Tag Archives: liu xiang

On Aries Merritt

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!

London Olympics Recap – The 110m Hurdles

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

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!).

Read: “Brave Liu Xiang 刘翔”

Round 1

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.

Video – Round 1 (from the Olympic Youtube Channel)

Results – Round 1

Semifinals

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.

Video – Semifinals (from the Olympic Youtube Channel)

Results – Semifinals

Final

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.

Position Lane Bib Athlete Country Mark . React
1 6 3236 Aries Merritt USA 12.92 (PB) 0.143
2 4 3246 Jason Richardson USA 13.04 . 0.194
3 7 2182 Hansle Parchment JAM 13.12 (NR) 0.172
4 2 1804 Lawrence Clarke GBR 13.39 . 0.169
5 8 1125 Ryan Brathwaite BAR 13.40 . 0.163
6 9 1477 Orlando Ortega CUB 13.43 . 0.135
7 3 2781 Lehann Fourie RSA 13.53 . 0.136
. 5 1478 Dayron Robles CUB DQ . 0.159

Source: IAAF

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.

Source:

IAAF

Additional Link:

London Olympics Preview – The Sprint Hurdles

Brave Liu Xiang 刘翔

Four years ago in Beijing, Liu Xiang 刘翔 left the Bird’s Nest in pain, not even clearing the first hurdle of his qualifying heat. Four years later in London, Liu’s dreams of an Olympic comeback crumbled yet again.

Following his shock exit in 2008, Liu has been beset by recurring injury. He could not seem to find the old form that brought him an historic Olympic gold, a World Championship title, and a then-12.88s world record in the 110m Hurdles. The Chinese hurdler almost won another world title in Daegu last year, if not for an accidental clash with rival Dayron Robles.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The Sprint Hurdles”

In the run-up to the London Games, the 29-year old had drawn level with Robles’ 12.87s world record, albeit with slight wind assistance. Liu had gone beyond 13.00s twice, stamping his class on the world’s best sprint hurdlers. The stage was set for Liu’s great Olympic comeback in the British Isles. But fate, it seemed, had other plans.

Through the choppy images of my live streaming link, I saw the unfortunate events transpire frame by frame. When the starting gun fired, the rest of the field powered on to the finish line. At the left side of the screen, I saw a lone figure lying on the track clutching his right leg.

The commentators’ gasps of disappointment and regret confirmed my worst fears: Liu’s Olympic campaign had come to an abrupt end.

Read/View: “Hurdler Liu Xiang turns fall into heroism”

Liu headed out to an exit near the starting line, but a venue official apparently led him back to the race area. The 2004 Athens Olympic champion hobbled on the straightaway. Limping on his one good leg, Liu veered towards his original lane and gave the final hurdle a kiss. One of his competitors, the Hungarian hurdler Balazs Baji raised Liu’s arm, proclaiming to the entire stadium the latter’s symbolic victory.

In a touching display of camaraderie, hometown boy Andy Turner and the Spaniard Jackson Quinonez helped the ailing Liu to a waiting wheelchair.

The sprint hurdles is an unforgiving event. The event demands a certain degree of flat out speed to sprint nimbly in between the barriers, and a high level of technical proficiency to skim efficiently over the 1.067-meter high hurdles. The margin for error is small; a single mistake in clearing could spell a premature end to the race.

A Xinhua article revealed that Liu was suffering from an injury. “In Germany, Liu felt pain in the foot where his old injury was,” said Sun Haiping, Liu’s long-time coach.

Ever since Liu Xiang emphatically won the 2002 Asian Games gold, I’ve considered him a role model. Throughout my track career, I looked up to the guy. I can still remember that fateful night back in 2004, when the 21-year old Liu stormed to the finish line in first place, matching Colin Jackson’s world record. One of my cherished possessions is an autographed copy of his autobiography, which I brought to every single major race as a talisman.

Read: “Sidekicks”

My initial reaction, of course, was one of disappointment and disbelief. Seeing him claw his way back to the top, only to succumb once again to injury tore my heart out. But when I saw Liu bravely limping to finish the race – and the subsequent reaction of the spectators and his competitors – a poignant realization dawned on me.

