinal, behind the fast-finishing Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.13s)of Ukraine.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Mary Onyali-Omagbemi

Mary Onyali-Omagbemi is this week’s Track Beauty!

The retired Nigerian sprinter is an athletics legend. It is difficult enough to qualify for one or two Olympic Games, but Onyali-Omagbemi represented her country at the Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens Olympics. She had also won seven All-Africa sprinting titles and two Commonwealth Games gold medals.

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Malaysian Sprint Hurdling

I’ve always been an admirer of Malaysian hurdling. From Nur Herman Majid, Hassan Robani, Moh Siew Wei and Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, Malaysians have figured consistently amongst Southeast Asia’s elite sprint hurdlers. For a Filipino hurdler, their combined hurdling curricula is awe-inspiring. Hence. I’ve often wondered about the secret to success of our Southeast Asian neighbors.

Perhaps the Men’s 4x100m relay holds the answer.

Read Jad Adrian’s article on the 4x100m relay here

The Indonesian dug deep in the last 50m of the final leg, overcoming a sizable lead by Singapore to wrest the gold. Tasting victory, the Indonesian dove like Greg Louganis to win the race by one-hundredth of a second.

The Malaysian anchor hurdling his Indonesian counterpart (Video grab from Singapore Athletics)

While watching the highly-entertaining, closely fought race, the sight of the Malaysian anchor man hurdling the fallen Indonesian last runner brought forth expressions of awe! A collision between sprinters would surely have dire consequences. Thanks to the Malaysian’s quick reaction – and suave, impromptu hurdling – disaster was averted.

This is what you call SPRINT HURDLING!

Video credit:

Track Beauty of the Week: Kim Gevaert

Kim Gevaert is this week’s track beauty!

The retired Belgian sprinter has had an illustrious career. With personal bests of 11.04s and 22.20s in the 100m and 200m dashes, the powerfully built speedser was a fixture in elite women’s sprinting during her prime.

Photo from Wikipedia

She first made waves during in 1999, when she won the 200m title at the Universiade and the 100m dash bronze at the European U23 Championships. She was crowned European Indoor Champion at the 60m dash in 2002, the same year she notched an impressive 100m-200m silver medal double at the European Outdoor Championships in Munich.

Four years later in Goteborg, the Belgian struck gold in the two events, becoming the first athlete from her country to win a continental 100m dash title.

Gevaert was an outstanding indoor sprinting career, winning silver and bronze medals at the 60m dash at the 2004 and 2006 editions of the World Indoor Championships. Outdoors, she led a successful the Belgian quartet to a bronze medal finish at the 2007 World Championships.

The popular Gevaert had an eventful farewell season in 2008. In her last Olympic appearance, the Belgian sprinter anchored the 4x100m quartet to an unprecedented Olympic silver.

“Usain Bolt does the Party Rock Shuffle”

I must admit that I’m not a fan of Usain Bolt’s pre-race tomfoolery, but the great man sure does makes excellent post-race celebratory moves! Take a look at the following clip after the 4x100m relay in Daegu.

Gutted: Thoughts on the Daegu 2011 Men’s 4x100m Relay

The Men’s 4x100m relay was bizarre, to say the least. At the last baton exchange, Darvis Patton (USA) clipped the elbow of the massive Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (GBR). The Doc lost his balance and fell to the track, rolling over to the adjacent lane of the Trinidad and Tobago quartet. Richard Thompson (TRI) narrowly missed running over Patton. Aikines-Aryeetey apparently went out too early. Marlon Devonish (GBR) failed to catch his compatriot, throwing the baton in frustration. The Americans also failed to finish, negating a splendid world-leading performance in the semis. The unfortunate Trinidadians were the unassuming collateral damage of the sprint relay carnage, as their quartet finished dead last.

The Usain Bolt-anchored Jamaican team was unstoppable, en route to breaking their 2008 world record. A pumped-up Bolt stopped the clock in a blistering 37.04s. The French and the quartet from Saint Kitts and Nevis emerged victorious with the minor medals. The prolific Christophe Lemaitre added a relay silver to his 200m dash bronze, whilst the evergreen Kim Collins hauled another bronze medal to his collection.

The Americans, even with a healthy Tyson Gay in the fold (and a smooth baton exchange), would have been hard-pressed to win over the Jamaicans. Nevertheless, the loss of any major championship medal was heartbreaking. Prior to these championships, I never really found the time to sympathize with these oft-brash American sprinters. But reading the Doc’s posts and tweets, I felt gutted – not just for the US team, but for the Trinidadians and British as well.

One can pillory these professional athletes for certain lapses of judgment. Before hitting the “enter” button in Twitter, Facebook or your blog, find the time to go over the words of the athletes themselves. They’re only human, after all.

