Tag Archives: christophe lemaitre

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 100m Dash

The Blue Riband event is the centerpiece of the Olympics. The athlete who wins the gold is dubbed as the world’s fastest man or woman.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s 100m Dash

Until the Jamaican Olympic trials last June, Carmelita Jeter has been comfortably perched as the 2012 world leader. Jeter ran 10.81s at the same blue track in Kingston where the Jamaican trials were held.

A month later, the defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce demolished the American’s erstwhile 2012 standard. Fraser-Pryce ran a personal best, as she stopped the clock at 10.70s. Veronica Campbell-Brown came second at 10.82s.

 

Fraser-Pryce (L) and Jeter (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and André Zehetbauer

Trinidadian Kelly-Ann Baptiste (10.86s) and Allyson Felix (10.92s) trails Campbell-Brown. Kerron Stewart (10.94s), Tianna Madison (10.96s), Murielle Ahoure (11.00s), and Blessing Okagbare (11.01s) occupy prominent positions in the top list.

The European challenge will be top billed by the comebacking Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова (11.06s SB) and the mercurial Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.08s), who finished 1-2 at the European Championships in Helsinki.

   

Felix (L), Baptiste (C), and Stewart (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen

With the London Games barely two weeks away, the Jamaicans and the Americans are sure to figure in tough battle for gold.

The 25-year old Fraser-Pryce, fresh from setting lifetime bests in the 100m and the 200m, is at her prime. Jeter is six years older than the Jamaican Olympic Champion, but is coming into the Games as the reigning World Champion. the powerful American has a personal best of 10.64s from 2009. the second fastest behind Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49s world record.

Stewart (10.75s, 2009), Campbell-Brown (10.76s, 2011), and Lalova (10.77s, 2004) are all sub-10.80s sprinters at their respective bests. Felix (10.92s, 2012) could figure in the fight for the podium as well, as long as she does not get left behind at the blocks.

My pick for gold is the defending champion, Fraser-Pryce. She has the momentum and she seems to be peaking just in time for London.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Silver: Carmelita Jeter

Bronze: Allyson Felix

Men’s 100m Dash

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay are the only ones capable of beating an in-form Usain Bolt. Former World record holder Asafa Powell has the necessary speed and breakneck start, but he just does not possess the mental toughness to live up to his potential in major championships.

   

Bolt (L), Gay (C), and Blake (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen [Bolt and Blake] and Eckhard Pecher [Gay])

True enough, Blake has inflicted back-to-back defeats in the 100m and 200m to his training partner, both at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Gay triumphed over Bolt at the DN Galan in Stockholm back in 2010.

The fight for gold will be three-pronged between Bolt, Blake, and Gay, should the latter be able to find the spring in his legs again. Justin Gatlin is the dark horse. Coming from his two-year doping ban, he has a lot to prove and is intent on making his comeback complete by winning Olympic gold.

Gatlin wins the 2012 World Indoor 60m Dash title. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Blake (9.75s) and Bolt (9.76s) are the two fastest this year. The 2004 Athens Olympic Champion, Justin Gatlin, is in top form as he set a personal best of 9.80s en route to topping the tough U.S. Olympic Trials. Powell (9.85s), Keston Bledman (9.86s), and Gay (9.86s) round up the next three.

Watch out for the tall and powerful Ryan Bailey. Bailey finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, setting a personal best of 9.93s.

 

Collins (L) and Lemaitre (R). Photos from André Zehetbauer and Erik van Leeuwen)

I’d love to see Kim Collins (10.05s SB) replicate his podium finish in Daegu, but the 2003 World Champion has not gone below the 10-second barrier this season. The French duo of Christophe Lemaitre (10.04s SB) and Jimmy Vicaut (10.07s SB) could once again barge into the final. Britain’s new sprinting talent, Adam Gemili (10.05s PB/SB), looks poised to make a mark as well.

I’m rooting for an injury-free Gay to finally wrest the Olympic 100m dash title. As the second fastest of all-time over the distance (9.69s), he has what it takes to come out on top. The youthfully exuberant Blake has the psychological edge, in the wake of his emphatic wins over Bolt.

If the world’s greatest sprinter gets his act together in London, the rest of the field – Gay and Blake included – will be competing only for the lesser medals.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Usain Bolt

Silver: Tyson Gay/Yohan Blake

Bronze: Justin Gatlin

Sources:

IAAF

Wikipedia

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

“Christophe Lemaitre, retour des championnats du monde 2011 et rentrée universitaire!”