He has won every, single major title: the World Indoors, the World Championships, and the Olympics. Perhaps, this Derek Redmond-like display of character was the defining moment of Liu’s career, should he decide to hang up his spikes there and then.

“For some athletes, it’s just a job,” said Liu in a pre-Athens Olympics interview with Time Magazine. “For me, it’s what I love.”

Liu Xiang shall be back. I just know it.

“For that to happen to one of the greatest hurdlers of all time is a tragedy” – Aries Merritt (quote from NYT)

“I just think he made a small little mistake and ran up on the hurdle a little too quickly and wasn’t prepared to take the hurdle at such a velocity.” – Aries Merritt (quote from Stuff.co.nz)

“I regard him as probably the best hurdler in history and have so much respect for him. It was horrible seeing him limp off like that so you have to go and help people.” – Andy Turner (quote from BBC)

“We know Liu Xiang has been suffering with his Achilles. He had to push hard and when you have to reach for the first barrier and you’ve got a stress injury like an Achilles it can cause you hell and he couldn’t even take off.” – Colin Jackson (quote from Stuff.co.nz)

“My heart goes to Liu Xiang.” – Allen Johnson (from Allen’s Twitter account)

Takayuki Kishimoto’s (岸本 鷹幸) Olympic Hopes

Japan has a strong intermediate hurdling tradition. Back in the 2001 and 2005 editions of the World Championships, Dai Tamesue 為末大 won bronze medals in the grueling event. Tamesue is the only other modern-day Asian hurdler aside from Liu Xiang 刘翔 who had won medals in the World Championships.

Read: “Dai Tamesue’s 為末大 Double Bronze”

In the Olympic Games, athletes from the vast Asian continent had barged into the top three twice – when Filipino Miguel White won bronze at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Saudi Hadi Soua’an Al-Somaily هادي صوعان الصميلي snared silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Read: “Asian Sprinting – Japan’s Olympic Bronze”

While going over the 2012 top lists of the 400m hurdles, I noticed a Japanese athlete perched at the top 10. Takayuki Kishimoto 岸本 鷹幸 ran a competitive 48.41s last June, en route to topping the Japanese Olympic Trials.

This season, only double World Championship medalist Javier Culson (47.78s), reigning World Champion Dai Greene (47.84s), 2005 World Champion Bershawn Jackson (48.20s), and U.S. Trials winner Michael Tinsley (48.33s) have run faster.  With The Batman out of the U.S. Olympic Team, an Asian athlete is seeded fourth coming into the London Olympics.  On paper, at least, Asia has a legitimate contender for an Olympic 400m hurdles medal.

The 1.71m-tall hurdler was able to shave off a massive 0.86s off his personal best in a span of a little over a year, propelling himself to fifth in the Japanese all-time list. And he is still only 22 years old. Amongst the top 10 in the world this season, only Jehue Gordon is younger than the Kishimoto.

The Japanese athlete reached the semifinals in Daegu last year, albeit with an apparent hamstring injury. Compared to the likes of the other top contenders, Kishimoto’s curriculum vitae seems relatively scant. But then again, the Olympics bring out the best in people. Perhaps the young Kishimoto is destined to emulate – or even better – the legendary Tamesue’s world-beating feats.

The Future of European Hurdling

Sergey Shubenkov is the real deal.

He had set a new Russian national record of 13.18s coming into the European Championships in Helsinki. Despite a headwind, the 2011 European U23 Champion ran 13.28s in his qualifying heat. The young Russian stamped his class in the semifinals, stopping the clock in a European-leading time of 13.09s.

View the longer version here

The way he clears the barriers is impressive. The speed of his clearance is noticeable – from the lean to the forceful lead leg snap. It is reminiscent of ease of movement of Dayron Robles’ and Liu Xiang’s respective hurdling techniques. I have yet to study a slow motion clip of his hurdling, but his form – somewhat resembling the archaic double arm shift – is refreshing to watch.

He is a technician that has remarkable speed in between the barriers, as shown by his increasingly quicker times. And he is just 21 years old!

