Tag Archives: david oliver

Monaco Diamond League: 110m Hurdles

Aries Merritt ran below 13 seconds at the Monaco leg of the Samsung Diamond League. With the Olympics opening barely a week away, this was a strong signal that he really does mean business.

Merritt took off like a bullet, with a reaction time of 0.112s. A recent convert to the seven-stride starting pattern, the former U.S. collegiate champion cleared the first barrier ahead of the other hurdlers.

As the race progressed, so did Merritt’s lead over the classy field that included Jason Richardson and David Oliver.

Merritt tied his personal best of 12.93s, the fastest time in the world this year, for the third time this season! Richardson, the 2011 World Champion, got second place (13.08s), with the newly-minted European Champion Sergey Shubenkov (13.09s) breathing down his neck all the way to the finish line. Oliver was fourth in 13.14s.

Whereas Richardson had the tendency to hit hurdles, Merritt has been flawless over the barriers. I’ve often overlooked Merritt when it comes to technical proficiency, particularly because of his high lead arm carriage. But he clears hurdles like a beast – a controlled and serene one at that. Merritt’s lead leg action is remarkably compact. He is not as aggressive and brooding as Oliver. Merritt has this certain kind of relaxed flair reminiscent of a Roger Kingdom.

Shubenkov was the revelation of the race. Although he had first run his 13.09s national record at the Helskinki European Championships preliminaries, doing it again on Monaco – against the full firepower of the American hurdling nation, at that – is no mean feat.

Overall, it was an entertaining race to watch. You can see from the expressions of the hurdlers prior to race, Shubenkov and Merritt in particular, the sheer love and joy hurdling. There was none of that “we’re all grumpy professionals and we do this for the money” crap!

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The Sprint Hurdles”

I’m still sticking with my forecast for London 2012, albeit with slight revisions: Liu Xiang 刘翔 shall win a close fight for gold against Merritt, with Richardson and Shubenkov slugging it out for the bronze.

Results (from the Samsung Diamond League website):

The Adidas Grand Prix Hurdles Fiasco

At first, I had qualms about the “no-false” rule in athletics.  It’s not that hard to re-start a sprint race, unlike in swimming where the process of climbing up a pool is relatively more cumbersome. The old rule seems aptly just: the second athlete who false starts gets disqualified. But then again, rules are rules. The implementation of the no-false start policy is marginally better for TV coverage, as it facilitates a quicker turnover of events.

But what happens when an official is at fault?

When I was watching the Adidas Grand Prix a few weeks back, I was appalled by the quality of the official starters. The pause before the retort of the gun was too long. Naturally, this unsettled the sprinters more – the 110m high hurdlers in particular. The sprint hurdles is a highly technical event that puts emphasis on rhythm. Once you have these consistently long pauses in the start, the hurdlers become unsettled.

Aries Merritt, the newly-minted American record holder, was shown a red card because of an early twitch in his foot. He was allowed to run under protest, but false-started again (I won’t delve into this running-under-protest issue. I have to do my research first). The third attempt to restart the race was just ugly, with Jamaican Hansle Parchment twitching his foot. By this time, David Oliver was visibly pissed. He shook his head as he made his way back to the starting line. Jason Richardson, the 2011 World Champion, sat down on the track and gave out an exasperated smile.

When the race finally got underway, everyone’s rhythm was thrown off equilibrium. Parchment clipped the second hurdle and lost his balance, dropping out of the race. Dwight Thomas crashed into the final barrier and fell flat on the track. Both incidents were scary, from the vantage point of a sprint hurdler. It’s a good thing nothing serious happened to Parchment and Thomas.

The Jamaican even managed to finish the race despite his nasty crash. My hat is off to Thomas for doing a Derek Redmond.

What was billed as a match up between Merritt, Richardson and Oliver turned into a farce. Richardson won the event in 13.18s, with Jeff Porter (13.26s), the promising Cuban Orlando Ortega (13.35s), and Oliver (13.37s) rounding up the next three.

Flawless Liu Xiang 刘翔 Triumphs in Tracktown, USA!