With three European titles and two medals from the Daegu World Championships, it is fascinating to think that Christophe Lemaitre is just a youngster. At twenty-one years old, the Frenchman had just begun his university studies, days after his groundbreaking performance in Daegu.

Matt Stroup of Universal Sports had some interesting thoughts on Lemaitre’s possible conduct in class.

With his fourth place in the 100m dash, a bronze in the 200m dash and a silver in the 4x100m relay, Lemaitre had announced his arrival at the global stage. Indeed, he is no fluke – no mere one-hit wonder. His relative youth, as shown by the clip above, belies his potent speed on the track.

French Athletics Commentators Rock!

As a hardcore athletics junkie, I satiate most of my track & field cravings through Youtube. Aside from the times when Eurosport Asia airs the Diamond League or a high-level European meet, I have to settle for clips uploaded on the popular video streaming site. Since athletics is a predominantly European sport, the broadcasters I encounter come from a hodgepodge of countries.

Amongst the myriad of languages, I prefer the French commentary over the rest (after the English feed, of course). In the countless times I’ve watched athletics clips online, the French almost always stand out for their unbridled passion and sheer excitement. The British and American pundits tend to be more restrained. The French seem more animated, at some point even shouting with much fervor (please watch the clips below).

Perhaps my preference for French stem from its exoticism to my English-reared ears. See and hear for yourself. Be the judge!

* For consistency, I chose the 2011 Daegu World Championships Men’s 100m dash final.

1.) French:

Read more of this post

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

Blake takes gold as Bolt crashes out

With Eurosport Asia not airing the ongoing Daegu World Championships, I had to content myself with stop-motion live streaming (I have crappy internet connection), live tweets and the IAAF live updates.

I was browsing the aforesaid information sources when I learned about the unthinkable: Usain Bolt has been disqualified for false starting. Some people opined that the starter held out too long, but frankly I couldn’t see what was wrong. Bolt went out of the blocks too early. It was as clear as daylight.

Read: “The disqualification of Bolt”

Young Yohan Blake took up the cudgels for Jamaica, as he crossed the line in 9.93s. The fast-starting Kim Collins (the oldest 100m dash World Champ finalist since Linford Christie) actually led the race until the halfway mark, when the fast-finishing duo of Blake and the American champion, Walter Dix, ate up the 2003 World Champion’s lead.

Christophe Lemaitre (10.19s) was a tenth behind Collins. Antigua’s Daniel Bailey (10.26s) edged out the 19-year old Frenchman, Jimmy Vicaut (10.27s) for fifth place.

It was great to see Collins back on the podium! He had shown promise at the start of the year, but got injured soon after. With this unexpected third place finish, the pride of St. Kitts and Nevis now has three bronze medals (100mD – 2005, 200mD – 2001) on top of his 100m dash World Championship gold  – spanning ten years!

Although I’m far from an Usain Bolt fanatic, seeing the iconic Jamaican sprinter crash out is disappointing. Some would argue about scrapping the new rule altogether, that the one-false start rule is just way too harsh. Unlike swimming, restarting a sprint race isn’t all that hard. The previous rule (which imposed a warning to the entire field) was sufficient, to say the least. Athletes and race officials are human; hence, susceptible to mistakes.

But then again, rules are rules.

Additional link:

Race results

Lemaitre Streaks to 9.92s!

Christophe Lemaitre, for the nth time, lowered his French 100m record to 9.92s. Lemaitre edged out walloped fellow youngster Jimmy Vicaut, the newly-minted European Junior Champion, for the French national title.

The rangy Lemaitre started sluggishly (as usual), as Yannick Lesourd powered on to an early lead. In his trademark second-half burst, Lemaitre turned on the afterburners en route to his seventh trip under the ten-second barrier. It was a high quality field as Vicaut (10.07s) and Martial Mbandjock (10.17s) strutted world-class times, speaking volumes about the depth of French athletics.

Read the IAAF write-up here

The 21-year old shaved off two-hundredths of a second from his erstwhile PB, a new European U23 record (his fourth for this year), the ninth fastest time in 2011 and the third fastest time by European since Francis Obikwelu (9.86s) and Linford Christie (9.87s).

