Tag Archives: Francis Obikwelu

Britain’s Got [Sprinting] Talent

Adam Gemili sure is impressive. He lowered his 2011 personal best in the 100m dash by a massive 0.27s, when he ran 10.08s in Regensburg yesterday. He has already hurdled the Olympic “A” standard and is the fastest Briton this Olympic season. He had beaten his older and more illustrious compatriots, among them 2004 Olympic 4x100m relay gold medalist Mark Lewis-Francis (10.21s) and 2010 World Indoor champion Dwain Chambers (10.28s).

Read: “Sprinter Gemili says: I’m raring to go for the Olympics”

The former footballer has run the fastest 100m time this year by a junior. In the all-time juniors 100m list, only fourteen men had run quicker (Trinidadian Darrel Brown holds the World Junior record of 10.01s). Gemili is in good company, with Justin Gatlin also running 10.08s as a junior. In fact, the young Briton has bettered such fine names like Francis Obikwelu (10.10s) and, believe it or not, Yohan Blake (10.11s).

Interestingly, the British are well-represented in this list, with Lewis-Francis (9.97s, albeit with a malfunctioning wind gauge) and Chambers (10.06s) occupying prominent spots. With such depth of sprinting talent, it’s quandary why British men have been left out of the Olympic 100m dash final in the last two editions of the games.

Gemili still has to finish in the top two at the British Olympic trials, for him to earn an outright slot in the century dash. The prospects for the host nation’s relay team looks bright, with the resurgent Lewis-Francis, the brooding Chambers, and the talented Gemili in the spot light. It would take a minor miracle for the British, or the Americans for that matter, to beat an in-form Jamaican quartet in the 4x100m. Against such quality opposition, a medal of any color will be god-sent for the hosts.

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 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

“What is your profession?”

Whilst watching the pre-game analysis from last night’s Azkals game, the haughty Star Sports analyst made an interestingly poignant observation. He pointed out that most of the Filipinos, save for a handful of Fil-foreigners, are part-time footballers. When pitted against honest-to-goodness professionals, a glaring difference in “physicality” comes to the picture.

True enough, even the English-born Younghusband brothers are currently unattached. Our homegrown players are mostly members of the nation’s Armed Forces. Even though the Philippines has a nascent semi-pro football league in the UFL, this pales in comparison to its regional counterparts like Singapore’s S-League or the Thai Premier League.

One of the most famous scenes in “300” came into mind. Leonidas asked the Spartan allies, the Akkadians, their respective professions. The answers were diversely mundane. But when the legendary Spartan king asked his crack troops “what is your profession?” a loud and intimidating “ah-woo! ah-woo! ah-woo!” was their answer.

This is certainly the case for most Olympic sports, now that the lines of strict amateurism and professionalism has become porous. Aside from amateur boxing, professionals are allowed to run roughshod over major international competitions, putting the amateur at a major disadvantage.

There lies the underlying fundamental factor that spells the difference between victory and defeat. Take the example of athletics, for instance. I can only name a handful Asian medalists in recent Olympic history. Aside from the naturalized athletes of oil-rich middle eastern countries, only Susanthika Jayasinghe சுசந்திக ஜெயசிங்க்ஹி, Hadi Souan Somayli هادي صوعان الصميلي‎, Dmitry Karpov, Xing Huina 邢慧娜 and Liu Xiang 刘翔 had finished within the top 3. The Europeans have won countless medals in the aforesaid time period.

Truly, an amateur pursues his/her respective sport as a passion, as something on the side. Whereas the professional practices the sport as a career. Having the domestic infrastructure to support a professional league speaks volumes about a particular sport’s development. Take the case of the Philippine basketball. Despite setbacks in international competition the past few years, Filipino cagers rank among the best in Asia. In the newly-established ASEAN Basketball League, Filipinos play for our Southeast Asian neighbors as imports to beef up their respective locals.

The same cannot be said of football, athletics or any other sport not part of the Four B’s (Basketball, Boxing, Billiards and Bowling). In Athletics, for instance, the backbone of the sport is comprised of collegians. A club scene is virtually non-existent, with competition being mostly schools-based. After college, only the most talented and dedicated athletes progress to the national team ranks. A slot in the crack national squad merits a modest stipend. International exposure is afforded only to the elite few. World-class training and facilities are hard to come by. In contrast, the Europeans have a vibrant system of athletics clubs for all ages. Clubs like France’s Dynamic Aulnay Club, Portugal’s Sporting Lisbon and Germany’s MTG-Mannheim have produced successful internationals like triple jump sensation Teddy Tamgho, 2004 Athens Olympic silver medalist Francis Obikwelu and the 2010 European 100m dash Champion Verena Sailer, respectively.

Hence, there is continuity of talent. A career in sports can be a financially-adequate, even lucrative profession – where one is not bound to live in the margins of penury whilst pursuing one’s passion.

Lemaitre wins European 100m crown

Christophe Lemaitre won his first-ever senior title, the European Championships 100m gold, about a month after breaking the 10-second barrier. The Frenchman, after a sluggish start, stormed through the last 40m, leaving the other sprinters on his wake.

Lemaitre stopped the clock at 10.11s. Remarkably, the next 4 athletes clocked identical 10.18s times. An analysis of the photo-finish footage credited Athens 2004 relay gold medalist, the Briton Mark Lewis-Francis, (10.172) with the silver. Martial Mbandjock (10.173) from France got third, while the 2006 Goteborg champion, Francis Obikwelu, (10.174) reigning World Indoor Champion Dwain Chambers (10.178) and Gambian-born Norwegian, Jaysuma Saidy Ndure were awarded 4th, 5th and 6th, respectively.

As an aside, is a dead heat possible in track & field? Can two athletes (or three!) share a single medal?

What a year for the young Frenchman. What a debut on major outdoor championship. So long as he irons out some sprinting specifics (his start, his stability), Lemaitre will surely go places. Although I don’t see him beating the Big Three anytime soon, it’s refreshing to see someone so young do so well at the senior stage.

Additional links:

Yahoo sports article

IAAF article

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