Tag Archives: Gail Devers

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.

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Harrison Dillard: The Man Who Won the “Wrong Event”

London Olympics, Dillard was so dominant in the high’s that in most of his races, Dillard’s opponents practically competed for 2nd place distinction. In the years immediately following the World War II, the army veteran set world record in the 120- and 220-yard hurdles races. In the U.S. Olympic trials for the London Games, misfortune hit Dillard. His streak of 82 consecutive wins in the sprint hurdles came to an end.

As a consolation, Dillard was able to eke out a third place finish at the century dash to qualify for the London Olympics. In the Olympic final, the finish was so close that it merited a review of the photo finish tapes. In fact, the more favored American, Barney Ewell, thought he had the race in the bag. Dillard had won gold in the “wrong event” – in world record time! Days later, Dillard won his second gold medal as part of the victorious American quartet in the 4x100m relay.

Four years later in Helsinki, Harrison Dillard finally topped the his favorite event.

Harrison Dillard is the epitome of the sprint hurdler. He possessed enough speed to slug it out with the best sprinters of his time and more than adequate technical prowess to lord it over the 110 high’s. Dillard won four Olympic gold medals in the 1948 and 1952 Games – double golds in the 400m relay, a 100m dash gold and 110m high hurdles gold. This is certainly a unique achievement, considering the fact that the 100m dash requires brute force, whereas the sprint hurdles is technically demanding. Other notable gold medal combos, like the 200m/400m (Michael Johnson, Marie Jose-Perec, Allyson Felix), 400m/800m (Alberto Juantorena) and the 5,000km/10,000km/Marathon (Emil Zatopek) were all relatively homogeneous.

Gail Devers had achieved a similar feat as Dillard in the 1993 Stuttgart World Championships, where she won both the 100m dash and the 100m hurdles. At the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, Devers suffered consecutive heartbreaks in the 100m hurdles (her favorite event), finishing outside the top 3. Like Dillard before her, Devers had a penchant for dead heats, with both of her two 100m dash golds requiring a second look at the photo finish cameras.

But then again, the women’s hurdles is less technically demanding the men’s race. With much lower hurdles, fleet-footed females can get away with glaring deficiencies in proper hurdling technique, whereas in the men’s race, the higher hurdles leave little room for bad form.

Say for instance, freak of nature in the mold of an  Usain Bolt/Liu Xiang 刘翔 hybrid suddenly takes center stage. A personal best of 9.58s (or better!) in the 100m dash is detrimental to the sprint hurdles. Too much speed in between hurdles, as Renaldo Nehemiah puts it, increases the likelihood of a hurdler hitting hurdles – called “crowding out.” Unless the hurdler has superhuman reflexes and flexibility, such pure sprinting power will be difficult to control.

In this day and age of specialization, the chances of someone emulating Dillard seems ever so remote.

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