Tag Archives: fidel gallenero

Gallenero Hurdles

Culled from my old VHS tapes.

A clip of Fidel “Toto” Gallenero competing in the hurdles!

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Alonzo Jardin: The Hurdling Artist

I had my first taste of national level competition back in May 2003. I was 17 years old, barely out of high school. I shaved off 1.44s off my personal best over the high hurdles, qualifying for the semis with a time of 17.55s. The 2003 Nationals was also the first time I encountered the Philippine national record holder for the sprint hurdles, Alonzo “Dudoy” Jardin.

More than 7 years since that day, my recollections are just vague flashbacks. But one instance stood out. At the dugout of the Rizal Memorial Stadium, I wished him the best of luck as he went head-to-head against Thailand’s Suphan Wongsriphuck, then Southeast Asia’s best sprint hurdler.

The Philippines is not known for its athletics tradition, much less the high hurdles. Aside from notable exceptions like Lydia de Vega-Mercado, Elma Muros-Posadas, Isidro del Prado and Marestella Torres, most of our athletes wilt under Asian-level competition. The Philippines’ last Olympic medals in athletics were won way back in the 1930’s (Miguel White in the 400m low hurdles and Simeon Toribio in the High Jump). Hence, it is not surprising that Dudoy’s 14.75s national record is light-years away from the Olympic “B” standard of 13.72s.

If I can choose one compatriot whom I look up to in the sprint hurdles, I can only name one – Alonzo Jardin. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate Coach Nonoy Unso’s hurdling prowess, but since I haven’t seen any footage of his best years, I cannot make an honest assessment of the athletics legend. The same reasoning applies to my mentor, national decathlon record holder Fidel Gallenero. Although he taught me the fundamentals of hurdling form, I haven’t seen him race.

In order for me to look up to someone – as a hurdler to another hurdler, I have to base my standards on more than just times and reputation.

Dudoy was different. Even if he shifted to the decathlon in the twilight of his competitive years, I had much respect for his hurdling technique. As a sprint hurdler myself, I put more importance in one’s efficiency of clearance than to brute sprinting power. Yes, the 110m high hurdles is a sprint race. But in order to fully appreciate this wonderful event, one must look at it beyond sprinting alone.

Hence, for me, hurdling is an art form. Everytime I watch Liu Xiang, Allen Johnson and Colin Jackson race clips, my jaws drop in awe at the symphony of speed. As a student of the event, I take much aesthetic pleasure from watching these great technicians demonstrate their craft.

In the past 10 years I spent as a sprint hurdler, Dudoy is – without a doubt – the best exemplar of the Filipino hurdling artist.

I had the privilege of racing the Filipino champion twice in my career. The first time was during the 2006 National Open. It was the finals of the sprint hurdles, Dudoy was at the lane beside mine.

I wound up a far fourth place (15.65s – a new PB) behind Romel of TMS Ship (15.1), Joemary Padilla (15.1) and Orlando Soriano (15.5s). It turned out that Dudoy didn’t even finish clearing the 1st hurdle, to save his legs for the grueling decathlon.

Months later, we went at it again. This time, he emphatically stamped his class, edging out Padilla of Mapua. I placed a distant 3rd (15.6). Dudoy ran a 15.1, if I’m not mistaken.

Emer Obiena and Fidel Gallenero once told me about an Australian trainer’s awe at learning that Dudoy is only a a high 14 second sprint hurdler. With his hurdling proficiency, the Australian reasoned, Dudoy should be running in the 13 seconds. Perhaps it was his lack of flat out speed (he ran the 100m in around 11.3 to 11.4). An Olympic-level hurdler should be able to run the 100m in at least 10.5s.

The last time I saw Dudoy was in 2009. I was in the midst of my first, ill-fated comeback. He was training again after tearing the ligaments in his knee after a freak javelin training incident.

Alonzo Jardin’s 14.75s national record is bound to be broken one of these days. The younger Unso has the most potential to reclaim the national mark of his illustrious father. In a country where athletes from the less popular sports tend to get marginalized, Jardin will probably be forgotten by the generations of tomorrow.

Writing this piece is the least I can do for a fellow hurdler. Never mind the results; never mind the accolades.

Alonzo Jardin is one of the best, if not the best, hurdling technicians this country of ours had ever produced.

Tuesday Night Lights (12 October 2010)

The revival of the PATAFA Weekly Relays had infused new energy into my comeback effort. All of sudden, my Han Solo routine didn’t seem pointless anymore. Even if I’m still rusty, in light of my temporary retirement, every training day seems to bring me one step closer to athletic ideal.

Last Tuesday’s track training was one of the best – if not the best – session this season. I was able to hitch a ride with my office mate right up to the Ultra gate. I got to the stadium a little before 6. As I made my way down the driveway, I saw the track bursting with much activity. The Women’s national football team was using the field; hence, the track was (almost) totally bathed in artificial daylight. Since Christmas season means longer nights in my side of the world, this was a blessing for this working athlete!

