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Tag Archives: London Olympics
July 25, 2012Posted by on
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became famous as the first female runner to complete the Boston Marathon. A furious race organizer tried to stop Switzer from completing the race, shouting “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.” Her boyfriend came to the rescue and shoved the official aside.
July 15, 2012Posted by on
I was ten years old when boxer Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco won the silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games. Even though I have hazy memories of the fight, I can still feel the disappointment. Since then, our best Olympic hopes had fallen in the last three editions of the quadrennial event. Like the rest of the nation, I kept my hopes up each time our fancied amateur boxers and taekwondo jins donned the national colors in Sydney, Athens, and Beijing.
But an Olympic gold, much less a medal, has remained elusive.
I find it farcical each time our sports officials and politicians dangle cash incentives to our athletes, months or weeks prior the Games. Although it would surely add to the motivation for doing well, training for Olympic Glory takes more than just financial rewards. Even if our athletes excel in regional-level competitions, the international scene is several notches higher. You can’t turn a Southeast Asian Games medalist into an Olympic contender overnight. Our propensity for cramming is not a tried and tested approach to Olympic success.
Amidst all the internal bickering in Philippine sports and its structural flaws, I found myself disillusioned in the run-up to the London Olympics. I have written numerous articles on past Olympic champions from other countries. Except for the sporting feats of our past champions, but my mind goes blank each time I juxtapose the Philippines and the London Olympics.
As an athlete myself, I’ve always been enamored the Olympic ideal. The founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, makes an apt description: “The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering, but fighting well.” In the years I’ve spent devouring all sorts of media about the Olympics, I consider John Stephen Akhwari’s and Derek Redmond’s experiences as the most moving.
Akwhari was a Tanzanian marathoner who finished dead last at the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968. Despite a painful knee injury, he hobbled on to the finish line to the loud cheers of the few spectators and volunteers left. Redmond competed in the 1992 Barcelona Games. At the 400m dash semifinal, he pulled a hamstring midway into the race. In tears and in obvious pain, the Briton bravely limped to complete the race, as his father ran to him from the stands.
Aside from sports like professional boxing, basketball, billiards and bowling, being a Filipino athlete is not a lucrative profession. Government support and public interest are scant, paling in comparison to the more established sporting nations. The national training facilities, at best, are spartan. To reach for one’s Olympic dreams is a struggle both athletic and financial.
As a Filipino, I’m hoping for a good result in London. Deep down, however, I know for a fact that another Olympic shut-down is possible. There will be finger-pointing when this happens, perhaps even a congressional inquiry. Expect to hear the usual pronouncements of new nation-wide sporting program. It’s all part of the vicious cycle of Philippine sports.
Our sports officials can bicker all they want, but one thing is for certain: our athletes are doing their utmost best under the circumstances The distinction of competing at the world’s highest stage is an achievement in itself.
The beauty of sport lies in the unexpected. Sometimes, the enormity of the moment could enable an athlete to transcend and deliver. Perhaps if the stars align in favor of the Philippines, one of our athletes might just reach the podium.
I long for the day when a Filipino finally tops an Olympic event. When I do see our athlete stand on top of the podium and hear “Lupang Hinirang” play in the background, I might just shed tears of joy. Until that moment comes, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
To the Filipino Olympians, godspeed!
The Philippine Contingent to the 2012 London Olympics
Mark Javier (Archery)
Rachel Cabral (Archery)
Rene Herrera (Athletics)
Marestella Torres (Athletics)
Mark Barriga (Boxing)
Daniel Caluag (BMX)
Tomoko Hoshina (Judo)
Brian Rosario (Shooting)
Jessie Khing Lacuna (Swimming)
Jasmine Alkhaldi (Swimming)
Hidilyn Diaz (Weightlifting)
June 25, 2012Posted by on
I’ve always been fascinated by the touching story of Sueo Oe 大江 季雄 and Shuhei Nishida 西田 修平. The two Japanese pole vaulters won bronze and silver at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The two vaulters were very good friends. When they arrived in Japan, they went to a jeweler and had the two medals cut in half. Both Nishida and Oe had equal halves of bronze and silver, aptly called the Medal of Eternal Friendship.
In sport, people often say that only one person (or team) can emerge victorious. True enough, that is almost always the case in competitive sport, especially in athletics. Unless there is a dead heat.
The U.S. Olympic Trials featured one of the most high profile deadlocks in a running event the past few years. At the 100m dash final, the fast-finishing Allyson Felix caught up with her training partner Jeneba Tarmoh. Third place – and the coveted spot in the U.S. lineup – was originally awarded to Tarmoh. A closer review of the photo-finish tapes revealed that the sprinters actually clocked identical times of 11.068s.
The U.S. Trials is a cutthroat method of selection, where the top three finishers in each event are automatically given outright slots to a major championships, provided that they had met the entry standards. Considering the vast talent pool of the U.S., the competition for those berths are naturally tough (even tougher than the Olympic Games itself, some say).