Additional links:

Official results of the Men’s 4x100m relay

Mail Online article

Telegraph article

“The Blue Paint” by John Aguilar (January 2002)

Most people probably didn’t know the real reason why the four of us wept a few moments after we placed third in the UAAP 4X100 meter relay. It would have been easy to assume that we felt miserable and defeated in a world where nobody really remembers who placed second, much less third. The truth was actually the opposite. We wept because we came so close. It was never supposed to happen. Somehow because we believed in something so impossible, so improbable, so unlikely, it did happen.

The Ateneo college team was never known to be a track and field superpower. The fact of the matter is, we suck. The team has been comfortably perched in last place in the UAAP for millennia. Folklore has it that Ateneo College tracksters once won numerous medals in the UAAP, but those are just stories coaches say to keep their jobs.

We wanted this year to be different (something we say every year, though in hushed tones), we wanted to win. So we hired the best coach in the country, set up a bad-ass training program and sacrificed what people refer to as a summer vacation to get our act together.

Our coach, Dari de Rosas, was responsible for straightening up our lousy excuse for a team. I can only smile now as I recall the moment he first laid eyes on the team. A nervous smile betrayed his words, “May potential sila.”

Having coached the team’s sprinters for two years, I was asked (more like coerced) by track and field head honcho Mick Perez to give sprinting one more try. After a few days in the “hole” coupled with some good old Chinese water torture, I finally relented. What the hell – what’s one more run for the good old alma mater?

One of our goals was to put up a formidable relay team, since the relay was one of the most important events in track and field. It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out our policy for forming the team. The four fastest make it. We had a few people in mind, though killer long tests and complicated love lives cost us a few casualties. In the end, we had four ready and able runners who, as Coach Dari would say, would have something closely resembling the words “May potential sila.”

The Fab Four

First on the lineup was freshman Tim Robles, high school gold medalist in the 200 meters, and arguably the quietest person I have ever met. He will probably say sorry if you step on his feet (while you’re wearing your track and field spikes). Make him sprint, however, and you’ve got yourself the equivalent of Dr. Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde.

Next is Paolo Blasco. He was never really supposed to be included in the relay, with his lanky frame and unorthodox running style. We all thought all he could do was jump, until he ran a time in the 200 meters that made our jaws drop to the track. His frame betrayed his true talents. At times during training, his legs would turn over so fast; it was like watching a hummingbird, with legs for wings. He was like a raw gem, waiting to be discovered and polished.

Then there’s the flamboyant Niño Mendoza. A black man trapped in a Pinoy’s body, Niño was a skinny, underachieving, arrogant undergrad who, after graduating from college, decided to redeem himself in the sport he took for granted. He trained until he bled, and his skinny figure metamorphosized into that of an action figure’s. The team’s self-proclaimed “weakest link,” Niño proved in a little under a year that nothing is impossible to someone with a big heart and a huge ego.

The last guy on the relay team was me, John Aguilar, two years retired from the sport and struggling to make a name for myself in the world of media. More than anything, I wanted to show the young guys that if you really want something so badly, you will do everything in your power to achieve it (yes, I shaved my legs to be more aerodynamic). I’ve had my moments during my running career, but ended with a string of injuries and bad luck. I wanted another stab at glory, but more importantly, I wanted to share the journey with people who shared the same aspirations that I had.

For months, we trained six days a week under a training program specifically designed to make us faster and stronger. We squatted twice our body weight, sprinted faster than we ever had, and underwent some drastic hair reduction procedures. In the end, we were a lean, mean, and sleek (literally) relay machine.

The night before the relay, Niño sent me a text message saying, “Gusto kong magmedal sa 4X100 bukas.” I couldn’t agree more. It was time for Ateneo to shine.

The Blue Paint

The next day, I gathered the three an hour before the race in the bleachers below and told them a story. I took out some blue face paint from my jacket pocket, and told then how we used that very same face paint when I was college freshman, and won the silver in the relay.

Their eyes were gazed at the little blue Zinc face paint as if it were the Holy Grail. As I slowly marked my face with the paint, I told them that they would have to do the same. As they obliged my request, I saw a transformation right before my very eyes. We looked like warriors. Never mind if we put up an appearance that made us look more like we were out to avenge the burning of our sacred tribe because, to some extent, we were. Ateneo pride was so battered for so many years that losing has become a habit. We were out to make a statement. We were going out there to win a medal.

Finishing third in the relay came at a time when everyone was just starting to believe that we could really make a difference. There the four of us stood, locked in a tight circle, all the emotion just exploding from the deepest recesses of our souls. We had just run the race of our lives, and it took every stride and leap and heave and cramp and muscle pull and experience and bead of sweat to reach the speed that took us to that amazing bronze medal. It was never supposed to happen to a team that always placed last, but it did. I lied to them about the face paint (we actually used blue eyeliner when we won the silver during my freshman year), though I was never in doubt that they believed everything I said. Sometimes, all we need is someone we trust who can look us straight in the eyes and tell us we can do it. Nothing is impossible. Even to a team that sucks.

That night, Niño sent me another text message: “Coach, maraming salamat. Di ko malilimutan itong araw na ito. See you tomorrow sa medal stand.”

