Tag Archives: Diamond League

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):

Liu Xiang 刘翔 pulls out of London Diamond League final

I stayed up late last night to watch the London Grand Prix leg of the Diamond League. I eagerly anticipated the 110m hurdles, as Liu Xiang 刘翔, Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson were slated to go on another head-to-head.

However, Liu pulled out of the final, after notching a qualifying time of 13.28s in the heats. He looked like his usual self as he jogged to the finish line, a place in the final in the bag.

When the announcers mentioned that he won’t be running in the main draw, I thought that the birthday boy was just playing mind games with Merritt and Richardson.

Merrrit was superb in the final, stopping the clock at 12.93s to tie his world leading time this year.

While watching the ESPN news channel, I felt a chill run down my spine when I read the words “Liu casts doubt on Olympic campaign” – or something similar. When the words “Liu” and “injury” are juxtaposed, memories of that fateful day in Beijing back in 2008 comes to mind.

According to Sun Haiping in an Associated Press interview, Liu “felt a little uncomfortable in his back after the heat round. We decided to pull out of the finals just for the sake of caution.”

Whew.

I wish the best for Liu – and a speedy recovery from this minor injury.

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.

Athletics TV Coverage Pet Peeves

I was visibly pissed when Eurosport kept on showing a mediocre long jump competition at the New York Diamon League coverage. Save for the Australian duo of Mitchell Watt and Fabrice Lapierre, the rest of the field looked like last minute replacements. Aside from the aforesaid two, the rest of the competitors notched mundanely mediocre long jump marks more akin to low-level Philippine athletics than to the big-money Diamond League meetings.

Click here to view the New York Diamond League Results

To make matters worse, there were three field events that featured superior athletes and performances. The women’s triple jump field, led by Olga Rypakova, featured near-15 meter jumps. In the women’s pole vault, 2011 World Champion leaped to a new season’s best of 4.77m. The men’s high jump was even more exciting, as World Champion Jesse Williams squared off with the vastly-improved Robbie Grabarz.

And the producers of the telecast only showed snippets of these events. In contrast, they aired each and every sub-par round of the friggin’ long jump. Even the announcers were subtly disappointed, apologizing to the audience for not showing more of the aforesaid events.

Since I live in the Philippines, I’m only exposed to a handful of cable channels that feature regular athletics coverage: Eurosport and Star Sports. The latter is not even worth mentioning. It employs a lone announcer/commentator that is akin to Mr. Sandman himself. If I were not so interested in the sport, I would have fallen asleep.

Eurosport fares much better. It employs a knowledgeable British commentating/announcing duo. However, it needs a fresh dose of energy – and producers who employ common sense. I have yet to watch other broadcasting outfits, but the French guys and Ato Boldon look entertaining. To the guys over at Eurosport and Star Sports, here are a few suggestions:

1.) Please tell your producers to feature the most gripping of events, not the pedestrian ones. C’mon! Picking a long jump competition where most of the field jumped in the mid-7 meters over a high jump event featuring an unknown athlete leaping 2.36m? Get real.

2.) Air the post-race interviews. If the program is hard-pressed for time, you can always insert a small box at the bottom of the screen during those long-drawn distance races.

3.) Show the faces of the announcers for crying out loud! Put faces to the voices! The names of these guys are not even shown on TV.

4.) Employ some retired athletes or established event experts to give their thoughts. Don’t just friggin’ rely on jacks-of-all-trades doing all the commentating. And for the nth time, put their faces on a small box beneath the screen.

5.) Put a ticker at the bottom of the screen informing the TV audience of the current standings.

6.) Show more clips of the athletes warming-up, celebrating or interacting with the crowd.

I’ve accepted the fact that athletics shall remain second fiddle to football and basketball in terms of popularity. The nature of the sport is not spectator friendly. If the sports fan is not well-versed in the basics of athletics, he/she will be hard-pressed to appreciate the events. It helps the sport a lot when larger-than-life characters like Usain Bolt take center stage. But then again, Bolt is one-of-a-kind.

Inutile television coverage such as this only worsens this inherent disadvantage. It takes away the awe factor of a grossly-underrated sport.

Why Usain Bolt is the World’s Fastest Man

Usain Bolt crossed the finish line at the Bislett Games, stopping the clock at 9.79s. As we was slowing down the first bend, waving to crowd and doing his usual post-race celebratory moves, an exuberant race volunteer blocks Bolt’s lane to hand out a bouquet of flowers.

Disaster of Ivet Lalova proportions was averted, thanks to the Lightning Bolt’s quick reflexes. IHe jumped in an effort to break his momentum, and grabbed the girl to absorb the impact. The girl buckled under force of the muted impact, Usain carries her, preventing her from falling down the track, and gives her a friendly hug!

Usain Bolt, what a remarkable guy!

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.

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

Track Race Turns Ugly as Baala Headbutts Mekhissi-Benabbad

French middle distance runners Mehdi Baala مهدي بعلة‎ and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad came to blows at the end of the 1,500m run at the Monaca Diamond League last week. The two athletes figured in a heated argument before Baala, the 2006 European 1,500m champion, headbutted Mekhissi-Benabbad, the 2010 European 3,000m steeplechase champion.

The elder Baala, despite the headbutt, was on the retreat throughout the bizarre encounter, as the younger Mekhissi-Benabbad threw four wild swings against the former’s single punch to the cheek.

Both athletes are top-tier athletes, having won medals at the World Championships (Baala) and the Olympics (Mekhissi-Benabbad). To say that the incident is shocking is an understatement! What a disgrace to the sport!

