Tag Archives: sprints

“Freaks of Nature: Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson” by Joboy Quintos

In the sprints, an athlete aims to reach the finish line as fast as possible. Hence, he/she limits the time amount of time on the ground by being explosive. From the track literature I’ve read throughout the years, I’ve learned that stride frequency is genetic, while stride length can be improved through hard work. A sprinter can do as much explosive drills, plyometrics and Olympic lifts as humanly possible, but one’s stride frequency and explosiveness is limited by nature’s genetic endowment of fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Stride length and stride frequency are the major pillars of sprinting. A sprinter strives to achieve a balance between the two. To perfect the sprinting form, an athlete goes through a cacophony of running drills to master each facet of the deceptively simple picture-perfect sprinting form:

  1. Back erect
  2. Shoulders relaxed
  3. Jaw relaxed
  4. Arms pumping below eye level
  5. Hands relaxed, not tensed
  6. Knees pumping high like pistons
  7. The heel not going beyond one’s butt
  8. Toes dorsi-flexed

Among the elite sprinters, I like respective forms of 9-time Olympic Gold medalist Carl Lewis, 2007 Osaka 100m/200m World Champion Tyson Gay and 4-time Olympic Silver medalist Frankie Fredericks the best.

Among all the sprinters of the orthodox school, Usain Bolt epitomizes the synergy of stride frequency and stride length the best. At 6’5 (1.95m), Bolt is the tallest elite sprinter to date (Although the retired German 400m specialist Ingo Schultz is taller at 2.05m, his major achievement pale in comparison to Bolt!).  Naturally, Bolt has longer legs and longer strides than most other sprinters at the world level. His height does not prove a hindrance, however, as he seems to possess a degree of explosiveness more than sufficient to outclass his shorter competitors.

Bolt seems to have ample endowments of BOTH stride length and stride frequency, despite the apparent instability of his upper body relative to other sprinters – a minor aberration to this purveyor of speed!

At 1.85m (6’1), Michael Johnson is not as physically impressive as Bolt. Pound per pound, however, Johnson is more impressive than Bolt with the former’s erstwhile 200m world record of 19.32s and current 400m WR of 43.18s. His arched back, low knee lift and short strides defies textbook sprinting form.

Johnson relies on sheer explosiveness, leg power alone and out-of-this-world speed endurance, in light of his relatively shorter strides.

Usain Bolt may be the current toast of the athletics world (despite his recent loss to Gay). Bolt has single-handedly lifted the sport on his Zeus-like back. He is every inch the sport’s premiere icon, with his stellar 100m and 200m world records. But then again, there will come a time when someone just as tall and fast as Bolt, would emulate his feats.

The chances of another maverick who epitomizes Johnson’s sprinting style is even more remote.

Simply put, if there’s a index which rates one’s ranking in the freak of nature scale, Johnson ranks higher than Bolt in my book. But on the showmanship index? Bolt is up there along with likes of Shaq!

P.S.

Check out MJ’s reaction to Usain’s world record! This is priceless.

Article by Joboy Quintos

Photo credits:

ABC

Track Beauty of the Week: Élodie Ouédraogo

Élodie Ouédraogo is this week’s Track Beauty!

Ouédraogo is a Belgian athlete who competes in both the sprints and the intermediate hurdles. The high point in her career came at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she won the 4x100m silver together with Belgian sprinting great Kim Gevaert, Olivia Borleé, and Hanna Marien. The quartet stopped the clock at a new Belgian record of 42.54s. Élodie was also part of the Belgian squad tha won bronze at the Osaka World Championships.

Click this link to read the full article…

Track Beauty of the Week: Marika Popowicz

Marika Popowicz is this week’s Track Beauty!

Popowicz is a Polish sprinter who specializes in the 100m and 200m. Marika has a personal best of 11.38s and 23.15s in the aforesaid events, set during her breakout season in 2009.The young Polish speedster racked brought home multiple individual medals as well as a relay medal from the World Military Games and the World University Games.

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2007 Southeast Asian Games – Men’s 400m Dash Final

The 400m dash was my first track event. I took up the quarter-mile during the heyday of Ernie Candelario in the early oughts. Even if I eventually shifted focus to the sprint hurdles, the 400m dash has always been my favorite sprinting event.

Here’s a clip culled from old VHS tapes. The Philippines’ Julius Nierras nips Thailand’s Jukkaip Pojaroen for the 2007 Southeast Asian Games 400m dash title. Nierras stopped the clock at 46.56s, almost a tenth of second ahead of the Thai, thanks to the former’s Herculean effort in the last fifteen meters.