Shubenkov’s time at the Helsinki semifinal ranks him as the sixth fastest European all-time, behind Colin Jacskon (12.91s, 1993, 26y), Ladji Doucoure (12.97s, 2005, 22y), Tony Jarrett (13.00s, 1993, 25y), Florian Schwarthoff (13.05s, 1995, 26y), and Stanislavs Olijars (13.08s, 2003, 24y). Shubenkov had run the fastest time by a European athlete since Doucoure won the World title in the very same stadium seven years ago.

The Russian is in good company. Jackson was a former world record holder, many-time European champion, and and an Olympic silver medalist. Doucoure almost won a medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, had he not fallen badly. Schwarthoff is an Olympic bronze medalist and a European silver medalist. Olijars, a World Indoor bronze medalist and a former European Champion, reached the finals of the Athens Olympics.

With Shubenkov’s impressive showing at the European Championships, the future looks bright for the 21-year old. Considering his youthful exuberance, natural hurdling talent, and the sheer joy that he exudes practicing the sport, I won’t be surprised if he makes an impact at the London Olympic Games. The way he carries himself on the track reminds me a lot about Liu Xiang. Happy hurdlers, indeed, are great competitors.

Read: “Monaco Diamond League – 110m Hurdles”

A finals appearance is probable. He will be up against the likes of Aries Merritt, Liu, Jason Richardson, and Dayron Robles. Shubenkov had displayed maturity beyond his years at the Monaco leg of the Diamond League, where finished two-hundredths of a second behind Richardson. A medal is a distant possibility, if the puzzles fall into place.

Additional Videos:

Shubenkov’s win at the European U23 Champs

Shubenkov’s U23 post-race interview

Day 4 Interview (after the semis)

“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.

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.

Liu Xiang (刘翔) wins 3rd Asiad Gold!!!

Liu Xiang 刘 翔 stamped his class in a badly outgunned field, stopping the clock at 13.09s. Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 placed 2nd with a 13.39s performance, making it a 1-2 finish for the host country. South Korea’s Park Tae-Kyong 박태경 won Bronze.

When I watched the Youtube clip above and saw my idol romp to his best performance in years, I was ecstatic. Seeing Liu celebrate at the finish line is a priceless moment for this hardcore Liu Xiang fan. I raised my arms in triumph, rejoicing with the billion strong Chinese people! All of a sudden, the bad memories of Beijing 2008 are but a distant memory. Even though I watched the race from a measly streaming site, I could almost feel the electricity of Guangzhou’s Aoti Stadium as the thousands of spectators cheered wildly!

Whilst watching the slow motion replay of the race, one can feel the raw intensity of Liu. After all, the Asian Games is the biggest athletics event in China since the 2008 Olympics. The fact that Liu grazed a few hurdles with his hamstring is a testament to this momentous race.

Read the IAAF article here

Read the Universal Sports article here

Read the Yahoo Sports article here

Photos from Daylife.com and Getty Images

Liu’s 13.09s is his best time since the 2007 season. The 2004 Olympic Champion dramatically lowered his erstwhile 2010 seasons’ best of 13.40s.

Results from gz2010.cn

I love how Liu jumped to the top of the podium during the medal ceremony. It was reminiscent of his historic 2004 Athens Olympic gold!

Liu Xiang is indeed back! Dayron Robles and David Oliver – watch out!

Liu’s guts pose! (Photo from Zimbio/Getty Images)

Video credits:

wwcast

sasalove2a2

Additional link:

More photos

Liu Xiang (刘翔) is back!

The 27-year old former world record holder breezed through the heats of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, posting the fastest qualifying time (13.48s) in a modest field. Liu Xiang’s mid-13 second clocking, whilst highly competitive in Asian hurdling circles, is a far cry from Liu’s most stellar performances. Watching the clip of the race, it seems as if my idol was a tad bit less explosive.

Photo from chinadaily.com.cn and Xinhua

Korea’s Park Tae-Kyong, 3rd at the 2002 Asian Games, finished a distant second to Liu in the 1st heat (13.68s). 21-year old Chamras Rittedet of Thailand, the SEA Games Champion, stopped the clock at 13.82 – new personal best.

