Tag Archives: World Championships

Track Beauty of the Week: Emma Coburn

Emma Coburn is this week’s Track Beauty!

The United States has the best athletics team in the planet, as shown by the results of the London Olympics. It is remarkable to note the credible American presence in a wide variety of track & field events, not just in the major crowd drawers. Up and coming athletes like Emma Coburn signify this formidable U.S. representation.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Yuliya Zaripova Юлия Зарипова

Yuliya Zaripova (Yuliya Zarudneva Юлия Михайловна Зарипова) is this week’s Track Beauty!

The women’s 3000m steeplechase is one of the newest events in athletics. It made its first appearance in the World Championships in Helsinki back in 2005. Since then, the Russians have dominated the event, with Gulnara Galkina (Гульнара Самитова-Галкина) holding the world record of 8:58.81 set at the Beijing Olympics.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Olga Rypakova Ольга Рыпакова

The Kazakh triple jumper is one of the best in her event. Rypakova has jumped 15.25m outdoors and 15.14m indoors, both Asian records. She also has a world-class personal best in the long jump at 6.85m. Olga is the 7th best triple jumper all-time.

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Track Beauty of the Week: Dafne Schippers

Dafne Schippers is this week’s Track Beauty!

Schippers started out as an excellent heptathlete in her junior and youth days, but has since ventured to the sprints. The Dutch athlete won the World Junior title in Moncton back in 2010, scoring 5,967 points. A year later, she topped the European Junior Championships in Tallinn, amassing a total of 6,153 points.

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Tiina Lillak: Finnish Javelin Legend

When I was watching the javelin qualification rounds of the Helsinki European Championships, I noticed a prominent banner. Written in bold letters were the words: “Finland the Javelin Country.” Indeed, the javelin throw is a national past time in the Nordic countries. Of the sixty-nine medals awarded in the event since 1896, a staggering thirty-two medals had been won by troika of Sweden, Norway, and Finland. In fact, Finland had swept the medals twice in Olympic history.

The Euro Sport announcers then went on to talk about a certain Tiina Lillak, and how she snatched the inaugural World Championships gold on her final throw – in front of thousands of ecstatic Finns.

Tiina Lillak circa 1983. (Photo from Jos Hendrix)

Britain’s Fatima Whitbread threw down the gauntlet at the first round, throwing the spear to a distance of 69.14s. Lillak was in second place, with distances of 67.34m and 67.46m achieved in the first and fifth rounds. As the legendary Finn prepared for her final throw, the camera focused on Lillak. She was the portrait of sheer determination. Just from her expression, it was apparent that Lillak was summoning something grandiose.

And it was an epic throw, indeed. The moment the Finn released the javelin, the crowd let out a collective roar. When it struck the ground, beyond the Briton’s erstwhile leading mark and beyond seventy-meters (70.82m), the tens of thousands in attendance cheered even louder.

Coming from a country where athletics is nothing more than a fringe sport, the thought of a jam-packed stadium and a dramatically triumphant hometown bet gave me goosebumps.

The Euro Championships Men’s Javelin final will be held tonight. The resurgent 2007 World Champion Tero Pitkämäki and the exuberant Ari Mannio lead the Finnish charge. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed as I cheer for hometown duo, hoping to witness an epic in the making.



Vamos, Luguelin Santos!

The quarter miler from the Dominican Republic is just 18-years old. Despite his youth, Luguelin Santos has made waves in the 400m dash in 2012 – against much older competitors. At the Doha Diamond League last May 11, Santos finished behind LaShawn Merritt, the 2008 Olympic Champion. The 18-year old ran an impressive 44.88s against Merritt’s 44.19s, a world-leading time. Santos came close to his 2011 lifetime best of 44.71s, which he set at altitude in Guadalajara, Mexico.

But the best was yet to come for the Dominican. Two years after finishing in sixth place at the Moncton World Junior Championships, Santos streaked to 44.45s at the Fanny Blankers-Koen Games in Hengelo.

Santos had overtaken Kirani James (44.72s), the World Junior Champion from Moncton and the reigning World Champion, in the 2012 top list. Santos’ dominant Hengelo showing is the eighth fastest time ever run by a junior. The Dominican junior is in illustrious company in the juniors all-time list, as he trails only Kirani James and the 1988 Olympic Champion, Steve Lewis!