I was supposed to watch the replay of the Prefontaine Classic, instead of staying up late to watch the live Euro Sport feed (I got home late). But I could not sleep. Soon enough, the clock struck 2:30 AM. I turned on the boob tube and my eyes were glued. I wasn’t disappointed.

Read: “Prefontaine Classic Preview: Clash of the Hurdling Titans”

The 110m high hurdles field featured a stellar lineup. At the heart of Tracktown, USA. Liu Xiang 刘翔 faced off with the best sprint hurdlers the United States had to offer. The 2004 Olympic Champion was the fastest off the blocks (0.131). As soon as the race commenced, Jason Richardson was 1/4 of a stride behind Liu. On Richardson’s left, Aries Merritt felled the first two hurdles and had to play catch up.

Liu was the portrait of perfection as he skimmed over the 1.067-meter high barriers and blazed through the three steps in between. The former world record built up his lead with every hurdle flight. By the halfway mark, he was pulling away from Richardson and Merritt. The 2012 World Indoor Champion, Merritt, recovered his bearing by the eight hurdler, as he overtook the fading Richardson.

Victory!!! (Photo from REUTERS/Steve Dipaola/Yahoo Sports)

The Chinese athletics star was in a class of his own. Upon clearing the tenth and final hurdle, Liu turned on his afterburners and dove to the tape, stopping the clock in 12.87s – faster than his erstwhile world record of 12.88s in 2006. Had the wind-reading been within the allowable limit, Liu’s swashbuckling performance would have tied Dayron Robles‘ world record.

The race was reminscent of Liu’s world record setting run in Lausanne back in 2006, with another American, with Merritt playing the role of Dominique Arnold (who set a then American record of 12.90s).

Lost in the wake of Liu’s phenomenal hurdling was Merritt, who dipped below the 13.00s barrier for the first time, albeit with a 2.4 m/s tail wind. The troika of Richardson (13.11s), Dexter Faulk (13.12s) and David Oliver (13.13s) was separated by just one-hundredths of a second.

Even if it was three-o’clock in the morning in the Philippines, I raised my arms in triumph and cheered like a madman at Liu’s victory! Seeing him in cloud is infectious! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Liu is definitely back!

Results:

Screenshot from the Samsung Diamond League website

P.S.

The IAAF article on the Eugene 110m high hurdles read “Liu Xiang stuns with 12.87w Victory in Eugene.” His race, despite the tail wind, was one for the books. It was a stellar run, a picture-perfect performance, and a dominant display of hurdling. But it certainly wasn’t stunning. The word evokes surprise. Liu Xiang has a personal best of 12.88s and had run 12.97s this season. Him running 12.87w is not surprising – or stunning.

Prefontaine Classic Preview: Clash of the Hurdling Titans

The 110m high hurdles in the 38th Prefontaine Classic has the makings of an epic race. Eugene, the United States’ Tracktown, is the fourth stop of the Samsung Diamond League.

Read: “Pre Classic Men’s 110-Meter Hurdles – Can It Get any Better Than This?”

For the first time since the controversial sprint hurdles final in Daegu last year, Liu Xiang 刘翔 will square off with world record holder Dayron Robles. Not to be outdone, a formidable array of American hurdling power is slated to defend home soil. At the forefront of the U.S. challenge is 2011 World Champion Jason Richardson, 2012 World Indoor Champion Aries Merritt and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver.

Britain’s Andy Turner, the bronze medalist from Daegu, will also be in the thick of battle, as well as Liu’s understudy, Dongpeng Shi 史冬鹏 .

An interesting addition is Ashton Eaton, the heptathlon world record holder. Eaton, who attended the University of Oregon, will go head-to-head against the aforesaid sprint hurdling specialists onhis home track.

In terms of personal bests, Robles leads the pack with his current 12.87s world record. Liu (12.88s) and Oliver (12.94s) are the only one who had run below the 13-second barrier. Merritt (13.03s) and Richardson (13.04s) have almost identical lifetime bests. Shi had run an impressive 13.19s at the Osaka World Championships final, but have failed to replicate that form the past five years. Turner (13.22s) and Eaton (13.35s) round up the bottom two.

