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London Olympics Preview: The Triple Jump

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/Teddy Tamgho

Sources:

2008 Beijing Olympics Results

2011 World Championships Results

2009 World Championships Results

2007 World Championships Results

2012 World Indoor Championships Results

2010 World Indoor Championships Results

TDYSTAR (Teddy Tamgho) – Joyeux Noël

I must admit that I was quick to pillory Teddy Tamgho when I learned about his 12-month suspension. Tamgho figured in a brawl with a 19-year old female athlete at a training camp in Southern France. The details over the internet were scant. From the reports, the world indoor triple jump record holder was slapped with a fine, 50 hours of community service, and was suspended from athletics competition (although he’ll be eligible to compete in London).

Tamgho en route to his World Indoor gold (Photo from Wikipedia)

Read: “French triple jumper Teddy Tamgho banned for six months for fighting”

Read: “Teddy Tamgho suspendu six mois pour une altercation avec une athlète”

While looking into the aforesaid controversy, I stumbled upon Tamgho’s music video in reaction to all his critics. It was in French, of course, so I didn’t catch a single word.

Violence against women (or against any human being, for that matter) is deplorable. Since the punishment meted on Tamgho was considerably harsher than that given at the aftermath of the Baala-Mekhissi-Benabbad punching incident, one can only assume the gravity of circumstances, in light of the lack of details.

Despite all these, two things are certain: 1.) Tamgho is a talented athlete and 2.) He belches out a decent rap.

A Long Shot: Asian Hopes at the Daegu World Championships

The Daegu World Athletics Championships is just around the corner. South Korea will play host to the most prestigious gathering track & field athletes after the Olympic Games, the third time for an Asian country to do so.

Sprinter Usain Bolt, in light of his spectacular array of world records, is the undeniable front-act. Other crowd drawers are triple jumper Teddy Tamgho of France (a stress fracture prematurely ended Tamgho’s season, unfortunately), high jumper Blanka Vlasic and javelin thrower Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway. The Kenyan 800m runner David Rudisha, fresh from a slew of world records last season, is on the hunt to rewrite the two-lap mark once more. The sprints, as always, will provide fast-paced action as the rest of the world pits their sprinting might against the dominant Jamaicans and Americans.

Read the rest of the article on InTheZone.com.ph

“Fraternite”

The following clip exemplifies the solid performance of the French athletics team at the recently concluded European Indoor Athletics Championships in Bercy. The preliminaries of the men’s 400m dash were underway. The pole vaulting duo of Renaud Lavillenie and Jerome Clavier took the time to cheer for their countryman.

People often get the impression that professional athletes lack the passion of the amateur. It was a small, albeit meaningful gesture.

With a formidable team composed of the likes of Lavillenie, world indoor champion Teddy Tamgho and the experienced Leslie Djhone, the French competed with distinction in front of their home crowd. Overall, France finished second only (5-4-2) to the powerhouse Russian squad (6-3-6), with a mere gold medal separating the two countries.

Video credit:

Tamgho leaps 17.91m in Aubiere

French triple jump sensation Teddy Tamgho rewrote his 11-month old world indoor record yesterday in Aubiere. The 21-year old leaped 17.91m in the 4th round, improving his old mark by 1 cm. Tamgho, now trained by long jumping legend Ivan Pedroso, hardly had any competition at the French National Indoor Championships. Yoann Rapinier won 2nd with 17.02m, the first time he went beyond the 17m barrier. Tamgho worst mark, a 17.08m in his fifth attempt, was still good enough for first place.

Read the EAA article here

Read the IAAF article here

The Frenchman powered through the runway, as he hopped, stepped and skipped to a new world indoor best. As soon as he landed on the pit, Tamgho knew something big was afoot. With nary a look to confirm the official distance, Tamgho immediately sprinted from the jumping area in celebration, out of the track and into the stands.

Source:

EAA

“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.