As soon as I got dressed, I went to my usual spot – the 110m starting line. I saw familiar faces in the likes of former national team decathlete Obet Fresnido and 800m national record holder John Lozada – my former coach, Fidel Gallenero’s contemporaries in the old GTK army of the late 90’s and early oughts.

Read: “Fidel Gallenero”

Read Pinoymiler’s article on Lozada: “King of Pinoy Half Mile”

Coach Obet, Coach John and Co. are now personal coaches  to a group of 13 or so runners. Talking to those guys surely got me into the track & field groove. It brought fond memories of how Coach Toto whipped me into shape five years ago.

I took advantage of the hurdles and the Tuesday Night Lights to do some much-needed technical hurdles training. After a few rounds of hurdle walk-overs, side-clearing and 5-step hurdle clearances, I was sweating profusely. Before I knew it, a good 45 minutes had passed and the track became crowded with hordes of running enthusiasts!

Focus was key since I was attempting to three-step over junior hurdles for the first time in almost three years. At first, the noises of the football players and the collective noises of the multitude of joggers were distracting. Moreover, it took quite some time for my eyes to adjust to the glare of the flood lights.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the moment. During my hiatus, I never thought that I’d end up competing again.

Before each rep, I visualized the movements  as I listened to pump-up music. I closed my eyes as I inhaled the crisp nighttime air, blocking myself from the world around me. Strangely, replaying Liu Xiang’s Athens 2004 gold medal win in my head almost always finds it way before each race. As I assumed the crouch start position, I kept saying to myself that “I am Liu Xiang,” only to correct it by saying “I’m Joboy Quintos – the best hurdler in the world. The best damn hurdler in the world.”

And it worked! Despite a momentary break in momentum approaching the 1st hurdle, my clearance was aggressive. The sprint-in-between was even better than last week’s session (when I cleared youth hurdles). After clearing the second and the last hurdle, I gave a monstrous dash to the imaginary finish line, emulating Colin Jackson’s famous dip.

I pumped my right fist (guts pose!) in jubilation as I walked back. What a night. What a night indeed.

Track workout:

Hurdle walkovers

Side-clearing

5-step hurdle clearance

3×1 hurdle starts (junior height)

1×2 hurdle starts (junior height)

2x150m sprints (all out)

Roman Šebrle: Decathlete Extraordinaire

One of my favorite world records is Roman Sebrle’s 9,026 points in the Decathlon. Sebrle is the only man ever to have gone above the 9,000 point barrier in the grueling 10-discipline, 2-day event. His countryman Tomas Dvorak (8,994), Dan O’Brien (8,891) and the legendary Daley Thompson (8,847) went tantalizingly close to breaking the barrier, but only the indefatigable Roman Sebrle himself was able to achieve this momentous milestone.

I’ve always admired and envied the multi-events. Admired – since they had to learn 10 disciplines, contributing to a holistic experience of the sport. Envied – because among all the events in athletics, the decathlon is without a doubt the most grueling and draining. Decathletes (and heptathletes) are “the world’s greatest athletes,” as King Gustav V of Sweden told the 1912 Olympic Champion, Jim Thorpe.

The elite level decathletes (and heptathletes) are the most impressive of all, needless to say. With their mastery of the 10 disciplines (or 7), the best times of a particular world-class decathlete can rival or even exceed the respective, individual national records of a small country like the Philippines. In Sebrle’s mythical 9,026 point performance, his 8.11m leap in the long jump and his 13.92s time in the 110m high hurdles  are better than the current Philippine records of 7.99m (Henry Dagmil) and 14.76s (Alonzo Jardin), respectively.

In terms of overall personal bests, Sebrle’s best clearance of 5.20m in the Pole Vault exceeds Edward Lasquette’s 5.00m vault. Likewise, the Czech’s farthest throw in the shot put, 16.47m, is better than Bruce Ventura’s 15.83m Philippine record.

Naturally, the Philippines’ best decathlete, my former coach Fidel Gallenero (6,963), was light years away from the standards of Sebrle.

If for some far-fetched reason, Sebrle switched allegiance to the Philippine flag at his prime, he could have set at least 5 national records in one decathlon!

Sebrle is without a doubt a legend in athletics. Even at 35 years old, Sebrle is far from retired, having competed at the 2010 Doha World Indoor Championships. Being the elder statesman of the sport and his event, Sebrle is a role model for track athletes of all ages and ability.

And he can belch out a mean song number too, endearing the 2004 Olympic Champion to this karaoke aficionado!