The Dominican Republic definitely has a new track star, the heir apparent to Felix Sanchez.

In a span of two years, the 18-year old dramatically bettered his lifetime bests –  from 46.19s in 2010 to 44.45s in 2012.In the run-up prior to the London Olympics, the 400m dash will feature talented youngsters, like Santos and James, pitted against experienced quarter-milers like Merritt. The 400m dash will be one for the books.

Liu Xiang’s 刘翔 Hurdling Warm-up Routine

Routine is important for a hurdler. In an event where one is required to take the same number of steps (more or less, 35 in each race), hurdlers are creatures of habit. To the novice hurdler, a close look at Liu Xiang’s 刘翔 routine is an eye-opener.

Lawrence Clarke, one of Britain’s best hurdlers, posted an interesting clip of Liu’s hurdling warm-up routine. The video was taken at the Daegu World Championships last year.

1.) Leisurely Five-Steps:

Still wearing his jogging pants, a relaxed Liu easily clears five hurdles. Despite keeping himself relatively high over the barriers (and the movements a tad slower), the suppleness of his hurdling clearance is evident. The 2004 Athens Olympic Champion also takes lightning fast baby steps in between the hurdlers, perhaps to simulate the quick cadence of a race pace.

He even smiles over each hurdle!

2.) Intense Five-Steps:

Liu takes his hurdling several notches higher. The former world record holder’s face puts on a mask of seriousness as he buckles down to business. With each hurdling clearance, the lean, the lead leg extension and the trail snap are executed like one smooth, rhythmic action.

3.) Flat Block Starts:

To prepare himself for full-speed hurdling, Liu then sprints beside the hurdles from a block start.

4.) Single Hurdle Block Starts:

The 2007 World Champion clears one hurdle from a block start, highlighting the importance of this crucial phase of the 110m high hurdles.

5.) The Full Monty!

With every facet of sprint hurdling broken down and rehearsed to perfection, Liu performs the a full-speed rep over three barriers. Liu is mentally and physically prepared for the task at hand – to run in between the barriers as fast as humanly possible, in the most efficient manner imaginable.

Unless someone knocks you off balance.

Click here to view the Daegu 110m High Hurdles Final


Through the years, I’ve developed my own routine vastly similar to Liu’s. Although my hurdling is light-years away from the hurdling great, it’s good to know that I’ve been doing it right!

Sally Pearson vs. Susanna Kallur

The women’s 100m hurdles (0.838m) features comparably shorter hurdles than its men’s equivalent, the 110m high hurdles (1.067m). Hence, a gifted sprinter could get away with glaring technical flaws in women’s event, according to Coach Steve McGill of Hurdles First fame. The short distance hurdle races are essentially a sprinting event. The lower hurdle heights of the women’s event puts less emphasis on technical profiency than being fleet-of-foot. Hence, it is unsurprising to see century dash Olympic champions like Gail Devers power their way to sprint hurdling dominance, albeit in an erratic fashion.

Australia’s Sally Pearson and Sweden’s Susanna Kallur are two of the most prolific hurdling technicians the modern athletics world has seen. Gifted with speed, these ladies have amassed a considerable amount of medals between themselves.

Pearson is the most illustrious of the two, stamping her class at the 2011 World Championships, becoming the fourth-fastest sprint hurdler of all time (12.28s). The older Kallur is the world record holder in the 60m hurdles (7.68s) and holds a personal best of 12.49s in the outdoor race.

With the Swede being hampered by injury since 2008, Pearson has improved dramatically. Whilst Kallur crashed out of the Beijing Olympics in tears, a jubilant Pearson won an unexpected silver medal.

Should a healthy Kallur clash with an in-form Pearson, whom amongst the two would prevail?

Hurdling Technique: An Even Match

One cannot find fault in their flawless hurdling techniques, unlike some of their top tier competitors. The way both Pearson and Kallur clear the hurdles is picture perfect, and a joy to watch for this hurdling aficionado.

As long as the athlete gets the fundamentals – leading with the knee, the lean, the lead leg snap, the squared trail knee, the swooshing lead arm, the stable trail arm, and the trail foot being parallel with the hurdle crossbar – the differences in technique boil down to the hurdling nuances.