With Lemaitre’s penchant for last-ditch heroics, it is apt to compare the Frenchman to nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis – in the sprints, at least. Lewis clocked 9.92s and 9.99s en route to winning the Seoul and Los Angeles Olympic Games. But then again, those were vastly different circumstances than today’s.

View more posts about Lemaitre here

Nevertheless, expect Lemaitre to at least barge into the 100m and 200m finals come Daegu.

2011 SPAR European Team Championships Day 2 Wrap-up: Russia Stamps Class

Thanks to Eurosport, I missed a good one-half of the final day events. But then again, watching an athletics meet on the boob tube (live at that!) is a rarity in the Philippines.

The conditions were a lot harsher than the bright, sunny first day. Winds were blowing as strong as 3.0m/s. The Men’s Pole Vault was even moved to an indoor venue, away from the rain-soaked Olympic Stadium in Stockholm. From the live updates of the EAA site, as well as informative on-the-go Twitter updates, I stayed updated with my favorite events.

Read the Day 1 wrap-up here

Andy Turner makes it a hurdling double for the British, as he took victory in the sprint hurdles in 13.42s. Despite running into a 2.4 m/s headwind, the European champion won by a massive margin over France’s Garfield Darien (13.62s).

The Czech Republic’s Petr Svoboda, who had a fine indoor season, did not take part.

Russia’s Tatyana Dektyareva Татьяна Валерьевна Дектярева took the 100m hurdles over an in-form Alina Talai Алина Талай of Belarus, finalist at the 2011 Paris European indoor championships. The Russian stopped the clock at 13.16s to Talai’s 13.19s. Dektyareva and Talai ran in different heats. The Belorussian took the scalp of American-born British record holder Tiffany Ofili-Porter (13.28s) in the “A” race.

An in-form Carolina Klüft won second place behind the magnificent Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина at the long jump, as the former registered the best jump of her career since 2008, according to an EAA report.

Note: There are clips of Kluft’s and Klishina’s final jumps at the 100mH video above.

Read “Darya beats Klüft at the SPAR Euro Team Champs Long Jump.”

Christophe Lemaitre ran a classy 20.28s despite running into a 2.8 m/s head wind, giving France the full complement of twenty-four points as double sprinting champion.

Germany’s reigning world champion, Robert Harting, took the men’s Discus (65.63m). On the distaff side, Ukraine’s Kateryna Karsak (63.35m) took gold over Russia’s Darya Pishchalnikova Дарья Витальевна Пищальникова (61.09m)

For a more in-depth look at Day 2, read the EAA article here

Emma Green-Tregaro, fresh from beating the great Blanka Vlasic in New York a week earlier, clung on to a narrow 1.89m first place victory in the high jump. Green-Tregaro, struggling in the terrible conditions like the rest of the athletes, failed to clear 1.93m. Ruth Beitia and Irina Gordeyeva Ирина Гордеева finished second and third, respectively, with identical marks of 1.89m, but lost on countback to the in-form Swede.

Ukraine’s Maksym Mazuryk Максим Мазурик took the men’s pole vault, clearing a season’s best of 5.72m to edge out Germany’s Malte Mohr (5.72m) who lost narrowly lost on countback. France’s Renaud Lavillenie, the European indoor champion, languished at a dismal fifth place (5.50m) after missing all three attempt at the winning height.

Russia took both relays, solidifying its grasp on the overall championship. There was some controversy in the women’s 4x100m relay, with the British team getting initially disqualified then reinstated. In the men’s races, the British 4x400m squandered a potential podium finish after a bungled final baton exchange.

Russia scored a massive 385 points over Germany’s 331.5 points. Britain fell to fourth place (289) after the relay fiasco, finishing behind the inspired performance of Ukraine (304).

The victorious Russian team celebrates (Photo from EAA)

In general, the quality of the competition was quite high, as several world-leading marks and championship records were set. Despite the relatively low turnout of spectators, the team spirit was electric. Groups of athletes wearing the same colors were seen bunching together whilst watching the festivities. There was one particularly touching scene where Barbora Špotáková, fresh from competing at the javelin, gave a high five to compatriot Zuzana Hejnová, who had crossed the finish line after winning the 400m low hurdles. The Team Championships is a rare take on mostly individually oriented sport.

The next SPAR European Team Championships will be held in Britain in 2013, as Helsinki holds the European Outdoor Championships next year.