Additional link:

Wiki

Video Credits:

throweraustria

411babylon

jezzevcik

Fidel Gallenero

This is a two-year old piece I wrote about Philippine Decathlon record holder, Fidel “Toto” Gallenero. The durable Gallenero was a mainstay of the resurgent Philippine National Track & Field squad in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  After coaching stints in San Beda and Ateneo, Gallenero is now in Brunei, training the oil-rich sultanate’s athletics team.

I have had quite a few mentors in track. Among my teammates, I consider Xave Medina, Carlo Ricohermoso and Khole dela Cruz as worthy role models. My high school coach, Ed Sediego, taught the me the rudiments of track & field. Mick Perez, my college coach for five years, instilled the value of discipline and refined my understanding of sport and my place in it. Among all my mentors, I consider Coach Toto Gallenero as the one who made the most pivotal impact.

Coach Toto as an Athlete

Coach Toto was not the child prodigy athlete. He pretty much started from the bottom rungs of the sport hierarchy and certainly was not at the same caliber as Jose Renato Unso, Mike Mendoza and Bryan Sutingco when he was at the same age. He came from the humblest of towns, from the province of Capiz. His childhood was not as comfortable as mine, or any other privileged member of the middle and upper classes, for that matter. It was a Spartan life. I recall him telling stories about how he had to cross a couple of hills and a few rivers just to get to school. Gallenero did not put much emphasis on his studies. In fact, he often told me how he regretted not having finished his college degree and constantly reiterated to us, his athletes, the value of education.

Gallenero was originally a national class rower. For some reason, he started to attend track and field practice with the guys in Rizal Memorial. “Saling-pusa lang ako,” (I just tagged along) were how he described himself. “Hindi ako nahihiya, sinubukan ko lahat ng events. Laban lang!” (I wasn’t shy at all. I tried all events. I faced it all head on) He has experienced the most primitive of coaches and training approaches throughout his tenure in the sport; hence, the feeling of rancor against such coaches he encountered in his later, more athletically prestigious years. He considered Coach Dario de Rosas as a definitive influence in terms of proper, scientific training. For his part, Gallenero has undergone a few IAAF-accredited seminars to further his track & field know-how. More importantly, the years that he have spent as an international class competitor are priceless.

As the national record holder for the decathlon (6978 points), Coach Toto has had a storied track & field career, winning medals in international events, particularly the SEA Games. Gallenero first came into limelight by beating the then National Record Holder, the celebrity athlete David Bunevacz,  at the 1997 National Open in Manila. His first SEA games medals were two bronzes in the 1999 Brunei edition, one in the Decathlon and the other in the 4x400m relay. In 2001 in Kuala Lumpur, he emerged the sole victor in the grueling, 2-day event. In 2003, he won the bronze in the same event again, a basketball injury sustained ruining his chances for a back-to-back gold.

One wonders what stellar heights Coach Toto would have reached if he had been exposed to scientific training at an early age, or if he had specialized in the sprints, since he was a prolific sprinter (with a hand-timed personal best of 10.4). Nevertheless, he made the most out of his situation; hence, the accolades.

Coach Toto (circa 2002)

I first took notice of Coach Toto during the 2003 National Open. Since my teammate Khole dela Cruz was entered in the same event, we watched the Decathlon religiously. Coach Toto injured himself in that meet and was unable to finish the Decathlon, which Khole won, by the way. During one of those PATAFA weekly relays in freshman year in college, I had just run the 100m dash and was on my way back from the finish line to get my stuff. My vantage point was perfect. As the gun fired, I saw first hand the proper way to start a sprint race. All the muscles in his body were contracting and expanding in a symphony of speed, and yet his face remain relaxed all thoughout.

Coach Toto as my Mentor

Days before the 67th Season of UAAP track was about to start, Mick Perez – the Ateneo Track & Field Program Head and Head Coach –  hired Gallenero as an assistant trainer. His inputs, of course, were far too late to have made a significant impact in my hurdling. Naturally, I faltered a few days later, despite clocking a new personal best, 16.67s. I was in ninth place and narrowly missed a spot in the final. I was jaded, of course. I can still remember that particular afternoon. My teammates and I were huddled around our new coach, asking whatever track & field question came into mind.

When it was my turn, I asked, “Coach, ano kayang time ko next year? kaya ba 16 flat?” (Coach, what time could I possibly run next year? A 16 flat, perhaps?)

“15.5 seconds,” he replied without batting an eyelash.

“Oh? talaga” (Really?)

“Oo, job,” (Short for Joboy, my very Filipino-sounding nickname) he said in his confident manner. “Basta ako lang hahawak sa’yo.” (So long as you’ll train under me)

Breaking 16 Seconds

Suddenly, I felt the disappointment of missing the finals disappear. I couldn’t wait to start training already the moment I heard his words. My third year was an eye-opener. Gallenero taught me the basics of hurdling.