This was the Philippines’ fourth consecutive SEA Games 400m gold, starting from Ernie’s back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2003 and Jimar Aing’s triumphant race in Manila back in 2005.

Results (from Jad Adrian):

  1. Julius Nierras PHI 46.56
  2. Jukkathip Pocharoen THA 46.64
  3. Zaiful Zainal Abidin MAS 46.75
  4. Amran Raj Krishnan MAS 47.24
  5. Ahmed Sakeh Sumarsono INA 47.45
  6. Ernie Candelario PHI 48.09
  7. Suppachai Chimdee THA 48.42
  8. Yan Karubaba INA 48.72

Video Credit:

National Broadcasting Network

Isagani Peychär: An Austrian Athlete with Filipino Roots

Philippine sports, in particular, have benefited greatly from the Filipino diaspora. Filipino athletes with foreign roots like Cecil Mamiit, Miguel Molina, and the Younghusband brothers have competed with distinction for Flag and Country. The Philippine Basketball Association, despite a turbulent experience with the so-called Fil-Shams back in the nineties, has Filipino-Americans Filipino cagers as its biggest stars. Athletics has had its fair share of foreign-born stars in Ed Lasquete and Deborah Samson.

Track & field, being a fringe sport in the Philippines, has not seen the influx of high-profile stars as in the other, more lucrative sports. In light of the wide spectrum of Filipinos living across the globe, I’ve often wondered about those hidden talents.

I first learned about Isagani Peychär from an Austrian friend a few months back. Peychär is one of Austria’s top athletes in the long jump and the sprint hurdles. He was born to an Austrian father and a Filipina mother. The name “Isagani” is a uniquely Filipino name. It is actually a shortened version of the Tagalog phrase “Isang Masaganang Ani” (A Bountiful Harvest). [1]

The 31-year old has competed in high caliber major internationals like the European Indoor Championships, the European Cup (now the European Team Championships), [2] representing the landlocked Central European country. Isagani registered 7.35m in the long jump back in the 2005 Universiade in Izmir, good enough for 11th place in qualifying. He also finished 11th in qualifying at the European Indoor Championships in Madrid the same year, albeit with a more superior mark of 7.35m.

The Austrian-Filipino is the reigning Austrian indoor record holder in the long jump at 7.96m (2005, Munich). Isagani has an outdoor lifetime best of 7.94m (2005). Isagani is a well-rounded athlete who excels not just in the jumps, but in the sprints and hurdles as well. Peychär also holds the Austrian Youth 60m dash record (6.98s) and the Austrian Junior 110m Hurdles (0.99m) record (13.81s). [3] His personal bests are in the 60m, 100m, and the 110m Hurdles are respectable marks of 6.87s, 10.88s, and 14.52s, respectively.

Peychär is the same age – and only a few centimeters behind in terms of lifetime best – as Henry Dagmil, the Filipino long jump record holder at 7.99m.

The powerfully-built Isagani stands at just 1.70m, a height more common amongst Filipino males than in Austrians. As a sprint hurdler myself, I was particularly impressed with his hurdling. Smaller athletes are at a disadvantage in the sprint hurdles. The ideal hurdler usually stands between 1.78m (Allen Johnson) and 1.92 (Dayron Robles). To negotiate the sticks with Peychär’s Filipino stature requires much guts, desire, and speed – of which Isagani certainly was not lacking.

Running a 13-second sprint hurdle race is the mark of a world-class hurdler. I love the sprint hurdles so much that I get piqued everytime I’m reminded of the fact that no Filipino has gone below the 14-second barrier. If I’m not mistaken, Peychär is the only hurdler of Filipino descent who have achieved such a feat. Isagani is a product of the European system of athletics. Philippine track & field, in comparison, is grossly underdeveloped. This goes to show that with proper training and sufficient support, Filipino athletes could become world class again.

Additional Links:

Isagani’s Homepage

Isagani’s All-Athletics Profile

Isagani’s IAAF Biography

References:

  1. “What is the meaning of the name Isagani?.” (Answers, 2012). http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_meaning_of_the_name_Isagani. (16 September).
  2. “Erfolge.” (Homepage von Isagani Peychär, 2006). http://members.chello.at/isi-peychaer/ (16 September 2012).
  3. Ibid.

* Special thanks to Rosalie Tschann for bringing attention to Peychär’s achievements.

