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Tag Archives: Lawrence Clarke
November 4, 2012Posted by on
The 2012 season did not end well for Liu Xiang 刘翔. Although he had his string of memorable performances in the run-up to the Olympic Games, the year belonged to none other than Aries Merritt. As an avid athletics aficionado the past few decade, the American has been a familiar name ever since he competed with distinction in the tough U.S. collegiate circuit.
Of course, I felt bummed when Merritt dominated Liu in the World Indoors. At the same time, I was happy for the American. He has been part of the hurdling scene for the longest time. Seeing someone win his/her first ever major championship triump is a joy to behold – even at the expense of my boyhood hero.
But lo and behold, the best was yet to come for Merritt. As the season kicked into high gear, so did Merritt’s hurdling. I was particularly impressed with his string of consecutive low 12.90s clockings, which, incidentally, started a few races after the battle royale in Eugene (where Liu smoked ’em all!). No one has ever run so consistently in the sprint hurdles. Judging by the depth of the protagonists, the 110m hurdles Olympic final had the makings of a classic.
Even without the injured Liu and the hobbling Dayron Robles, the Olympic final was still one for the books as Merritt stamped his dominance on an overmatched field. Merritt made winning the Olympic gold so deceptively simple. He stopped the clock at 12.92s, matching the great Allen Johnson’s time at the Atlanta Olympics and a mere one-hundredth of a second from Liu’s Olympic record.
In the countless articles and interviews I’ve read with Merritt, the primary drivers for his 2012 success would have to be his being injury free and the shift to a seven-step start. Although I personally think that Merritt’s lead arm carriage is too high, especially when compared to the likes of Liu and Colin Jackson, the American’s blistering speed in between the barriers is his strongest point. An efficient technique over the barriers, coupled with lightning quick steps in between the hurdles, is the recipe for blistering hurdling times.
A few hours before Merritt’s world record breaking race, I came across Lawrence Clarke’s tweet about Malcolm Arnold’s race plan: “From the coach: ‘Good luck tonight. Beat the fellow on your left.’ He’s only going to break the World Record….”
True enough, Aries Merritt did not disappoint!
August 18, 2012Posted by on
Even if I’m gutted to see Liu Xiang 刘翔crash out of yet another Olympics, it is time to make my customary post-Championships analysis of the athletics’ best event (my biased opinion!).
What struck me the most were the numerous DNF’s and DQ’s. Being an athlete and a sprint hurdler myself, I know for a fact that getting those acronyms written after one’s name is far from a pleasant experience. Even more so in the case of these Olympians, who had trained for many years for this one shot at World’s Greatest Show.
Four athletes failed to finish in Liu’s qualifying heat. In addition to Liu, Shane Brathwaite and Artur Noga did not make it past the initial flights of hurdles. Senegal’s Moussa Dembele was unable to finish, as he faltered midway into the race. In the other heats, four more hurdlers made early exits from Olympic contention, including British hope Andrew ‘The Demolition Man” Pozzi. Pozzi had recently run 13.34s in Crystal Palace, bolstering his chances of making the Olympic final.
Save for the Liu, the rest of the pre-Olympics favorites (Aries Merritt and Jason Richardon, in particular) all made it through to the next round. Merritt topped the heats with a qualifying time of 13.07s. Sergey Shubenkov (13.26s), Jason Richardson (13.33s), Orlando Ortega (13.26s), Dayron Robles (13.33s), and Andy Turner (13.42s) all won their respective qualifying heats.
The American duo of Merritt and Richardson was unchallenged in the semifinal round, as they took the outright finals tickets with relative ease. Richardson stopped the clock at 13.13s in the first semifinal, while Merritt was one-hundredths of second away from clocking yet another 12.93s. The defending Olympic Champion, Dayron Robles, shrugged off initial injury fears with a classy 13.10s.
Ryan Braithwaite, Ortega, and Hansle Parchment were the other automatic qualifiers. Briton Lawrence Clarke and South African Lehan Fourie surprisingly made it to the magic eight, as more fancied prospects like European Champion Sergey Shubenkov and Garfield Darien fell by the wayside.
Prior to London, I picked the young Shubenkov as an outside contender for a podium spot, in light of his impressive string of races. True enough, he looked well at ease in the heats. However, he stumbled in the semis and was unable to progress to the next round.
The only surprise in the final was Robles’ unfortunate injury. In my opinion, the World Record holder could have won at least a bronze medal, had his legs held through.
Robles, Richardson, and Merritt – all seven-step starters – were running practically abreast until the fourth flight of hurdles, when the Cuban pulled up with an injured hamstring. Merritt began to gradually pad his lead over Richarson and the rest of the field in a sterling display of fluid hurdling and jaw-dropping speed in between the barriers.