In order to be a good hurdler, he said, one must master the simplest of hurdle drills. After demonstrating the correct way of doing it and assigning a specific technical workout, I immediately set out to master everything he had taught. For two grueling months, I spent my Tuesdays and Thursdays doing endless hurdle drills. I arrived at Moro (Moro Lorenzo Sports Center, the home of Ateneo Track & Field) at about 12nn, warmed up a little and did a few running and starting drills. I did hurdle drills for about an hour and a half, then did the prescribed workout for that day. I was so engrossed in mastering the basics that I did the exercises even as I dreamt and slept.

It was one of the hardest experiences of my track career. I never felt so much pain in training. When I got home, I could barely lift my legs, much less lift the pages of a book. I was so tired that I sometimes cried my heart out.

As I mastered the drills, Coach Toto began to teach more advanced facets of sprint hurdling – the actual clearing, the trail leg action, lead leg action, arm action and of course, the 8-step approach to the first hurdle. By August of 2005, I was ripe for competition and eager to strut my new wares. The first race of the season was good enough, a hand timed 16.4s, which was much better than previous season’s best time of 16.9s.

I can vaguely remember that Saturday morning, but I remember feeling overly pumped up at the starting line. As soon as the gun fired, I got out of the blocks as fast as I can. Everything was a blur since then, but I recall overtaking two or three athletes on my way to the tape.  Even if I had not seen my time yet, I knew for a fact that that was the best race I had run in my career, so far. After the race, I went to the timers to get my time.

I can still remember that moment. One of the officials showed me the actual stopwatch used to time my sprint – I ran a 15.62 (but for some reason, they rounded it up to 15.8). Nevertheless, I was ecstatic! I had just broken the 16 second barrier! I was so excited to tell my teammates that I literally jogged to where they were situated.

Coach Mick and Coach Toto (circa 2006)

The rest was history. That particular Saturday morning started it all. I was on an exponential rise to the top, culminating with my unexpected UAAP bridesmaid finish in my third year.

Coach Toto and I (circa 2006)

Beyond Technique

I felt a sense of pride whenever I was in Rizal or Ultra with Coach Toto at my side. Here I was standing side by side with a Philippine Track legend as my mentor. Even after Ateneo Track & Field and Coach Toto parted ways, Gallenero did his utmost best to watch some of my races and provide some much-needed inputs. Even if he wasn’t officially my coach, I still valued his words of wisdom.

Gallenero did more than teach hurdling technique. He taught me the importance of proper track attire and its relationship to one’s performance (I took it a couple of steps further though by adding the word “fashion”). When I competed, I have different sets of clothing for different weather conditions. He was instrumental in molding the kind of athlete I am today – fearless, hardworking and disciplined. I remember how he used to chide me for being a “nerbyoso” (nervous) on the track with the way I paced up and down like a nervous wreck before a race. “Tapang lang,” (Be fearless) were his favorite words. “Malakas naman kayo, kulang lang kayo sa tapang.” (You guys are strong. You just have to be dauntless) He taught me how to be smart through his patented “gulang”* methods learned throughout his career. And by Jove, I absorbed all these like a sponge.

In the latter months of my UAAP career, not once did I heard him utter “nerbyoso” to my face again. Perhaps, I earned his respect. He sure as hell has earned mine.

I remember the last time Coach Toto actually trained me. It was during the sembreak in the latter parts of October. The core of the team was competing in the Bacolod Unigames, while I chose to remain here in Manila to be with the other members of the young team. In those three days of training camp, we focused on my start. He explained the basics again and fine-tuned my starting technique. When my teammates came back, they  were suprised at the obvious improvement.

Whenever Coach Toto and I sit down and talk, I never fail to stress the fact that he made me strong. “Coach, ikaw nagpalakas sa akin,” (Coach, you taught me how to be strong in my event) I always say. He would always reply by saying, “Ikaw ang nagpalakas sa sarili mo Job, tinulungan lang kita.” (You made yourself fast. I just helped you along the way).

Coach Toto, together with fellow Filipino track & field icons Dario de Rosas and Isidro del Prado (the Philippine record holder for the 400m dash), is now handling the national athletics team of the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei. Although the departure of three of the best coaches and former athletes is a loss to the mother country (and a gain to the Bruneians!) going overseas for the proverbial greener pasture is part of the reality that is the Filipino diaspora. I’m glad that my former coach is on track to financial stability.

Read: “SEA Games champ Gallenero wants to inspire Bruneians”

I shall remain eternally grateful for Coach Toto’s effort, patience and wise words. I will never forget his faith in me, how he egged me to do better. Not once, did he express doubt at my abilities – not once.

We had a great relationship as athlete and coach. My only regret, of course, is that we did not have the chance to compete against one another.

*- A Filipino trait. Akin to being knowledgeable about the inner workings of something, being street smart and wordly

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