Track Beauty of the Week: Libania Grenot

Libania Grenot is this week’s Track Beauty!

Grenot is Italy’s best quarter-miler. The Cuban-born Italian sprinter has a personal best of 50.30s, the standing Italian record in the 400m dash. The 29-year old is a grizzled veteran of the athletics scene. She made her international debut at the World Youth Championships in Bydgoszcz in 1999 for her native Cuba, where she finished fifth in the final.

Click this link to read the full article…

Track Beauty of the Week: Marije Smits

Marije Smits is this week’s Track Beauty!

In honor of the ongoing Paralympic Games in London, it is apt to select a talented, differently-abled athlete as Track Beauty.

Read: “The Paralympic Athletes” 

Smits is a long jumper and sprinter from the Netherlands. The 25-year old has extensive experience in international-level events. She made her debut in the Paralympics back in 2004.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Kai Selvon

Kai Selvon is this week’s Track Beauty!

The sprinter is an up and coming athlete from Trinidad and Tobago. She competes in both the 100m and 200m, as well as in the 4x100m relay for the Trinidadian national team. To date, Selvon has personal bests of 11.21s and 22.85s.

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Still an Usain Bolt Show

The Jamaican Olympic Trials were a revelation.

Usain Bolt’s 100m defeat to his young training partner, Yohan Blake, came as a surprise. Blake’s commanding victory in the 200m was even more astounding. Bolt has shown chinks in armor in the century dash, owing to his inconsistent start. But in the half-lap sprint, the great Jamaican sprinter has been peerless.

Bolt en route to the 200m dash gold in Beijing. (Photo from Richard Giles)

The aforesaid losses to Blake and rumors of lingering injury, have pushed some athletics pundits to tag Blake as the prime candidate for Olympic sprinting glory.

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 100m Dash”

Read: “London Olympics Preview – The 200m Dash”

Those views are not entirely baseless. On paper, the 2012 Bolt is a far cry from his 2009 self. The Jamaican champion’s 100m and 200m season’s bests are at 9.76s and 19.83s, respectively -light years away from his world records of 9.58s and 19.19s. Coming into the London Olympics, Blake is the world leader in both of the aforesaid events (9.75s and 19.80s).

True enough, Blake has what it takes to beat his compatriot. The 2011 100m World Champion (in the absence of a disqualified Bolt), is the third fastest in the 100m all-time list, behind Bolt and Asafa Powell. Blake has a personal best of 19.26s in the 200m a mark only bettered by Usain’s world record of 19.19s and is the only man who can challenge Bolt in the half lap sprint.

Powell, the former 100m world record, has the necessary tools edge out Bolt in the century dash. But the 30-year old has been a perennial underachiever in the major championships. Tyson Gay, the 100m and 200m World Champion from 2007, also enjoys the tag as a potential Bolt-beater. The oft-injured Gay is one of only two men to beat a post-Beijing Olympics Usain Bolt in the 100m (the other is, of course, Blake). Gay, recently recovered from a hip operation, owns the second fastest time in the 100m at 9.69s, behind Bolt’s 9.58s world record.

    

Blake (L), Gay (C), and Powell (R). (Photos from Erik van Leeuwen, Eckhard Pecher, and Jonas Witt)

Judging by the stat sheets and the results of the Jamaican Olympic Trials, a monumental collapse by Usain Bolt is in the offing.

I beg to disagree because of four important factors.

First, Bolt has the most experience amongst the four contenders. The Jamaican has won sprinting titles in Youth, Junior and Senior World Championship events. He has been competing at the highest level of sport since he was 15-years old. No other athlete, save for Russian Pole Vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and New Zealand’s Shot Putter Valerie Adams, have shown such consistency amongst the different age groups.

And of course, Bolt is the defending Olympic Champion. Blake, Gay, and Powell have yet to win individual Olympic golds.

Second, Bolt is a freak of nature. Speed is a function of stride length and stride frequency. Bolt, with his 1.95m/ 6’5 frame, excels in both departments. No Olympic or World sprinting champion was as tall and quick as Usain Bolt.

Third, Bolt has been in similar circumstances before. As a talented youngster, Bolt owns the World Youth best and the World Junior record in the 200m. His transition to the senior ranks, however, was marked by injury and a seeming lack of focus. Despite being popular in Jamaica, he was an unknown outside immediate athletics circles. There was a lull in his career from 2003 to 2008, until the Beijing Olympics where he romped to three Olympic Gold medals.