Photos from couriermail.com.au and newsgab.com

Hurdling is an art form. No two works of art are the same.

Although I prefer Sanna’s more pronounced lean over the hurdles, this nuance – this slight improvement or advantage, I dare say, is practically trivial in light of Pearson’s results. After all, one doesn’t need to lean too much over the shorter hurdlers.

Sprinting: Pearson

In terms of flat-out sprinting talent, Pearson has the upper hand. Sally started out as a sprinter first, before expanding her repertoire to the hurdles. At the World Youth Championships in 2003, the Aussie won gold in the 100m hurdles. A year later at the Grossetto World Junior Championships, Pearson landed third in the flat 100m while narrowly missing out on the 100m hurdle bronze.

Through the years, Sally has been a standout sprinting talent, winning numerous national titles in her native Australia. At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Pearson would have won the 100m-100m hurdles double, had she not been disqualified in the century dash for a false start.

Kallur’s sprinting curriculum vitae aren’t as rock-solid. The Swedes best sprinting finish in a major international sprinting event is seventh place at the 60m dash final at the 2007 European Indoor Championships. Pearson, in contrast, is a 100m dash semifinalist at the Osaka World Championships, on top of her World Junior bronze medal.

Sally has a 100m dash personal best of 11.14s (2007) compared to Sanna’s 11.30s (2006). The gap is even bigger at the half-lap, with Pearson’s PR of 23.02s (2009 and 2012) superior to Kallur’s 23.32s (2006).

Speed/Hurdling Endurance: Pearson

Italy’s Marzia Caravelli, herself a talented hurdler and sprinter, pointed out that Kallur tends to fade at the latter parts of a race. At the 2007 World Championships, the future 60m hurdles world record holder had a terrific start to snatch the lead.

Susanna was actually leading until the ninth hurdle, when the troika of Michelle Perry (12.46s), Perdita Felicien (12.49s – SB), and Delloreen Ennis-London (12.50s – PB) caught up with the Swede. She missed the bronze by one-hundredths of second, but still clung to a then personal best of 12.51s.

Pearson is peerless at the latter stages. In her groundbreaking races at the Daegu World Championships, the Australian ran 12.53s and 12.36s at the heats and semifinals, respectively. She seemed to go faster as the race progressed. She had a lightning fast start and was able to maintain her lead. She had the race from the gun to the tape.

How Pearson maintains her speed and form over the barriers could be attributed to her extensive experience over the 200m dash. Since both the sprint hurdles and the half-lap involve rhythm, the two events complement each other. An examination of Kallur’s IAAF biography show much less race exposure in the 200m dash compared to Pearson.

Verdict: Pearson

With both athletes possessing impeccable hurdling technique, Pearson’s flat-out sprinting power, sprinting experience and speed/hurdling endurance makes her the superior hurdler – an obvious understatement considering the Australian’s achievements and stature.

But then again, one often wonders how an injury-free Susanna Kallur would match up with Sally Pearson. Kallur was at the cusp of Olympic success in 2008, as evidenced by her sterling world indoor record. Had she been healthy in 2008, would she have eventually ran at the same level as Pearson did in 2011?

At 32 years of age, Kallur is far from being a spent force. Should the Swede regain her top notch 2008 form, such a match up would be one for the books.

Additional Links:

Sally Pearson’s IAAF bio

Susanna Kallur’s IAAF bio

Women’s 100m hurdles All-time Top List

Women’s 60m hurdles All-time Top List

“Christophe Lemaitre, retour des championnats du monde 2011 et rentrée universitaire!”

With three European titles and two medals from the Daegu World Championships, it is fascinating to think that Christophe Lemaitre is just a youngster. At twenty-one years old, the Frenchman had just begun his university studies, days after his groundbreaking performance in Daegu.

Matt Stroup of Universal Sports had some interesting thoughts on Lemaitre’s possible conduct in class.

With his fourth place in the 100m dash, a bronze in the 200m dash and a silver in the 4x100m relay, Lemaitre had announced his arrival at the global stage. Indeed, he is no fluke – no mere one-hit wonder. His relative youth, as shown by the clip above, belies his potent speed on the track.