Liu, the 2012 world leader with 12.97s, is my pick to win the race (of course!), in light of his dominating performance at the recently concluded Shanghai Diamond League. I expect Robles (who is still recovering from an injury) to figure in a tight battle for second place with the in-form American sprint hurdling troika.

The talented Eaton could spring a surprise. If Shi and Turner perform below par, they could get beaten by a multi-eventer.

I know I’m getting ahead of myself when I say this, but the Eugene protagonists could possibly figure in the greatest sprint hurdling spectacle of all-time. We could see a new world record, should the conditions be conducive. The foursome of Liu, Oliver, Merrit and Richardson could all dip under 13-seconds. We might even see a rare dead heat! Regardless of the outcome, this race shall be one for the books.

Liu Xiang 刘翔 Clocks 12.97s in Shanghai!

Not even a rain-soaked track and a 0.4 m/s headwind could slow Liu Xiang 刘翔  .

Competing in his home city of Shanghai, Liu stamped his class on a loaded sprint hurdles field. The 2004 Athens Olympic champion came out of the blocks well, trailing Jason Richardson (13.13s) by the smallest of margins. As the race unfolded, Liu got his rhythm going.

He was dominant in the latter stages, completely obliterating the formidable American hurdling troika of Richardson, David Oliver (13.16s), and Aries Merritt, the erstwhile 2011 world leader and the 2012 World Indoor champion (at Liu’s expense). Liu stopped the clock in 12.97s, his fastest time since since 2007! This is also his first foray under the 13-second barrier in five years.

Liu ran with unbridled intensity. It was as if he competed in a major championship final, instead of a Diamond League race. Considering the quality of the competition, Liu couldn’t just disappoint the Chinese spectators – at this hometown at that. Liu dove to finish line, despite his massive lead. He took off his vest as soon as he hit the tape, immediately beginning his lap of honor. Liu’s display of gratitude was touching.

With the Olympics just around the corner, the former world record holder has sent a clear message to his rivals that he means business.

Results from the Diamond League website

Istanbul 2012: 60m Hurdles Heats Wrap-up

I’ve missed the morning session of Day 2 of the ongoing World Indoor Championships in Istanbul because I had athletics training. Luckily, the clips of the first two heats have already been uploaded to Youtube.

With Dayron Robles pulling out of Istanbul because of a leg injury (and possibly, motivation problems), the prospect of a legendary clash between Liu Xiang and Robles has been delayed. The newly-crowned world champion Jason Richardson and American record holder David Oliver are missing from the start list.

Liu, the former world record holder in the outdoor distance, is the undeniable favorite to win the title. He’s in sterling shape, having set an Asian Record of 7.41s a few weeks back. Liu already has a full set of World Indoor Championships medals from 2003, 2004 and 2008, when he won a bronze, silver and gold, respectively.

On paper, Liu is the fastest competitor amongst the Istanbul participants this season. Aries Merritt (7.43s A), Russia’s Konstantin Shabanov (7.52s), and France’s Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (7.54s)  round up the next three. Kevin Craddock, with a season’s best of 7.46s A didn’t start his heat.

View the 2012 60m hurdles top list here

Martinot-Lagarde, the 2010 World Junior Champion, won the first heat in classy fashion. He had a great start, and ran abreast with four other guys in his heat before gradually powering his way to first place, edging out South Africa’s Lehann Fourie by one-hundredths of a second.

Liu Xiang had a relatively slow reaction time (0.214s), like most of the sprinters and hurdlers competing in the 60m distance. Perhaps he was trying to be careful, in light of the unexpected exits of several big names due to the starting fiasco in Istanbul. Britain’s Andrew Pozzi took the second heat in 7.61s, as Liu (7.62s) slowed down to finish line.

Merritt (7.66s) and Emanuele Abate of Italy (7.71s) won the next two heats.

My picks for top two are Liu and Merritt. Liu, with his injury-plagued seasons finally behind him is hungry for a world title. It’s high time the hard working Merritt wins his share of the limelight too.