Results from gz2010.cn

It was a much better race than two of Liu’s most recent races in the 2010 World Indoor Championships and a Diamond League meet in Shanghai.

I’m quite stumped at Shi Dong Peng’s (史冬鹏) sub-par performance in the 2nd heat (13.82s). The past two years should have been Big Shi’s time to shine, in light of Liu’s injury. But the second-best Chinese hurdler never seemed to have retained his razor-sharp form in 2007, where Shi ran to a PB of 13.19s.

Read the Chinadaily article here

As Liu cleared the first few hurdles, shadows of his once potent self unraveled. The smooth hurdle clearances with his swooping lead arm, the snappy short-long-short three stride pattern was vintage Liu Xiang. Although the Chinese icon slowed down as he neared the tape, gone was the reluctance so evident in his injury-marred races of yesterday.

Read Liu Xiang and the Asian Games

In light of the relatively weak competition, Liu is a sure cinch to bag his third successive sprint hurdling crown in this Wednesday’s final – a significant albeit modest step towards London 2012!

Here’s my fearless forecast for the 110m high hurdles final: (1) Liu Xiang of course! (2) Chamras Rittedet and (3) Park Tae-Kyong or Shi Dong Peng.

Video credit

cctv7military

Additional link:

More Liu Xiang photos

110m High Hurdles: 2003 Paris and 2005 Helsinki World Championships

Whilst writing previous Liu Xiang post, I stumbled upon clips of Liu Xiang’s bronze medal in the 2003 Paris World Championships and his silver medal in Helsinki World Champs, two years later. This is the first time I’ve seen actual footage of the two races!

2003 Paris World Champs:

This was Liu Xiang’s first-ever major championship medal and Allen Johnson’s last world outdoor title. Liu was just 20-years old, but still managed to finish third (13.27s) behind the more illustrious American duo of Johnson (13.12s) and the 2000 Sydney Olympics silver medalist, Terrence Trammell (13.20s).

19-year old Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 (13.55s), fresh out of a silver medal in the 2002 World Junior Championships in Kingston, also qualified for his first major senior final.

Results (from sporting-heroes.com):

  1. Allen JOHNSON (USA) 13.12
  2. Terrence TRAMMELL (USA) 13.20
  3. Xiang LIU (CHN) 13.23
  4. Larry WADE (USA) 13.34
  5. Chris PHILLIPS (USA) 13.36
  6. Marcio Simao DE SOUZA (BRA) 13.48
  7. Dongpeng SHI (CHN) 13.55
  8. Yoel HERNANDEZ (CUB) 13.57

2005 Helsinki World Champs:

Liu (13.08), the newly-crowned Olympic champion and then co-world record holder, was upset by the audacious Ladji Doucoure (13.07s) of France. The 19-year old Frenchman came out of a disappointing Olympic campaign, badly hitting one of the barriers in the final. Allen Johnson, the defending world champion, clung on to a quick 13.10s.

The Helsinki World Champs announced the coming of age of the new generation of sprint hurdlers. It’s unfortunate that Doucoure has been slowed down by a spate of injuries in the subsequent years.

Results (from sporting-heroes.com):

  1. Ladji DOUCOURE (FRA) 13.07
  2. Xiang LIU (CHN) 13.08
  3. Allen JOHNSON (USA) 13.10
  4. Dominique ARNOLD (USA) 13.13
  5. Terrence TRAMMELL (USA) 13.20
  6. Joel BROWN (USA) 13.47
  7. Maurice WIGNALL (JAM) 13.47
  8. Mateus FACHO INOCENCIO (BRA) 13.48

It feels great to actually see the two races. Being a student of the sport living at the age of Web 2.0 surely has its advantages!

Video credits:

jiaimefprod

azfeet22

Liu Xiang (刘翔) and the Asian Games

Since it’s Asian Games time again, I couldn’t help but watch  Liu Xiang’s 刘翔 gold medal-winning performances in Busan and Doha.  The 2002 Busan race was memorable. I was just starting out with the sport. I became an instant Liu Xiang fan once I saw him race! I even recorded the event on VHS; hence the grainy format.