SPAR European Team Championships

Europe is the hotbed of track & field. Even if most of the talents hail from the United States, Jamaica and Africa, most of the big money meets like the Golden League and Diamond League are held in Europe. Based on the clips I’ve seen online and the articles I’ve read from net, various forms of athletics clubs exist in Europe.

Aside from the Europeans’ appreciation for athletics, what I find remarkable are the team competitions held between countries. In the recently concluded SPAR* European Team Championships in Bergen, Norway; Russian men and women outclassed the competition (Total points scored by the men and women contribute to the overall ranking of a country). Britain at 317 points was a far second from Russia’s 379.5 points. Defending champion Germany languished at 7th place, with host Norway finishing 2nd to the last – facing regulation to the lesser divisions of the Championships.

Like the ongoing World Cup in South Africa, there were several upsets. Hometown hero Andreas Thorkildsen managed only second place in the javelin (82.98m). The two-time Olympic Champion lost to Germany’s Mattias de Zordo‘s 83.80m heave. French youngster Teddy Tamgho, who jumped 17.98m in the Triple Jump last week, was far from his world-beating form as he finished in 3rd place (17.10m) behind Ukraine’s Viktor Kuznetzov (17.26m – PB) and 2009 World Champion, Philips Idowu (17.12m)

The format of the competition resembles Tennis’ Davis Cup. The top division or the so-called Super League is the most prestigious.  Less athletically-endowed countries compete among themselves in the First, Second and Third Leagues. The top 3 (or 2) placers in the minor leagues are promoted to the next most prestigious rung, while the bottom 3 (or 2) are relegated. The “bottom three teams of the Super League [Greece, Norway and Finland] were relegated to the First League for 2011.” Conversely, the top three teams in the First League (Czech Republic, Sweden and Portugal) climb up to the main draw.

Watch the highlights of Russia’s road to the top from this Eurosport link.

The Russians celebrate their dominance

An older albeit smaller team level meet is the Finnkampen ( “The Finn Battle”) or the Ruotsiottelu (“The Sweden Match”).  It’s a yearly, dual meet type of competition held between Sweden and Finland.

I hope that a similar format of competition take root in Asia. The team aspect – where entire countries are pitted against each other for an overall crown – is an interesting innovation. Us  Southeast Asians have the SEA Games (a multisport, regional spectacle), where a general champion is proclaimed.  But then again, a smaller meet like the Finnkampen/Ruotsiottelu would be a splendid, cost-effective way to promote the sport.

*SPAR – “is the world’s largest food retailer, with approximately 20,000 stores in 35 countries worldwide.”

Additional Links:

SPAR European Team Championships Wrap-up

Super League event reports

Ruotsiottelu

Finnkampen

Finnkampen Wiki

Photo Credits:

European Athletics

Video Credits:

Eurosport

The Three Musketeers

French athletics is in tip-top shape, with youngsters Renaud Lavillenie, Teddy Tamgho and Christophe Lemaitre leading the way.  Lavillenie, still only 23, had won a World Championships Bronze in Berlin. 19-year old’s Lemaitre  and Tamgho are both World Junior Champions, with the latter shattering Christian Olsson’s World  Record in the World Indoor Champs in  Doha last March.

With the decline of 2005 World Champion, Ladji Doucoure, it’s good to see other French athletes taking up the cudgels for the Les Bleus.

I’m particularly excited for Lemaitre. The 19-year old speedster lowered his personal best in the century dash by one-hundredths of second, sprinting to 10.03s at the French National Club Championships. Aside from Frankie Fredericks and Patrick Johnson, only athletes of West African descent have broken the 10 second barrier.  The great Pietro Mennea and Matt Shirvington both timed almost 10 seconds flat, while Robson de Silva, Koji Ito and Marian Woronin stopped the clock at exactly 10.00s.

It’s about time someone from the non-traditional sprinting powers to break that barrier.

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