However, it turns out that there was no clear cut policy on settling dead heats in the running events. Since countries are only allowed to send a maximum of three participants in the Olympic Games, a clear victor must be chosen between Felix and Tarmoh. After much deliberation, the USATF crafted a set of guidelines in dealing with these rare occurrences:
Felix and Tarmoh, simply put, will be given the option of a coin toss or a run-off. Considering how competitive these ladies are, it is almost certain that the latter will be chosen.
Dead heats, because of its rarity (well, not for Yevgeniy Borisov and Konstantin Shabanov, I guess), is a refreshing twist to the black & white outcome of a track race. As spectators and competitors alike, we have been accustomed to seeing one person stand on each rung of the podium. In this day and age of fast-pace lifestyles and cut throat ways of life, it seems almost heartwarming to see two (or even three) people share a coveted prize.
For Felix and Tarmoh, however, they can share the bronze medal but only one can be sent to London.
June 13, 2012Posted by on
The one-lap sprint is one of the most nail-biting athletics events. It tests the threshold of human speed endurance. The race is a thrilling display of tactics, proper-timing, speed and heart.
Women’s 400m Dash
The fight for the quarter-mile gold medal would we between 2009 World Champion Sanya Richards-Ross (48.70s PB) and the 2011 World Champion Amantle Montsho (49.56s PB). The versatile Allyson Felix (49.59s PB) could make the battle three-pronged, but then again, the 100m/200m combo seems the more practical route for Felix, instead of the more grueling – and rarer – 200m/400m double.
I don’t expect the defending Olympic Champion Christine Ohuruogu (49.61s PB) to contend for gold, in light of the recent drop in her form. However, the hometown crowd could push Ohuruogu all the way to a podium spot, or a good showing in the finals at the very least.
Richards-Ross had run the fastest time this season, with her 49.39s world lead at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. Montsho came second to the American in that same race, submitting a time three-tenths slower (49.69). Jamaican Novlene Williams-Mills (49.63s PB, 49.78s SB) is the only other sprinter to dip below 50-seconds.
Francena McCorory, a 4x400m relay gold medalist from Daegu, is in tip-top shape, having set a new personal best of 50.06s at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York. The Russians, as always, will be well-represented. This season, the top Russian quarter-milers are Yulia Gushchina Ю́лия Гу́щина (50.01s PB, 50.26s SB) and Kseniya Ustalova Ксения Усталова (49.92s PB, 50.48s SB). The experienced Anastasiya Kapachinskaya Анастасия Капачинская (49.35s PB, 51.17s SB), the bronze medallist from Daegu and the 2003 200m World Champion, is several rungs lower than her compatriots.
Richards-Ross has finally recovered from her an injury sustained a couple of years ago. After a disappointing campaign at the Daegu World Championships, the American sent a strong message to her rivals when she dominated Montsho in Eugene. The Botswanan
(and Felix, if she decides to compete in the quarter-mile) will be hard-pressed to edge out Richards-Ross for first place.
Top Three Predictions
Gold: Sanya Richards-Ross
Silver: Amantle Montsho
/Allyson Felix (if she runs the 400m)
Bronze: Francena McCorory
Men’s 400m Dash
The Americans have been the dominant force in men’s quarter-mile sprinting for the longest time. In the last three editions of the Olympics, the Americans have swept the event twice (2004 and 2008). They took the top two spots at the Sydney Olympics. The Americans are just as dominant in the World Championships, taking the World title in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009.
Jeremy Wariner (43.45s PB, 44.96s SB)has won the 2004 Olympic Gold, an Olympic silver, 2 World titles, and a World Championship silver. LaShawn Merritt (43.75s PB, 44.19s SB), meanwhile, has the 2008 Olympic Gold, one World title, and two World Championships silver medals to his name.
Wariner’s form has dipped in the last two years, as Merritt served a suspension for failing a dope test. Several new challengers – and a new quarter-mile king – have emerged. The young Kirani James (44.36s PB, 44.72s SB) convincingly won the 2011 World Championships over Merritt, a year after claiming the World Junior title in Moncton. Another veteran from the Moncton World Juniors is the 18-year old Luguelín Santos from the Dominican Republic. The fleet-footed Santos had set a new personal best of 44.45s last May, the second-fastest time this season and the eight-quickest ever by a junior athlete.
The Borlées have run competitive times, with Kevin (44.56 PB/SB) having a quicker season’s best than Jonathan (44.71s PB, 44.88s). As a testament to the depth of American 400m talent, six Americans are in the top 10 this season: Merritt, Tony McQuay (44.58s SB/PB), Michael Berry (44.75s SB/PB), Joshua Mance (44.83s SB/PB), Gil Roberts (44.84s SB/PB), and Wariner. McQuay, Berry, Mance and Roberts are all younger than twenty-three! Martyn Rooney (44.60s PB, 44.92s SB) and two-time Olympic 400m champion Angelo Taylor (44.05s PB, 44.97s SB) have also gone below 45-seconds this season.
Should Wariner be able to find the spring in his legs, the London Olympic final could feature a duel between generations – with Wariner and Merritt on one side, and James and Santos on the other. The other youngster, Santos, might just be too green to crack the top three. As much as I want to see Wariner add another Olympic title to his already impressive curriculum vitae, the signs are not pointing towards the right direction (sadly, Wariner failed to barge into the top 3 at the U.S. Olympic Trials).