The field is open for third place. If I were a betting (which I am not), my money’s on Martinot-Lagarde. His laid-back demeanor reminds me so much of Liu. Happy hurdlers are dangerous competitors. Expect the Martinot-Lagarde to spring a surprise in Istanbul.

Additional Link:

60m hurdles heats results

Daegu 2011 110m High Hurdles Final: Controversial

Dayron Robles was well ahead of everyone when the gun fired.Towards the latter parts of the race, Liu Xiang 刘翔 caught up, with Jason Richardson trailing closely behind. As the fast-finishing Liu cleared the penultimate hurdle, Robles’ lead arm (right) accidentally swiped Liu’s trail arm (left). The Chinese gets off-balanced because of the contact, causing him to lose his rhythm in between the barriers (a crucial mistake since Liu was gaining!). Then it happened again over the tenth hurdler.

Click here to view the results

The Cuban (13.14s) padded his lead over Liu (13.27s) as Richardson (13.16s) overtook the Chinese for silver. As Liu sprinted the last 14.02m to the finish line, he was glaring at Robles. The contact visibly irked the 2004 Athens Olympic Gold medalist.

Having been a keen observer of Liu Xiang’s technique since 2002, I’ve noticed that he tends hug at the left-most section of his lane (never veering off the designated lane of course). Never since 2002 have I seen Liu hit another hurdler because of the aforesaid preference. As Liu closed the gap between him and Robles, some contact was bound to occur in an event like this. (since a sprint hurdler’s lead arm swings widely, as the lead leg snaps down). Contact between sprint hurdlers is common.

Initially, I was defending Robles, saying that the contact was accidental. Come to think of it, would a sprint hurdler hurtling at full speed over 1.067m high barriers even bother to grab a competitor’s arm? The high hurdles entail an uncanny level of concentration. Such a deplorable action would surely break one’s rhythm. This merited a closer examination of the slo-mo clips.

Liu and Robles were almost abreast when they cleared the eighth hurdle (which Robles clipped. Take note in the photo below that Robles right arm swings normally.

With Liu breathing down Robles’ neck, the Cuban’s lead arm swung a little higher, hitting Liu’s arm in the process. Was this deliberate? I don’t think so (Liu and Oliver also opine that the contact was unintentional. See the quotes below). Perhaps the pressure of a head-to-head duel somehow tensed up Robles (he did clip the seventh hurdle). Like I said, grabbing someone’s arm was probably the last thing on Robles’ mind at this point.

Both athletes lost their balance, as a result. The sideways movement was more apparent in Liu. With Robles veering into the right side of his lane, a more forceful contact was made between Robles’ widely swinging right arm and Liu’s trail arm, impeding the latter.

China then filed a protest, with Robles getting disqualified to obstruction. Cuba reacted with its own counter-protest, but this apparently was also thumbed down by the officials. With this development, Richardson and Liu were elevated to gold and silver, respectively. Briton Andy Turner (13.44s) climbed to bronze.

In my opinion, it wasn’t so much because of the clash of arms that got Robles disqualified. hell, hurdlers do this all the time (especially the ones with the flailing arms). The fact that his arms veered into Liu’s lane as it made contact was the most probable cause.

I’d rather wait for these emotions to die down – and for the official reports to get published. Although I’m a hardcore Liu Xiang fan, a disqualification is a harsh move, in light of the nature of the discipline. I’d love to hear the official statements of both Liu and Robles to put some light into the controversy.

As an athlete myself, I’d hate to win by a technicality. I’d rather win on the merits of my running, not because of a rule book.

I’ve watched the clips countless of times the past hour. Robles’ actions after the race imply that the contact was unintentional. As Robles crossed the finish line, he put his hand to his forehead in an apparent act of frustration or regret. He slowed down abruptly (instead of running all the way to the curve as victors of the 110m usually do) to hug Liu, in an apparent gesture of apology.

David Oliver: “People who think Robles did it on purpose are crazy and haven’t seen his races, late in races he’s been getting wide with his arms. Hitting that 8th hurdle just made it worse and why would you do something intentionally that us going to mess you up as well.”

Andy Turner: “‘I want to cry, but I don’t want to cry – I didn’t want to win a medal by default, but I have won a World Championship bronze medal and I’m over the moon with that.”