Read my “Sidekicks” post on Liu Xiang

2002 Busan Asian Games – 110m High Hurdles (from Todor Krastev):

  1. Liu Xiang 刘翔 (CHN) – 13.27s
  2. Satoru Tanigawa (JPN) – 13.83s
  3. Park Tae-Kyong 박태경 (KOR) – 13.89s
  4. Dongpeng Shi    史冬鹏 CHN    13.92s
  5. Mubarak Atah    SAR    14.07s
  6. Mohammed Aissa Al-Thawadi    QAT    14.26s
  7. Mohd Faiz Mohammed    MAS    14.57s
  8. Jung-Ho Lee    KOR    14.61s
Satoru Tanigawa of Japan was a far second, almost six hundredths of a second behind the then 19-year Liu Xiang. 18-year old Shi Dong Peng 史冬鹏 – the other half of the high hurdling Chinese duo – dropped out of contention for the medals after he clipped a hurdle. 2002 was the year Liu Xiang broke Renaldo Nehemiah’s world junior record, when the latter stopped the clock at 13.12s (over senior hurdles, not the junior ones!) in Lausanne, Switzerland.Fast-forward four years later in the Doha edition of the Asiad. Liu Xiang is now a household name in China, with world championship bronze and silver medals, an Olympic gold and a world record (12.88s, also set in Lausanne) to his name.

Liu was a monster in the race. He was a lot quicker in between hurdles; his technical proficiency was at a different level. Liu was the epitome of the complete sprint hurdler. Now 23-year old, Liu was approaching the peak of his physical fitness. The winning margin was not as glaring as in 2002, since Shi Dong Peng is a decent hurdler in his own right. Liu clocked 13.15s as he practically jogged to the tape once the victory was his. Big Shi ran a respectable 13.28s, one-hundredths of a second off Liu’s winning time four years ago.
2006 Doha Asian Games – 110m High Hurdles (from Wikipedia)
  1.     Liu Xiang (CHN) – 13.15s
  2.     Shi Dong Peng (CHN) – 13.28s
  3.     Naito Masato (JPN) – 13.60s
  4.     Park Tae-Kyong (KOR) – 13.67s
  5.     Tasuku Takonaka (JPN) – 13.88s
  6.     Mohammed Essa Al-Thawadi (KSA) – 13.89s
  7.     Lee Jung-Joon (KOR) – 13.91s
  8.     Hassan Mohd Robani (MAS) – 14.04s
Comparing the results of the two editions, one can see the dramatic increase in the level of competition. If the 2002 silver medalist, Tanigawa (13.83s) ran in Doha, he would have placed a dismal fifth! Perhaps the improvement in the quality of performances can be attributed to Liu Xiang’s rise to the top – and the subsequent emergence of the sprint hurdles as the centerpiece event in Asian athletics.Under much criticism, Liu was given a “free pass” to the Guangzhou Asian Games. The 2004 Olympic Champion was allowed to miss the national championships, in light of his recovery from his troublesome Achilles. I personally believe that an athlete of Liu’s stature should be given this special treatment. It’s not like he doesn’t deserve the extra lee-way. Despite all the challenges, I wish the best for my idol!

Also, godspeed to all the Filipino athletes competing in the 2011 Asiad, especially the tracksters – Arniel Ferrera (Hammer Throw), Mariz Torres (Long Jump), Henry Dagmil (Long Jump), Rosie Villarito (Javelin Throw), Danilo Fresnido (Javelin Throw), Rene Herrera (Steeplechase) and Eduardo Buenavista (Marathon).

Additional links:

Shingo Suetsugo’s (末續 慎吾) Historic World Championship 200m Bronze!

For the longest time, I’ve been scouring the net for a longer clip of the 2003 Paris World Championships 200m Final. It was where Shingo Suetsugo (20.38) unexpectedly clung on to an historic bronze medal finish – a first for an Asian man at major athletics meets. The Asian record holder finished behind Americans John Capel (20.30) and Darvis Patton (20.31). The indefatigable Frankie Fredericks (20.47) crossed the finish line a distant 7th, not bad for 36-year old.