Lastly, Bolt has the ability to dig deep. In the glitz and glamour of the short sprints, people tend to overlook the fact that Usain once excelled in the 400m dash in his younger days. As a 16-year old, the Jamaican ran 45.35s, the sixth fastest ever by a Youth athlete. Although Gay has a faster personal best than Bolt in the quarter-mile, the latter has the necessary championship pedigree in the event. In my opinion, his background in the 400m is what sets him apart from his competitors. It puts him in a vastly different mindset.

Because of his long legs, we don’t usually see Bolt get the fastest start in the short dashes. But once his pistons start firing in full throttle, the race is over – more often than not. Indeed, it takes guts and determination to snatch victory from behind.

Despite the snags of Bolt’s 2012 season, the London 2012 Olympics shall still be Usain Bolt’s one big sprinting party.

Ivet Lalova’s Comeback

Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова was one of the favorites to win a medal coming into the 2004 Athens Olympics. She had just set a new personal time of 10.77s, drawing level with Irina Privalova as the sixth fastest sprinter of all-time. Ivet, however, fell short of the podium in Athens. She finished in fourth place behind Yulia Nestsiarenka (Юлія Несцярэнка Юлия Нестеренко – 10.93s), Lauryn Williams (10.96s), and Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.97s).

Click here to read the full article…

Helsinki European Championships: Women’s 4x400m Relay

The 4x400m relay has traditionally been the final event of athletics competitions. From low-key schools meets to the Olympics, the grueling yet exciting event has always been the curtain-ender.

The recently concluded European Championships in Helsinki were no different. With the Russian Olympic Trials being held the week after, the European athletics powerhouse opted to send its “B” team to Helsinki.

Click this link to read the full article…

London Olympics Preview: The 100m Dash

The Blue Riband event is the centerpiece of the Olympics. The athlete who wins the gold is dubbed as the world’s fastest man or woman.

Photo from Nigel Chadwick

Women’s 100m Dash

Until the Jamaican Olympic trials last June, Carmelita Jeter has been comfortably perched as the 2012 world leader. Jeter ran 10.81s at the same blue track in Kingston where the Jamaican trials were held.

A month later, the defending Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce demolished the American’s erstwhile 2012 standard. Fraser-Pryce ran a personal best, as she stopped the clock at 10.70s. Veronica Campbell-Brown came second at 10.82s.

 

Fraser-Pryce (L) and Jeter (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen and André Zehetbauer

Trinidadian Kelly-Ann Baptiste (10.86s) and Allyson Felix (10.92s) trails Campbell-Brown. Kerron Stewart (10.94s), Tianna Madison (10.96s), Murielle Ahoure (11.00s), and Blessing Okagbare (11.01s) occupy prominent positions in the top list.

The European challenge will be top billed by the comebacking Ivet Lalova Ивет Лалова (11.06s SB) and the mercurial Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.08s), who finished 1-2 at the European Championships in Helsinki.

   

Felix (L), Baptiste (C), and Stewart (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen

With the London Games barely two weeks away, the Jamaicans and the Americans are sure to figure in tough battle for gold.

The 25-year old Fraser-Pryce, fresh from setting lifetime bests in the 100m and the 200m, is at her prime. Jeter is six years older than the Jamaican Olympic Champion, but is coming into the Games as the reigning World Champion. the powerful American has a personal best of 10.64s from 2009. the second fastest behind Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49s world record.

Stewart (10.75s, 2009), Campbell-Brown (10.76s, 2011), and Lalova (10.77s, 2004) are all sub-10.80s sprinters at their respective bests. Felix (10.92s, 2012) could figure in the fight for the podium as well, as long as she does not get left behind at the blocks.

My pick for gold is the defending champion, Fraser-Pryce. She has the momentum and she seems to be peaking just in time for London.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Silver: Carmelita Jeter

Bronze: Allyson Felix

Men’s 100m Dash

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Yohan Blake and Tyson Gay are the only ones capable of beating an in-form Usain Bolt. Former World record holder Asafa Powell has the necessary speed and breakneck start, but he just does not possess the mental toughness to live up to his potential in major championships.

   

Bolt (L), Gay (C), and Blake (R). Photos from Erik van Leeuwen [Bolt and Blake] and Eckhard Pecher [Gay])

True enough, Blake has inflicted back-to-back defeats in the 100m and 200m to his training partner, both at the Jamaican Olympic Trials. Gay triumphed over Bolt at the DN Galan in Stockholm back in 2010.