Gutted: Thoughts on the Daegu 2011 Men’s 4x100m Relay

The Men’s 4x100m relay was bizarre, to say the least. At the last baton exchange, Darvis Patton (USA) clipped the elbow of the massive Harry Aikines-Aryeetey (GBR). The Doc lost his balance and fell to the track, rolling over to the adjacent lane of the Trinidad and Tobago quartet. Richard Thompson (TRI) narrowly missed running over Patton. Aikines-Aryeetey apparently went out too early. Marlon Devonish (GBR) failed to catch his compatriot, throwing the baton in frustration. The Americans also failed to finish, negating a splendid world-leading performance in the semis. The unfortunate Trinidadians were the unassuming collateral damage of the sprint relay carnage, as their quartet finished dead last.

The Usain Bolt-anchored Jamaican team was unstoppable, en route to breaking their 2008 world record. A pumped-up Bolt stopped the clock in a blistering 37.04s. The French and the quartet from Saint Kitts and Nevis emerged victorious with the minor medals. The prolific Christophe Lemaitre added a relay silver to his 200m dash bronze, whilst the evergreen Kim Collins hauled another bronze medal to his collection.

The Americans, even with a healthy Tyson Gay in the fold (and a smooth baton exchange), would have been hard-pressed to win over the Jamaicans. Nevertheless, the loss of any major championship medal was heartbreaking. Prior to these championships, I never really found the time to sympathize with these oft-brash American sprinters. But reading the Doc’s posts and tweets, I felt gutted – not just for the US team, but for the Trinidadians and British as well.

One can pillory these professional athletes for certain lapses of judgment. Before hitting the “enter” button in Twitter, Facebook or your blog, find the time to go over the words of the athletes themselves. They’re only human, after all.

Additional links:

Official results of the Men’s 4x100m relay

Mail Online article

Telegraph article

Track Beauty of the Week: Sally Pearson

Sally Pearson nee McClellan is this week’s track beauty!

Last night’s events immortalized the Australian amongst the sprint hurdling elite. Prior to Daegu, Pearson was having a stellar season – her most successful to date. She had reigned supreme in countless Diamond League meetings, as she edged out the formidable cabal of American hurdlers. In Birmingham last July, Pearson gave the world a sneak peak of what’s to come as she clocked a highly competitive 12.57s against a 1.9m/s headwind.

A victorious Pearson celebrates in Daegu (Photo from Wikipedia)

The undefeated Pearson breezed through the World Championships qualifying. The Australian wasn’t threatened as she clocked tantalizingly fast times of 12.53s and 12.36s in the heats and semifinals, respectively. Her performance in the semis was the 12th fastest time in history. Only the world record holder Yordanka Donkova, Ginka ZagorchevaLudmila Engquist and Gail Devers had run faster. It was the fastest time in the world since the great Devers stopped the clock in 12.33s back in 2000.

Not even the cover curse of Daegu could stop Sally! In the video above, her Aussie teammates threw the Aussie flag and a copy of the programme (with Sally on the cover!) to the victorious Pearson.

Click here to view the semis

Click here to view the heats

There was more to come. A few hours later, Pearson blazed through the final in 12.28s, propelling the Australian speedster as the fourth fastest hurdler ever, overtaking the Devers.

Pearson first came to international prominence when she won the 100m hurdles at the 2003 World Youth Championships. She followed this up with a bronze at the flat 100m at the Grosseto World Junior Championships a year later. In 2008, she won a surprise silver medal. Pearson attempted a 100m dash – 100m hurdles double in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, but a faulty start and a subsequent protest saw her lose the sprint title.

The Australian is the ideal sprint hurdler. She possesses blazing speed in between barriers and technical prowess above the sticks. In a sense, she’s a hybrid of Gail Devers (who ran 10.82s in the 100m dash) and Susanna Kallur (a great technician). In an event where athletes could get away with major flaws in hurdling form (thanks to the relatively low height of the barriers), Pearson dominates with her picture perfect hurdling clearance. Her more than adequate flat out speed works hand-in-hand compounds her potent hurdling talent.

Indeed, Pearson is the perfect sprint hurdler.