Liu Xiang: “Robles hit me twice, at the ninth hurdle he pulled at me but I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. I lost my balance when I came to the 10th hurdle because of the bump. If not for the incident, I would have been the gold medallist.”

Jason Richardson: “Whatever reward I get from doing my best, I will accept. If it’s gold, silver or bronze, it doesn’t matter.”

Daegu 2011 110m High Hurdles Heats Recap

There were hardly any surprises after the 110m high hurdles heats. The defending champion from Barbados, Ryan Brathwaite, took an early ignominious exit (13.57s). But then again, his 2011 has been less than inspiring.

The trio of Liu Xiang 刘翔 (13.20s), Dayron Robles (13.42s) and David Oliver (13.27s) made it through, but it was Jason Richardson who topped all qualifiers with his 13.19s time. I’d have to say that both Liu and Robles look in-form, as they practically jogged through the heats. Oliver, in contrast, was a tad tense (well, he always hurdles that way).

The semis are scheduled at 7:00 PM Daegu time, with the finals being held at 9:25 PM.

My fearless forecast still sticks: Liu Xiang for gold and Dayron Robles for silver. Expect Richardson and Oliver to figure in a tight battle for bronze. Casting aside (momentarily) my obvious bias for my idol Liu Xiang, picking a someone amongst the stellar cast is a difficult task.

Read more of this post

Nuances of the Lead Arm Action

Although I employ a crude hybrid of the single- and double-arm shifts, my ideal hurdling form is most certainly the former. I just don’t have the necessary skill level to employ an efficient single-arm hurdling action. In terms of hurdling skill, it is obvious that I’m a big fan of Liu Xiang 刘翔, as well as Allen Johnson and Colin Jackson.

When it comes to arm action, I’m a stickler for the lead arm extension. As the lead leg straightens, the lead arm stretches out as well – as if reaching for the lead foot. Such arm action provides balance, by countering the extension of the lead leg. Swinging the lead arm outwards is a common error amongst beginners. It obviously increases the hang time of the clearance.

There are some hurdlers who bend the forearm all the way inside, with the lead forearm running parallel with the chest. For a hurdler, this is a matter of preference. I, for one, try to keep my arm action as faithful to the simple up-and-down movement of sprinting. Taking the lead arm all the way across the chest, in my opinion, complicates the hurdling action.

But then again, this is a matter of preference. So long as the arms aren’t wildly flailing and the center of gravity remains level, various nuances of hurdling are acceptable. Perhaps such an arm action enables the hurdler facilitate a more forceful trail leg snap, thanks to the increased leverage provided by the lead arm.

Practitioners of this style include the Vukicevic siblings – Christina and Vladimir. Trained by their father, the hurdling technique of the Norwegians are strikingly similar. I stumbled upon clips of their South Africa training session, one can say that they are mirror images of each other!

The older Christina, taller than most women hurdlers, is gradually making a name for herself in the international scene. In an event where speedsters tend to get away with flaws in technique, Christina’s hurdling is most efficient. The younger Vladimir, the 2010 World Junior silver medalist, is on-track to following her sister’s footsteps (or shall we say, three-step?).

Hurdlers aren’t chipped from one single block. One physical activities determines one’s hurdling style. The big and powerful David Oliver for instance, is more aggressive, in light of his background in American Football. Liu Xiang and Colin Jackson, in contrast, are pure technicians, relying on a fluidly classy form. The difference is technique and, ultimately, style makes the sprint hurdles a lot more interesting to watch.

Liu Xiang 刘 翔 Wallops David Oliver in Shanghai

I was about to go to bed last night, when I stumbled upon tweets about the ongoing Shanghai Diamond League meeting. I rushed to the TV and tuned in to Eurosport, hoping to chance upon a live feed. Lo and behold, my favorite sports channel was beaming it live!

I missed most of the events since I tuned in late. However, I caught glimpses of Mitchell Watt’s and Tero Pitkamaki’s victories in their respective events. A quick check of the schedule showed that the 110m high hurdles was slated as the final event – unsurprising, since Shanghai is Liu Xiang’s hometown.