To get a clearer perspective of what the hell happened, read the following articles:

BBC

Reuters

AFP

Said BBC’s Steve Cram: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in an athletics meeting.”

Enough said.

Lalova clocks 11.01s at the Bislett Games

It’s good to see Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова back in sterling form. The Bulgarian, slowed by a broken femur the past few years, ran her fastest time in the 100m dash since 2005. Lalova came out on top of a quality field at the rain-soaked Bislett Games in Oslo, stopping the clock at a highly competitive 11.01s, almost three-tenths of a second away from her 2004 best of 10.77s.

Read: “Track Beauty of the Week: Ivet Lalova Ивет Лаловa”

The reigning European Indoor 60m champion, Ukraine’s Olesya Povh Олеся Повх, came second (11.14s). Nigerian-born Norwegian Ezinne Okparaebo clocked 11.17s for third place. Povh and Okparaebo had a blistering start, with the former leading the pack until Lalova turned on her afterburners at the 65 meter mark. Verena Sailer, apparently still hampered by a back injury sustained at the early part of the year, lagged behind with an unremarkable 11.46s. In the absence of the Jamaicans and the Americans, the top five positions were occupied by Europeans.

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

Lalova’s performance at the Oslo leg of the Diamond League is the 13th fastest in 2011. With big names like Carmelita Jeter and Veronica Campbell-Brown churning out 10.70s and 10.76s, respectively, the 10m dash in Daegu will be highly interesting. An in-form Lalova could give the traditional sprinting powers a run for their money come August.

Track Beauty of the Week: Lisa Urech

Lisa Urech is this week’s track beauty!

The 21-year old is Switzerland’s top sprint hurdler. She has personal bests of 12.81s in the 100m hurdles and 8.00s in the 60m hurdles. Most recently, Urech qualified for the finals of the highly competitive 2010 Barcelona European Championships, where she finished 7th overall. She stopped the clock at 13.02s.

Photos from blick.ch and nzz.ch

In about a month’s time after the Euro’s, she ran a lifetime best of 12.81s in Zurich. Urech is just five-hundredths of a second off the Swiss national record, held by Julie Baumann (12.76s, 1991).

Read Swissinfo.ch’s Overcoming hurdles to reach the Weltklasse

Remarkably, Urech’s breakout 2010 season started on a low note, with the Emmental-born athlete breaking her collarbone at the start of the year! Indeed, this shows that Urech is made of stern stuff.

Urech had improved dramatically since competing at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz (13.72s. In 2009, the stately Swiss – then only 20-years old – notched a new personal best against seasoned senior opponents (13.36s). It is impressive to note that Urech broke the 13-second barrier barely two years since running in the high 13’s as a junior.

Photo from gab-bellinzona.ch

Should she correct some technical flaws in her form, Urech has much potential to barge into the top ranks of European hurdling.

Video credits:

frutino82

8715912342687123

Sport1

SVT1 Direkt

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

Darya (Дарья Клишина) wins London Diamond League

Our favorite Russian long jumper won another Diamond League meet, this time in London. The 19-year old leaped to 6.65m, matching compatriot Lyudmila Kolchanova‘s best jump. Darya Klishina won on count back.

Track Beauty of the Week: Darya Klishina

Watch Darya’s Men’s Health Interview

Watch the Universal Sports video:

Video credits:

Universal Sports

Darya Klishina (Дарья Клишина) wins in Stockholm Diamond League

Our favorite long-legged Russian long jumper, Darya Klishina makes up for her European Championships absence by unexpectedly winning the Stockholm Diamond League. The 19-year old Russian leaped to 6.78m, beating the Doha World Indoor Champion, Brittney Reese.

Watch Klishina’s winning jump from Universal Sports

Additional links:

CNN article

Stockholm Diamond League results

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

Oliver streaks to 12.89s!

This is amazing. Oliver is amazing. After a string of Sub-13 times the past month (12.93, 12.90), big David Oliver lowered his already impressive PR by one-hundredths of a second to 12.89s at the Meeting Areva (Samsung Diamond League) in Paris the other night. The 28-year old is inching ever closer to Dayron Robles’ world record.

Robles was supposed to compete at the same meet, but pulled out due to mild injury.

Oliver outclassed the field, with Ryan Wilson way behind at 13.12.

Despite demolishing the 7th and 10th hurdle, Oliver still became third fastest sprint hurdler of all time, behind Robles and Liu Xiang.

As for breaking the world record, Oliver was the portrait of humility. “I don’t think I’m there [breaking the world record] yet,” said Oliver. “Eventually I’ll get there and everything will be perfect after I run that.”

Watch Oliver’s 12.89s race from Universal Sports

The post-race interview:

Additional links:

Diamond League article

Universal Sports article

Universal Sports photos

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

Bolt streaks to world-leading 9.82s

Three-time Olympic Gold medallist Usain Bolt storms to a world-leading 100m time of 9.82s at the Lausanne Athletissima Diamond League on Thursday, tying compatriot Asafa Powell’s mark. The Lightning Bolt overcame a 6-week layover from a troublesome achilles tendon to outclass the field. The closest sprinters were fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake at 9.96s and Netherlands Antilles’ Churandy Martina at 10.16s.

Bolt, following his doctors’ advice, opted out of the 200m dash in Lausanne to err on the safe side, in light of his recent injury.

It’s refreshing to see the exuberant Bolt back on track. Watch out for the upcoming Bolt-Powell race on 16 July in Paris. It’s gonna be epic!

Additional links:

Universal Sports video

Universal Sports article

Diamond League report

Photo credits:

Yahoo News

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