The fight for gold will be three-pronged between Bolt, Blake, and Gay, should the latter be able to find the spring in his legs again. Justin Gatlin is the dark horse. Coming from his two-year doping ban, he has a lot to prove and is intent on making his comeback complete by winning Olympic gold.

Gatlin wins the 2012 World Indoor 60m Dash title. (Photo from Erik van Leeuwen)

Blake (9.75s) and Bolt (9.76s) are the two fastest this year. The 2004 Athens Olympic Champion, Justin Gatlin, is in top form as he set a personal best of 9.80s en route to topping the tough U.S. Olympic Trials. Powell (9.85s), Keston Bledman (9.86s), and Gay (9.86s) round up the next three.

Watch out for the tall and powerful Ryan Bailey. Bailey finished third at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, setting a personal best of 9.93s.

 

Collins (L) and Lemaitre (R). Photos from André Zehetbauer and Erik van Leeuwen)

I’d love to see Kim Collins (10.05s SB) replicate his podium finish in Daegu, but the 2003 World Champion has not gone below the 10-second barrier this season. The French duo of Christophe Lemaitre (10.04s SB) and Jimmy Vicaut (10.07s SB) could once again barge into the final. Britain’s new sprinting talent, Adam Gemili (10.05s PB/SB), looks poised to make a mark as well.

I’m rooting for an injury-free Gay to finally wrest the Olympic 100m dash title. As the second fastest of all-time over the distance (9.69s), he has what it takes to come out on top. The youthfully exuberant Blake has the psychological edge, in the wake of his emphatic wins over Bolt.

If the world’s greatest sprinter gets his act together in London, the rest of the field – Gay and Blake included – will be competing only for the lesser medals.

Top Three Predictions:

Gold: Usain Bolt

Silver: Tyson Gay/Yohan Blake

Bronze: Justin Gatlin

Sources:

IAAF

Wikipedia

Track Beauty of the Week: Murielle Ahouré

Murielle Ahouré is this week’s Track Beauty!

The Ivorian sprinter has improved gradually the past few years. From an 11.42s best in the 100m dash in 2006, Ahouré came close to the 11-seconds in 2009, as she clocked 11.09s in Greensboro. She had forgettable campaigns in the next two years, but the 2012 season has been a revelation for the fast starting African sprinter.

Click this link to read the full article…

Re-run in Barcelona!

At the third heat of the men’s 400m dash qualifying, the starting gun fired before Kenyan Alphas Leken Kishoyian had settled on his blocks. He finished dead last with a time of 48.39s, due to the starter’s lapse.

A re-run was ordered, even if the Kenyan team did not file a formal protest. Kishoyian, according to an IAAF article, must better the time for the least fastest finalist (Nikita Uglov, 46.49s) to barge into the medal round.

The Kenyan youngster blasted out of the blocks, running the first 200m at around 21 seconds. He was gamely cheered on by the Kenyan contingent and the rest of the spectators. Having a personal best of 45.64s, Kishoyian had the necessary firepower to accomplish the task at hand. He stopped the clock at 46.46s.

With this peculiar twist, the 400m final will feature nine athletes instead of the standard eight in the sprinting events.

In the many years I’ve closely followed major international track & field competitions, this is the only time I’ve seen a re-run in such a high level meet. When Perdita Felicien accidentally veered into Irina Shevchenko after clipping a hurdle at the Athens Olympics 100m hurdles final, the Russian officials roared for a re-run.

The request was denied.

Back in UAAP 65, however, one of my teammates had a similar experience. The officials (for reasons I’ve forgotten), allowed my teammate to run in his own final heat, after the original final had taken place.

But then again, the UAAP is just a collegiate event from the athletics-obscure Philippines.

Additional Link:

400m Dash Semifinals

Video Credit:

Mike Bascombe (who uploaded the Super Sport clips)

Verena is Back!

My favorite moment of the 2010 Barcelona European Championships was when Verena Sailer stormed to first place at the 100m dash. Since then, I’ve been a fervent supporter of Verena. Unfortunately, the German sprinter’s performance have been hampered by injury.

Read: “Track Beauty of the Week – Verena Sailer”

The Helsinki European Championships was her first major international since her breakout win in Barcelona a couple of years ago. The German champion performed magnificently. Sailer notched a season’s best of 11.14s in the 1st Round. Verena (11.17s) finished second in her semifinal, behind the fast-finishing Olesya Povh Олеся Повх (11.13s)of Ukraine.

Click this link to read the full article…

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