Additional link:

Official 100mH results from Daegu

Athletics Junkie 2.0

Since I live in a country ignorant of athletics, televised competitions are a rarity. Before Eurosport Asia started airing the Diamond League events and the European Team Championships, Star Sports/ESPN offered the occasional track & field event (such as the 2010 World Indoor Championships). Don’t even get me started about local and regional meets. Local broadcasters don’t even bother to show athletics events (Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games) featuring Filipino athletes. If I’m not mistaken, the coverage of the 2002 Busan Asian Games was the most comprehensive.

The advent of Youtube and Twitter has done wonders for this athletics fanatic. Nowadays, I can watch clips of the most obscure European races, thanks to the kind souls who find the time to upload. The micro-blogging site, Twitter, has given new dimension to how fans and athletes interact with each other. Those in the immediate vicinity provide a constant stream of updates, whilst the athletes themselves post their thoughts freely online. In a sense, this heightens the sporting experience, despite being oceans away from the scene of competition.

Hence, I was particularly pleased when my suprisingly fast broadband connection (we subscribe to the cheapest package. I used to be able to download stuff at 40 KB/s. Now it has ballooned to 90 KB/s!) became sufficient to stream the ongoing World Championships in Daegu. I spent the past two days glued to my computer watching the live feed from South Korea.

My humble, no-frills set-up!

While watching the events unfold, I make it a point to read various tweets from relevant tweeps. The dedicated sports websites (Athletics Weekly) and the journalists (Joe Battaglia and Tom Fordyce) provide the most concise tweets. Certain elite athletes, both active (Kelly Sotherton, David Oliver and Felix Sanchez) and retired (Ato Boldon and Kriss Akabusi), offer unique and oft-poignant perspectives. The viewing experience can be likened to watching a sports event in an (online) sports bar. These, in conjunction with live updates from the IAAF detailing each and every discipline, provide an informative set-up. Surely, this beats reading news articles and watching Youtube clips!

Nothing can ever compare to being in the actual venue, but this combination offers this Filipino track fanatic the next best alternative.

Darya Klishina Дарья Клишина with the Filipino jumpers!

The Philippines’ top long jumper, Henry Dagmil, posted photos of him and Marestella Torres with none other than Darya KlishinaДарья Клишина !


Salamat sa litrato, Kuya Dags!

Koji Murofushi strikes gold!

Casting thoughts of the 110m high hurdles final aside, I am ecstatic for Koji Murofushi 室伏 アレクサンダー 広治! I grew up reading about (and occasionally, watching clips) of the great Japanese hammer thrower. To see him strike gold in the world stage is heartwarming.

Thanks to a live streaming link, I was able to watch Day 3 as it happened (well, it was around three to five minutes delayed, thanks to my slow connection). Murofushi grabbed the lead at the onset and clung to it until the finish. He threw the hammer to a massive 81.24m in the third round (and in the fifth!). This was Murofushi’s best throw in three years, and the fourth best mark in the 2011 top list.

Read the IAAF article here

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Deja Vu: 2010 World Juniors 110m High Hurdles Final

My initial reaction after seeing Liu Xiang 刘翔 and Dayron Robles make contact at that controversial sprint hurdles final last night was one of sympathy for the two hurdlers. Stuff like these happen all the time in the hurdles.

A good example is the 110m high hurdles final of last year’s World Junior championships. The United States’ Caleb Cross was leading the race until the fast-finishing Pascale Martinot-Lagarde caught up at the ninth hurdle. Lagarde was running in lane eight, with Cross in lane seven, similar in circumstances to the Daegu sprint hurdles final.

Cross lost his rhythm for a split-second. As he dropped out of the lead, Lagarde, Jack Meredith and Vladimir Vukicevic overtook the erstwhile leader. Like Robles, Lagarde immediately apologized to Cross after the race. The Frenchman wasn’t happy with the unintentional contact, but then again, such occurrences are part of the high hurdles.

Cross and Lagarde both led with their right legs. But Cross, being a raw junior athlete, still displayed a wildly flailing trail arm (his right arm). Cross’ upward-jerking trail arm was bound to hit Lagarde’s lead arm (his left) – which swung at a wide “C” – at some point in the race.

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