But then again, the Olympics bring out the best in people.
I have a strong feeling that James has what it takes to do a Steve Lewis. Merritt is a grizzled veteran. The American (43.75s) also has a superior personal best than the Grenadan (44.35s). My sixth sense tells me that James’ youthful exuberance could spell the difference between silver and gold.
Top Three Predictions
Gold: Kirani James
Silver: LaShawn Merritt
Jeremy Wariner/Either one of the Borlee brothers/Tony McQuay
June 4, 2012Posted by on
The triple jump features contenders from both ends of the age spectrum. Established stars will be pitted against young and equally talented upstarts. The event will also feature Britain’s top hopes for Olympic glory.
Photo from Nigel Chadwick
Women’s Triple Jump
The composition of the podium in 2012 will be a lot different from that four years ago. The old guard had passed the baton to the new.
The top contenders for the Olympic title feature three athletes. Cuba’s Yargelis Savigne, twice World champion, holds the most experience. Then there’s Olga Rypakova Ольга Сергеевна Рыпакова, the Asian record holder and the 2010 World indoor champion. Ukraine’s Olha Saladuha (Ольга Саладуха), as the reigning World champion from Daegu, has the momentum and psychological advantage of being the current outdoor titlist.
Rypakova (L), Savigne (C), and Saladuha (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen)
Colombia’s Caterine Ibargüen streaked to a world-leading mark of 14.95m last April, albeit at altitude. Yamilé Aldama, the 39-year old Cuban-born Briton, is the oldest amongst the field and is the most experienced.
Aldama (15.29m, 2003), Savigne (15.28m, 2007), and Rypakova (15.25m, 2010) are all members of the elite 15 meter club – and are perched high up the all-time list. Ibarguen (14.99A, 2011) and Saladuha (14.98m, 2011) are mere centimeters from breaking the coveted barrier.
Taking into account the recency and quality of personal bests, Ibarguen heads the cast. But then again, she has limited experience in the world’s highest stage. Considering the depth of the field, seeing multiple athletes go beyond 15 meters seem plausible. It’s one thing to perform well at a minor competition, and another to display excellence at the summit of sport. The resurgent Aldama, fresh from winning the World indoor title in Istanbul, might not possess the spring in her legs to compete head-to-head with an in-form Savigne, Rypakova and Saladuha.
Saladuha (14.75m) holds a small, 2cm lead over Rypakova (14.73m) in the 2012 top list. Savigne (14.35m), however, is not even in the top five this year. Despite her advanced age, Aldama (14.65m), might still have a few tricks under her sleeve.
With these facts in mind, Rypakova is my bet to win Olympic gold. The Kazakh is capable of making big jumps, and had done so at a considerably recent time (Doha World Indoors). Once she gets her rhythm going, Rypakova could triumph over the classy field.
Top Three Predictions
Gold: Olga Rypakova
Silver: Yargelis Savinge/Olga Saladuha
Bronze: Olga Saladuha/Yamilé Aldama
Men’s Triple Jump
The 34-year old Phillips Idowu, the 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medalist, would be pitted against the young troika of Teddy Tamgho, Christian Taylor, and Will Claye. Tamgho, the World indoor record holder, is high up the outdoor all-time list with a best mark of 17.98m. Christian Taylor is two centimeters behind the Frenchman, with his 17.96m best from Daegu last year. Idowu’s lifetime best of 17.81m, however, is superior to Claye’s 17.50m. But then again, the other half of the American triple jumping duo had hopped, stepped and skipped 17.70m this year, en route to winning the World Indoor title in Istanbul.
Note: Tamgho has ended his 2012 season – and his Olympic campaign – due to an ankle injury.
Idowu (L), Taylor (C), and Claye (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen)
The other contenders for a spot on the podium are the Cuban trio of Alexis Copello, Arnie David Giralt, and Yoandri Betanzos. The defending Olympic champion, Portugal’s Nelson Évora, has discovered some semblance of his old form, as he placed fifth (17.35m) in Daegu.
Taylor is the 2012 world leader with 17.62m from the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. Russia’s Lyukman Adams Люкман Адамс (17.53m)and Cuba’s Osviel Hernández (17.49m) round up the next two spots, followed by Claye (17.48m). Idowu has a season’s best of 17.31m.
Idowu is my pick for the triple jump gold, due to the considerable depth of his experience. He is in peak form and has shown marked consistency. The 2009 World champion grew up in Hackney, one of the host boroughs of the London Olympics. To compete in one’s own backyard could give Idowu the decisive boost to complete the only major title missing from his collection.
The competition has the makings of a classic, with two near-18 meter jumpers figuring in the clash. Tamgho, however, had just emerged from a six-month lay-off after reportedly brawling with a female athlete. It remains to be seen how this incident has affected the Frenchman’s focus and preparations. Taylor and Claye, are relatively new at the international championship level. But then again, their youthful zest – and considerably impressive stat sheet (especially Taylor’s) – are potent combinations.
Top Three Predictions
Gold: Phillips Idowu
Silver: Christian Taylor
Bronze: Will Claye