Results (from Sporting-Heroes.com):

  1. Darvis Patton (USA) –          20.31
  2. Shingo Suetsugu (JPN) –     20.38
  3. Darren Campbell (GBR) –    20.39
  4. Stephane Buckland (MRI) – 20.41
  5. Joshua Johnson (USA) –       20.47
  6. Frankie Fredericks (NAB) – 20.47
  7. Uchenna Emedolu (NGR) –  20.62

Suetsugo’s reaction when he found out he got bronze is priceless – truly priceless!

Although he did win a splendid Olympic bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, it’s pity how he faded into insignificance as an individual sprinter.

Read about Japan’s 4x100m Olympic Bronze

When Suetsugo and Liu Xiang both won their respective bronzes in Paris 2003, I thought that the former could go all the way to the Athens Olympics. Suetsugo should have just focused on his event, the 200m dash (20.03), instead of aiming to break the 10-second barrier in the century dash (PB – 10.03).

Video credit:

takuya291941

 

David Oliver: Controlled Aggression

With injuries to both Liu Xiang 刘 翔 and Allen Johnson, I’ve been at a loss on whom to support in the best track event of all, the sprint hurdles. Of course, I root for the handful of mid- to low-13 Asian hurdlers such as Naito Masato 内藤 真人 of Japan and Dong Peng Shi 史冬鹏 of China. Although the latter had reached several World Championships finals, Asian sprint hurdlers lag behind their American and European counterparts.

Despite my admiration for Cuban athletics in general, I was indifferent to Dayron Robles (since he broke Liu’s world record!). Robles is a fine hurdler. We both compete with spectacles and were almost born on the same day and year (Robles – 17 Nov 1986. Yours truly – 18 Nov 1985). Perhaps I’m just fiercely loyal to Liu’s 12.88s.

Months ago while browsing the web, I chanced upon David Oliver‘s blog. At first glance, Oliver might seem intimidating because of his imposing physique. Built like a football player, Oliver reminds me of the great American decathlete, Milton Campbell – who won the gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The 6’3, 205 behemoth is a nice guy and quite approachable (watch out for David Oliver’s 10-for-10 feature!) to his growing legions of fans.

Despite his powerful physique and aggressive hurdling style, Oliver rarely hits hurdles in such a way that it hinders his forward momentum. He powers his way across the 10 barriers with a certain sense of unique elegance. Indeed, a hurdler’s style depends upon his God-given bodily faculties.  If the likes of Liu Xiang and Colin Jackson epitomize the beauty of hurdling, Oliver exudes sheer control of power.

I particularly admire one small yet important nuance of Oliver’s form, his lead foot. Sprint hurdlers usually keep their lead foot straight as the leg clears the hurdle. Some technically endowed athletes like Colin Jackson clears with a bowed lead foot to facilitate faster lead leg clearance.

An angled lead foot shortens the effective length of the lead leg (similar to the concept of dorsi-flexion); hence, resulting into faster movements for the shorter lever. Colin Jackson’s bowed lead leg is a textbook example of this advanced hurdling technique.

Oliver won the recently-concluded U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships with a new personal best of 12.93s – ranking him 6th among the all-time lists. He’s now as fast as the prolific Renaldo Nehemiah. and three-hundredths of a second away from Dominique Arnold‘s American record. With the top 5 times in the event this year all run by Oliver, the 28-year old Beijing Bronze Medalist is stamping his class on the rest of field.

I long for the day when the likes of a healthy Liu Xiang, Robles, Oliver, Doucoure and an injury-free Allen Johnson meet on the track. Now that’s a hurdles race everyone has to see.

Additional Links

Video of David Oliver’s 12.93s race (from Universal Sports)

IAAF Article

Photo Credits

Yahoo News

http://cache.daylife.com

http://emmabarrow.wordpress.com

Sidekicks

In the 90’s movie, Sidekicks, the late Jonathan Brandis’ nerdy, asthmatic character worshiped Chuck Norris. In one particular scene where Brandis’ character was having difficulty climbing up a rope in gym class, the protagonist imagined his hero, Norris, instructing him every step of the way.