As expected, Merritt and Richarson won gold and silver. Merritt seemed to have escaped the clutches of yet another 12.93s clocking, as he registered a winning time of 12.92s – one-hundredth of a second off Liu’s Olympic record. Richardson won silver in 13.04s, as Parchment surprisingly lifted the bronze with his 13.12s Jamaican national record.
Running in the first lane, the fast-starting Clarke gave British fans something to cheer about with his fourth place finish (13.39s), fending off the late race challenge of the 2009 World Champion, Braithwaite.
March 27, 2012Posted by on
Routine is important for a hurdler. In an event where one is required to take the same number of steps (more or less, 35 in each race), hurdlers are creatures of habit. To the novice hurdler, a close look at Liu Xiang’s 刘翔 routine is an eye-opener.
Lawrence Clarke, one of Britain’s best hurdlers, posted an interesting clip of Liu’s hurdling warm-up routine. The video was taken at the Daegu World Championships last year.
1.) Leisurely Five-Steps:
Still wearing his jogging pants, a relaxed Liu easily clears five hurdles. Despite keeping himself relatively high over the barriers (and the movements a tad slower), the suppleness of his hurdling clearance is evident. The 2004 Athens Olympic Champion also takes lightning fast baby steps in between the hurdlers, perhaps to simulate the quick cadence of a race pace.
He even smiles over each hurdle!
2.) Intense Five-Steps:
Liu takes his hurdling several notches higher. The former world record holder’s face puts on a mask of seriousness as he buckles down to business. With each hurdling clearance, the lean, the lead leg extension and the trail snap are executed like one smooth, rhythmic action.
3.) Flat Block Starts:
To prepare himself for full-speed hurdling, Liu then sprints beside the hurdles from a block start.
4.) Single Hurdle Block Starts:
The 2007 World Champion clears one hurdle from a block start, highlighting the importance of this crucial phase of the 110m high hurdles.
5.) The Full Monty!
With every facet of sprint hurdling broken down and rehearsed to perfection, Liu performs the a full-speed rep over three barriers. Liu is mentally and physically prepared for the task at hand – to run in between the barriers as fast as humanly possible, in the most efficient manner imaginable.
Unless someone knocks you off balance.
Through the years, I’ve developed my own routine vastly similar to Liu’s. Although my hurdling is light-years away from the hurdling great, it’s good to know that I’ve been doing it right!
March 3, 2011Posted by on
I was watching the clips of the 2011 Aviva Indoor Grand Prix a few weeks back. The 60m hurdles saw a couple of English guys go against a formidable American steamroller of a team. Aries Merritt, World Junior Champion back in 2004, won at a comfortable 7.49s. Britain’s Andy Turner, the 2010 Commonwealth and European Champion, finished a distant 3rd with 7.61s. At the tail-end of the classy field was the young Lawrence Clarke, oft-compared to Lord Burghley because of his aristocratic roots, stopped the clock at 7.69, a new personal best.
When I watched the slo-mo replay of the race, something about Clarke’s trail arm caught my eye. Instead of swinging backwards throughout the lead leg action, he kept his arm forward together with his lead arm. It reminded me of the legendary Rodney Milburn, the most prominent double-armed sprint hurdler.
The double-arm shift is a bygone hurdling style. It has gone the same way as the old high jump straddle technique, into the annals of athletics history. All hurdlers today virtually adhere to the single-armed style. According to an article by Coach Steve McGill, the double-arm shift enables the hurdler to clear barriers faster by shifting the weight of both arms forward.
Clarke’s trail arm does not extend all the way to the front as Milburn’s. During hurdling clearance, Clarke keeps his right arm slightly bent, relative to the lead arm. In a sense, it is a hybrid of both techniques. True enough, Clarke skims over the barriers with little wasted motion. Since it is not a full double arm shift, Clarke doesn’t tend to veer to his right side (he leads with his right), unlike Milburn.
The 20-year old is Britain’s emerging generation of new athletics talents. Clarke was the 2009 European Junior Champion. In the Delhi Commonwealth Games last year, the Bristol University student finished 3rd (13.70s), contributing to England’s unprecedented 1-2-3 finish in the sprint hurdles. Clarke stopped the clock one-hundredths short of his personal best.
I’ve had problems with the trail arm ever since. Instead of keeping it bent backwards during clearance, my left arm jerks up (sometimes as high as my head!), before going back to hip height and swinging up again as the lead leg snaps to ground. For years, I’ve tried my utmost best to correct this flaw. It was all for naught. Hence, I was spending extra time in the air.
Clarke’s technique is an eye-opener. Since an outright shift to Milburn’s double-arm style is much too drastic, I’m seriously considering the next best alternative.