Aguilar, Blasco, Mendoza and Robles. Bronze medalists, 4x100m relay, UAAP 64. (Photo from Carlo Ricohermoso)

Since UAAP 68, the Ateneo de Manila Men’s Track & Field Team had not gone below the top two in the 4x100m relay. In UAAP 71 and UAAP 72, the Ateneo quartet won back-to-back golds.

Track Beauty of the Week: Yelizaveta Bryzhina (Єлізавета Бризгіна)

Yelizaveta Bryzhina (Єлізавета Бризгіна) is this week’s track beauty!

The 20-year Ukrainian sprinter has fine athletics genes. Both of her parents are Olympic Gold medalist in the sprints for the former Soviet Union. Fresh from her first major championship triumph, a gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2010 European Championships, the young Bryzhina’s future  looks promising.

Photos from yahoo, umoloda.kiev.ua and ledilid.livejournal.com

On top of the Ukrainian team’s world leading 42.29s win, Bryzhina finished behind surprise winner Myriam Soumare in the 200m dash, thanks for the former’s finishing kick.

Video credits:

TheSphack

181dvdEuropei

Track Beauty of the Week: Olivia Borlée

Olivia Borlée is this week’s track beauty!

The 24-year old Belgian is a 200m specialist, with a personal best of 22.89s in the half lap. Her best time in the century dash is a respectable 11.39s. The eldest of the Borlée siblings has two major championship 4x100m relay medals to her name – a bronze in the 2007 Osaka World Championships and a silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Read: “The Borlees: En Route to Olympic History”

(Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

At the Barcelona European Championships, Borlée failed to go beyond the semis, finishing sixth in her heat.

Olivia and her twin brothers are trained by their father, Jacques. Off the track, Borlée is working towards a degree in fashion design, while aiming to represent Belgium at the 2012 London Games.

Watch the BBC feature on Olivia Borlée and her London 2012 goal

Additional links:

Wiki

The Borlees

Olivia Borlée

“The Borlées: En Route to Olympic History” by Joboy Quintos

When the words “siblings” and “athletics” come together, the first name that pop  into my head are the Kallur twins. Susanna Kallur, in recent years, had distinguished herself in the women’s sprint hurdles, breaking the 60m hurdles world record and topping the 2006 Goteborg European Championships. Her twin sister Jenny, older by four minutes, has been a fixture in the athletics circuits, but hasn’t reached the same level of success as Sanna.

Read: Track Beauties of the Week: Susanna and Jenny Kallur

The Harrison twins used to be the finest example of sibling excellence, winning the 4x400m relay gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games – teaming up with Michael Johnson and the late Antonio Pettigrew. Alvin and Calvin were the first ever siblings – identical twins at that! – to ever win an Olympic track & field gold whilst part of the same relay team.

   

Kevin, Olivia, and Jonathan. (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen)

Belgium’s Borlee sibings threaten to usurp the aforesaid families. Trained by their father, Jacques, the Borlees are the most illustrious athletics family actively competing to today. Elder sister Olivia, a 200m specialist, already has an Olympic 4x100m relay silver to her name. The Belgian team finished 0.23s behind Russia in Beijing 2008.

Identical twins Kevin and Jonathan are en route to becoming fine quarter milers, with both brothers qualifying for the 2010 Euro Championships 400m final. In the 4x400m relay, the Borlee twins comprised half of the formidable Belgian team that won silver at the 2010 Doha World Indoor Champs and bronze at the Barcelona Euro Championships.

The future for Kevin (PB 44.88s) and Jonathan (PB 44.718s) looks promising. If the brothers can shed precious hundredths of a second off their respective bests, they could mount a decent challenge to the American hegemony in the 400m dash. If Olivia and the other female Belgian sprinters somehow reprise their fabulous bridesmaid finish at the London Olympics, with Kim Gevaert long since retired, the prospects for a three sibling Olympic romp becomes ever so bright.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in my constant readings of Olympic (as well as World Championships) track & field history, three siblings each coming home with a medal is an unheard of fact.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Additional Links:

Video: 2010 World Indoor Championships 4x400m Relay

Video: 2008 Beijing Olympics 4x100m Relay

Fierce USA 4x100m Quartet clocks 37.45s

I love the gutsy performance of the American Men’s 4x100m relay team at the Zurich Diamond League. Without the pressure of a big level meet, the greatest sprinting nation in the world romped to a 37.45s world-leading time. The quartet of Trell Kimmons (who just ran a PB of 9.95s at the same meet), Wallace Spearmon, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers all contributed to the fifth fastest clocking of all-time, en route to their 5-meter drubbing of the Jamaican relay team.

The baton exchanges were far from perfect. In fact, the final pass between Gay and Rodgers was a little too stretched for comfort. But then again, these four haven’t ran together as much.

Watch the following clip from Universal Sports. Notice the fierceness on Tyson Gay’s face!

Additional links:

Results

Diamond League events report

Video Credits:

Universal Sports

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