Some guys idolize Kobe Bryant or Lionel Messi. I look up to Liu Xiang.

I can somehow relate with the guy from Sidekicks. In the countless hours I’ve spent honing my hurdling technique, the name Liu Xiang was a constant fixture. Back in 2005, when I did hurdle drills at length, I viewed all the clips of Liu Xiang’s races and training just to be able to correct the deficiencies in my form. I patterned my technique after Liu Xiang’s.

In my wildest daydreams, I pictured myself racing against my idol – and winning! There was a time when my training buddy, three-time UAAP sprint hurdles Champion Mike Mendoza, and I watched most of Liu’s ads in Youtube. The rest of the Fab Four hurdlers (Lech & Jots) also sang along with Liu Xiang’s music video. In a strange, Sidekicks-like sense, Liu Xiang was like an actual, albeit imaginary teammate.

The first time I saw my hero compete was way back in 2002. My high school coach told me to closely watch the Chinese hurdler. So I did. Boy, did he run away from the competition, demolishing Saturo Tanigawa, the 2nd placer. I even recorded Liu’s first major international win on tape.

Fast forward two years later to the 2004 Athens Olympics.  I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning just to watch the live telecast of the 110m high hurdles from a Japanese sports channel. My heart was beating triple time as I waited for the started gun. The false start brought tense moments. Once the race started, it was over before you knew it even began. Such is the fast, intense action of the sprints.

Coming into the final barriers, it was apparent that Liu Xiang was on the verge of writing history. Liu outclassed everyone in the field, stopping the clock at 12.91s – breaking Allen Johnson’s Olympic record and tying Colin Jackson’s world record. Liu Xiang became the first Asian man to win a sprinting gold at the Olympics.

I was ecstatic. It was victory not just for the Chinese, but for all Asians as well – Filipinos included. Not wanting to wake up my sleeping siblings, I muffled my screams as I jumped up and down the living room, punching the air.

During the 2005 Captain’s Night, my teammates’ dad (who worked for Coke China) gave a signed copy of Liu Xiang’s autobiography. As the newly minted co-captain of a resurgent Ateneo Track & Field squad with my first two UAAP medals in tow, I was already in cloud nine. But when I saw Liu Xiang’s handwritten message, I became euphoric.

Note: I brought the signed book to most of my races and all of my big meets. During Unigames 2009, I even had a friend bring the book all the way to Bacolod as a moral boost for the other hurdlers (I chose to stay in Manila to train).

Throughout the last 8 years or so, I’ve seen all of Liu’s major races and most of the minor ones, thanks to the advent of broadband internet. I rejoiced when he broke the world record in 2006 and became World Champion in 2007. When Liu hobbled out of the Bird’s Nest in 2008, I mourned with the rest of the shocked Chinese people.

Since local coverage of the Olympics was practically non-existent, I had no other choice but to rely on live text updates from the web. I was dumbfounded the moment I saw “DNF” beside Liu’s name. I was in disbelief. Minutes later, cable news networks were beaming in live feed.

My eyes welled with tears. I was speechless.

A year after the Beijing Olympics tragedy, I stumbled upon Liu Xiang’s comeback race. Liu and long-time rival Terrence Trammell dove to the tape with identical times of 13.15s, with the latter getting the upper hand. Even though I had ceased track & field training, I still felt joyful at my hero’s seemingly successful recovery from injury. A closer look at his race would show that Liu’s form wasn’t as fluid as before. He seemed stiff as he cleared each barrier. Little did I know that in the months to come, Liu’s condition would deteriorate.

It saddens me to see my hero finishing behind guys he would have severely outclassed at his prime. I wish Liu Xiang the best as he recovers from injury and regains his top notch form.

Think London 2012!

Cool Liu Xiang (刘翔) Ad

“From the start of the race, there are 10 obstacles in front of you. There are three steps between each obstacle. Right after the last obstacle, you still need to make the final dash. Every hurdler hopes to be the fastest and first to cross the finish line. Right now, I’m just trying to see if I can be back to where I was before.” – Liu Xiang

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