Additional link:

Complete results

2011 SPAR European Team Championships Wrap-up: Day 1

I was looking forward to three hours’ worth of athletics action, thanks to Eurosport’s live coverage of the 2011 SPAR European Team Championships (ETC) in Stockholm, Sweden. Alas, it started feebly enough, with Eurosport airing a pre-Wimbledon tennis match for the first thirty minutes. The live feed finally started at around 9:30 PM, but stopped abruptly by 10:00 PM! It was annoying to say the least.

The European Team Championships is innovative in the sense that it’s a team competition, as the name suggests. This is in stark contrast to the Olympics, where total medal standings are not officially observes by the IOC, since the object of the Olympics is individual performance. Participating countries earn points depending on the performance of its respective men’s and women’s teams. Various European countries are divided into separate divisions (1st to 3rd divisions), with the cream of the crop slugging it out at aforesaid big league. The top performers of each division are promoted, whilst the minnows are relegated.

Read my post on the 2010 SPAR European Team Championships here

I was able to watch the women’s 100m dash, men’s shot put, men’s long jump and men’s 400m dash. After which, Eurosport showed nothing but tennis. Thanks to Youtube, I could still catch up with the highlights of the exciting, high quality competition.

The following is a brief rundown of my favorite athletics events:

1.) Men’s 100m dash:

The highlight of Day 1 would have to be Christophe Lemaitre’s 9.95s performance, his second national record in barely month’s time. Lemaitre had just ran 9.96s in Montreuil, almost beating Yohan Blake at the tape.

In Stockholm, Lemaitre sported a vastly improved start. The mercurial Dwain Chambers (10.07s) had a narrow half-step lead by halfway mark, where Lemaitre turned on his afterburners to set the fastest time by a European since the 2004 season, according to an EAA report. Nigerian-born Portuguese Francis Obikwelu, the European record holder at 9.86s, was a distant third.

2.) Men’s 400m Low Hurdles:

Britain’s Dai Greene stamped his class on the one-lap hurdle field, winning in a new Championship record time of 49.21s. Greene, the British team captain, is fresh from a successful 2010 season where he won both the Commonwealth and European outdoor crowns.

3.) Men’s Long Jump:

The 2009 European Junior Champion, Aleksandr Menkov Александр Менков of Russia, won over the host country’s Michel Torneus and Britain’s Chris Tomlinson.

Menkov flew to 8.20m a mere centimeter away from Torneus’ 8.19m. The 2010 European Champion, Christian Reif of Germany, was in fourth place at 8.10m.

4.) Women’s Pole Vault:

Germany’s Silke Spiegelburg lost to the veteran Anna Rogowska of Poland on countback. Both vaulters set world leading times of 4.75m, with the former having one failure at the previous height.

Jiřina Ptáčníková of the Czech Republic (4.60m) and Aleksandra Kiryashova Александра Киряшова of Russia (4.50m) both set respective season’s best performance to round up the third and fourth place spots.

5.) Women’s Triple Jump:

Ukraine’s Olha Saladukha Ольга Саладуха set a new world-leading mark as she hopped, stepped and skipped to a new championship record of 14.85m.

Italy’s Simona La Mantia placed second with a best jump of 14.29m.

At the end of the first day, defending champion Russia is perched comfortably on top with 213 points, followed by Germany (183.5) and Britain (166).

I’ll be watching the replay of Day 1 later this afternoon and the live feed of Day 2 this evening. I wish to the high heavens that Eurosport won’s screw up this time!

Additional links:

Home page of the SPAR European Team Championships

Read the EAA Day 1 Wrap here

View Youtube videos here and here

View Eurosport Asia’s TV sched here

Blake Eludes Fast-finishing Lemaitre in Montreuil

Christophe Lemaitre scalped a handful of formidable foes during the Meeting International d’Athlétisme in Montreuil a few days back. The 2010 European double sprint champion almost pipped Jamaica’s Yohan Blake (9.95s) at the line, losing by one-hundredth of a second to Usain Bolt’s training partner. Blake is a 2008 Olympic 4x100m relay gold medalist and has a wind-aided personal best of 9.80s.

Lemaitre had a good start en route to lowering his own French national record to 9.95s. Trinidad and Tobago’s Daniel Bailey was third at 10.00s. Lemaitre’s European rival, Dwain Chambers, trailed in fourth place (10.09s).

Read the IAAF article here

Is it just me, or has Christophe Lemaitre improved on his sprinting form? Lemaitre’s noticeable side-to-side wobbling seemed to have lessened. Try to compare Lemaitre’s sprinting form in Montreuil with his 10.26s run in Kawasaki last September. See for yourself!

Never mind the fact that Lemaitre is the first sub-10 sprinter of non-West African descent. The Frenchman is a relatively raw sprinting talent that has tremendous potential. A 9.96s time in the century dash for a 20-year old is a fine performance indeed.

Despite being light-years away from the eye-popping 100m dash times of the Jamaicans and Americans, it will be interesting to see a competitive European amongst the top 8 of the blue riband effect come the Daegu World Championships.

Kim Collins’ Second Wind

The come-backing Kim Collins is on fire!

He  retired at the end of the 2009 Berlin World Championships, but returned to high-level competition early this year. In several indoor meets in Germany, the sprinter from the small island country of Saint Kitts and Nevis, rewrote the 2011 top lists twice. He stopped the clock at 6.52s in Dusseldorf. A few days later, he bettered this mark by two-hundredths of second in Karlsruhe. Unfortunately, a thigh injury prevented Collins from replicating his razor sharp form in the final.

The 34-year old had won his fair share of accolades. Collins was crowned world champion in the 100m dash in 2003. Aside from this, he had won a bronze in the same event in Helsinki 2005 and a 200m bronze at the 2001 Edmonton World Championships.

In Paris, Collins outclassed a star-studded (some, steroid-laced) field which included the likes of disgraced former world record holder Tim Montgomery and Briton Dwain Chambers. From Lane 1, Collins had a blistering start. He clung on first place (10.07s) in a blanket finish with 100m world junior record holder Darrel Brown (10.08s) from Trinidad and Tobago and Britain’s Darren Campbell (10.08s).

It was the slowest winning time in Championship history, tying Carl Lewis’ 10.07s time at the inaugural edition in Helsinki back in 1983.  Nevertheless, a world champion is still a world champion. Not many elite athletes can call themselves that.

To be honest, I only appreciated the significance of Collins’ feat whilst writing this entry. Compared to his competitors, the Caribbean sprinter was minuscule in terms of both height and heft. He was far from the stereotype of a burly speedster. There were no brash displays of arrogance when he won; Collins did not showboat. He just smiled as he proudly waved his island country’s flag, basking under the warmth of his first major crown.

Collins last dipped below the 10-second barrier in 2003, where he ran 9.99s in Zurich. He has a personal best of 9.98s from way back in 2002 and 2003 (he ran this four times) – modest by today’s standards. He has qualified for the Olympic 100m dash final twice, in Sydney and in Athens. In Beijing, the affable Collins placed 6th in the 200m final.

It’s good to see old hands such as Collins achieve stellar marks. He has claimed the scalp of fiery upstarts like Mike Rodgers and the under-performing Christophe Lemaitre. Rodgers is 9-years younger than Collins, whilst Lemaitre is around 14-years Collins’  junior. At the rate Collins is going, he might just surprise everyone (but himself!) in Daegu come August!

Kawasaki Super Meet: Lemaitre rules 100m dash

Christophe Lemaitre outclassed Wallace Spearmon at the Kawasaki Super Meet in Japan, the traditional finale for the outdoor season. A 1.6 m/s head wind denied the speedsters of low-10 or sub-10 second performances in the 100m dash. The Frenchman overtook the fast-starting Naoki Tsukahara, who dropped down to fourth place, as Spearmon and Ramil Guliyev finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

The French record holder stopped the clock at 10.26s against the American’s 10.47s. Guliyev of Azerbaijan (who edged out Lemaitre at the 200m dash in the 2009 European Junior Championships) finished in third (10.50s).

Spearmon is the most illustrious sprinter Lemaitre had beaten. Even if the American specializes in the 200m dash (19.65s PB), Spearmon’s 100m PB is one-hundredths of a second faster than European record holder. Aside from Spearmon’s World Championship bronzes, the American finished third place at the Beijing Olympics, only to get disqualified for stepping out of his lane.

Even if the victory came at the tail-end of the outdoor season, a win is still a win.

Additional links

IAAF article

Yomiuri article

Full results

Photo credits:

msn.com

Video credits:

20pregreatrun16

takarajimajp

2010 BCN Wrap-up: Underdogs and Finishing Kicks

The past two weeks have been quite exciting for this track & field buff. I had fun watching the future of athletic strut their stuff at the 2010 Moncton World Junior Championships. A week later, the Barcelona European Athletics Championships took place. And boy, did I have my fill of high caliber track & field action.

Despite the absence of marquee names such as Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and the African distance specialists, the quality of the competition was superb since the cream of the crop of events like the heptathlon, the throws and the jumps originate from this storied continent. Europe, after all, is the hotbed of track & field.

Even though I’m thousands of kilometers away and every inch an Asian, I became so engrossed at the Euro Championships that I devoured every single video clip and news article that piqued my interest. Thanks to broadband internet, it seemed as if I was actually amidst the crowd, savoring the championship festivities.

Experience a panoramic view of the Barcelona Olympic Stadium

What I liked best about the 2010 Euro Champs are the underdog victories and last-ditch bursts of speed to the tape.

The Monstrous, Finishing Kicks (or last ditch leaps)

3.) 4x100m (M): Martial Mbandjock’s anchor leg:

2.) Long Jump (M): Christian Reif rewriting Robert Emmiyan’s championship record with his final jump:

1.) 200m (M): Christophe Lemaitre erasing Christian Malcolm’s lead:

The Underdogs

7.) 1500m run (W): Nuria Fernandez’s first major championship crown:

The 33-year old overcame fast-starting world leader Anna Alminova in a free-for-all dash to the tape.

6.) 4x400m (M): Russia wins first-ever 4x400m relay medal since 2002 – a gold at that!

5.) 200m dash (W): Myriam Soumare’s golden half-lap:

The French sprinter had the slowest PB among all finalists, but still managed to shave off a significant chunk of her previous best to win the gold:

4.) Decathlon: Romain Barras‘ Decathlon victory!

Barras hung-on to a 5-point lead coming into the 1500m run – and his first major crown.

3.) 4x100m (W): Ukraine grabs relay gold:

Ukraine, with its nifty passing, wins the 400m relay crown – without a Top 10 sprinter in its lineup!

2.) 400m dash (M): Kevin Borlee does a Marc Raquil:

The “other” Borlee twin came out of nowhere all the way to first place, ahead of his more illustrious brother, Jonathan, and two Britons.

1.) 100m dash (W): Verena Sailer’s decisive dive (and Soumare’s unexpected bronze)

I’m just a sucker for underdog stories. The football movies “Rudy” and “The Replacements” are one of my favorites. There’s an infectious magic found in those unexpected victories. It doesn’t have to a gold medal. Once an athlete exceeds his/her expectations and does the improbable, the sheer joy the athlete exudes is indeed priceless.

Being an athlete myself, I know how it feels to chase something distant, to give your all for a single larger-than-life goal.

Perhaps that’s why we love sports so much. Despite its fair share of scandals, sport brings out the best in our being human. Those Herculean feats inspire and sustain, enables us to smile more often amidst the reality that is life – to dream a little bit higher.

Video Credits:

EuroSport

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

David Alerte does a Redmond

Take a look at the Barcelona European Championships 200m final results. Ahead of everyone is the superb French speedster, Christophe Lemaitre (20.37s), who pipped Britain’s Christian Malcolm (20.38s) by 1/100th of a second in a monstrous last-ditch burst to the tape.

At the bottom of the 8-person list is another Frenchman, David Alerte. Beside his name is a time more suitable for a relay split, not a 200m dash final – 1:27.42.

Alerte injured a muscle 80m into the race, ruining his chances for a podium finish. Courageously, the French sprinter walked to the finish line, reminiscent of Derek Redmond’s emphatic act of willpower, which, incidentally happened at the very same Olympic stadium.

The stadium did not burst into cheers (or the occasional tear) as Alerte walked painfully down the track, perhaps because (1) Alerte’s father did not come out of the stands to assist his hobbling son or (2) simply because the European Championships is not as big as the Olympics.

Hey, David, at least you didn’t get a DSQ like Derek did!

Indeed, Lemaitre’s dramatic finish is one for the record books (a good meet so far for the Les Bleus, after their World Cup embarrassment). But I just have to commend Alerte for finishing the race and embodying the Olympic ideal that “the most important thing is not winning, but taking part.”

David Alerte, I salute you!

Additional links:

EAA article

200m results

Photo credits:

Daylife

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