David Oliver came into the meet as a strong favorite, in light of his undefeated 2010 season. Since returning from his tragic foot injury, Liu Xiang 刘 翔 had yielded to David Oliver in all of their races, starting with the World Indoor Championships in Doha back in March 2010 – where Liu finished way beyond the podium. Liu ended 2010 on a high note, showing glimpses of his old self en route to winning his third consecutive Asian Games crown.

Liu had recently shifted from the conventional 8-stride start to the 7-stride approach favored by Oliver and Dayron Robles. The 2004 Athens Olympic gold medalist appeared relax prior to the race. Oliver was wearing his usual poker face, hardly showing his teeth. One can sense a tad bit bit more tension on the face of the 2010 world leader. Liu wore his official Chinese team kit, in contrast to the other hurdlers. This was a significant gesture that the oft-injured former world record holder meant business.

The race was a no-contest right from the beginning. Liu was the fastest off the blocks with his reaction time of 0.146s. By the mid-race, Liu’s lead had ballooned to a full stride. The former world record holder uncharacteristically grazed the 4th, 7th and 9th hurdle. Nevertheless, Liu’s hurdling rhythm and form was top caliber. Hardly any momentum was lost in between barriers, as the Chinese champion seemed to go faster with every hurdle cleared. Oliver was his usual aggressive self, demolishing the 7th hurdle. As the Shanghai-native crossed the final hurdle, he looked from side-to-side and dove to the finish line like maniac!

It was reminiscent of his Olympic gold-medal run back in 2004. I was ecstatic! I felt like shouting to the top of my lungs! I was so happy that my hero is back on track.

At the end of the race, Liu’s superior technique held sway over Oliver’s less graceful style. Liu stopped the clock at 13.07s, a new world leading time. Oliver (13.18s), Aries Merritt (13.24s), Ryan Wilson (13.31s) and Dong Peng Shi 史冬鹏 (13.52s) rounded up the top 5.

Read the IAAF article here

Even Liu himself was shocked by the time. Prior to the race, the announcers mentioned that Liu expected to go near the 13.20s mark. With the World Championships in Daegu a mere months away, the prospect of a three-pronged duel in the sprint hurdles is dazzling.

Additional link:

110m high hurdles result

Early Afternoon Hurdling Thoughts

My hand-timed 14.9s in the 110m high hurdles (and my automatically-timed 15.52s) don’t stand for peanuts in the world scene. In the Philippines, these are modestly respectable times, but once I step out of my comfort zone, a slew of sub-15 and sub-14 hurdlers abound. Hence, I’ve often wondered what it feels like to run 14 seconds or 13 seconds. I’m not even talking about the crazy fast times of Liu Xiang 刘翔 and Dayron Robles (although in my constant day dreams I compete with those guys head-to-head!). In a sense, watching Southeast Asian-level or mid-tier elite athletes paint an achievable picture.

During last summer’s Philippine National Open, Malaysia’s Wan Sofian Rayzam Shah ran practically unopposed, notching an easy low-14 second win. I was awestruck at his sheer speed in between hurdles. He clears the hurdle with little wasted motion. With a personal best of 13.91s, no Filipino hurdler can match up with the 2007 SEA Games gold medalist.

For some reason, I was unable to find the 2007 SEA Games hurdles video. The next best thing was the 2010 MAAU video uploaded by Jad Adrian, a Malaysian sprinter. From the vantage point of the computer screen, Rayzam didn’t seem as fast. His hurdle clearance and arm-action are top notch, but he seems to float over the hurdles. And his lead leg seems to lock in midair. Rayzam stopped the clock at 14.19s, two-hundredths of a second off his personal best.

In the video suggestions tab in Youtube, I saw a hurdles clip from the 2009 Francophone Games. I clicked the thumbnail, and witnessed the Canadian hurdler Jared MacLeod outclass the competition with a 13.56s clocking. It was more than half-a-second better than Rayzam’s time. That being a mid-13 performance, the difference in speed and rhythm was evident. MacLeod was actually sprinting in between barriers, with nary a pause with each hurdle clearance. But still, he lacks the visible lead leg and trail leg snap and the saber-like lead arm of Liu.

Read more about MacLeod’s interesting hurdles journey here

MacLeod, being a World Championship semi-finalist, is leagues away from Rayzam.

Although I absolutely love watching the cream of the crop of the sprint hurdles compete, I’m also fascinated by the less popular athletes. Watching the likes of Rayzam and MacLeod removes the mystic aura so strong amongst the hurdling elite. They may not be in the same level as Liu, Robles and David Oliver, but for this 15-second hurdler, I look to Rayzam and Macleod with much envy!

Oliver Dominates Bascou, Liu in Karlsruhe

David Oliver was in scintillating form en route to ruling the 60m hurdles  at the  BW-Bank Meeting in Karslruhe. The burly American again ran 7.40s to match the time he set in the Sparkassen Cup a week earlier. Liu Xiang 刘翔 (7.55s) again finished a close 3rd, this time to France’s Dimitri Bascou (7.53s).

Oliver ran like a man possessed, demolishing two or three hurdles in the process. Had Bascou ran a little faster, he would have grazed Oliver, who tends to hog the rightmost side of the lane. Oliver hits the hurdle with his hamstrings, in such a way that forward motion isn’t impeded. Bascou, 4th during last year’s European Championships, ran the (indoor) race of his life in setting a new personal best – and claiming the scalp of the 2004 Olympic Champion.

Read the IAAF report here

Oliver, with his unique 7-step start is fastest off the blocks. Liu, who uses the traditional 8-stride pattern, was about half a stride behind the undisputed 2010 world leader.

I couldn’t help but notice how Oliver limped after the race. It was evident that something was mildly wrong. In a tweet, Oliver complained of a cramp in his calf but said it was “nothing serious.” I wish the best for Oliver. He’s a nice guy and a great competitor, in the mold of the long line gentlemen sprint hurdlers. This year has the makings of a banner season for the sprint hurdles, with Liu, Oliver and Dayron Robles squaring off at the Daegu World Championships.

Liu was able to shave off a huge five-hundredths of second off his 7.60s mark in Dusseldorf.

C’mon Liu! Show them what you got!

Additional video

Karlsruhe 1

Dayron Robles in Slo-Mo

I am not a Dayron Robles fan. Watching the fine clip below, however, reiterated Robles’ status as the world record holder.

What I don’t like about Robles’ form is his flailing trail arm. Instead of a straightforward swing like Liu Xiang 刘翔 and Colin Jackson, Robles’  left arm tends to push outwards first, before settling at the hip as the lead leg clears the hurdle. On a lesser note, Robles’ trail leg, unlike Liu’s, isn’t parallel to the hurdle crossbar upon clearance.

Read Liu Xiang vs. Dayron Robles

But then again, Robles’ excellent lead leg extension and trail leg action more than compensates for these minor deficiencies. The world record holder’s lead leg swoops over the hurdling at lightning speed. He brings his trail knee high underneath his shoulders. Robles’ leg action is picture perfect – a testament to Robles’ skills as a fine hurdling technician and to his coach, Santiago Arunez’s tried and tested coaching approach.

Irregardless, I still think that Liu Xiang will trump Robles and David Oliver come the Daegu 2011!

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: Brianna Glenn

Brianna Glenn is this week’s track beauty!

The American long jumper has a personal of 6.81m, set in 2008. In major meets, the 30-year old had finished 9th in the 2009 Berlin World Championships, leaping 6.59m. Recently, Glenn got 7th place at the IAAF Continental Cup held in Split, Croatia, with a modest leap of 6.28m.

Photos from daylife.com, zimbio.com

A promising 2008 Olympic campaign was cut short by a knee injury. She had surgery a few weeks before the cutthroat U.S. Olympic Trials. Glenn had also distinguished herself off the track, maintaining a 3.5 GPA throughout her college days in the University of Arizona.

Like her compatriot David Oliver, Glenn maintains an informative blog, which in my opinion, is one of the best elite athlete blogs out there.

Additional links:

Brianna’s official site

USATF profile

%d bloggers like this: