Sunday, 13 November 2011

Winter Update

So I was handed this video by the Team GB biomechanic this week. It shows my race at the world champs in Daegu quite well so I thought I would share it.

The 2012 season training began in the first week of October and has been going well. I've recovered from the hamstring injuries I had during the past season so I'm really looking forward to the indoor season which begins at the end of January for me. I'm training so much harder this year and don't have the distractions of university anymore. It is so much easier to focus when running is the only thing on the mind.

Here in Britain the pressure on all of us to focus on London 2012 is building day by day but I love it. I have so much motivation at the moment so I can't wait for next year. We had a talk for Team GB last night by Michael Johnson who told us about all the pressures and expectations on athletes at a home Olympic Games. He said as long as we stick to our plans and are sensible, notably staying injury free, we will have a cracking chance to do well. Everyone is counting the days to selection on July 2nd 2012....if I keep it real I think I have a good chance of being competitive come selection day!

Over and out.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Daegu: post Competition

I competed on the weekend and unfortunately didn't make it through from the heats with my time of 13.65 (-0.2ms). The winner of my heat was Jason Richardson, the newly Crowned World Champion.

me in the heats

It was an amazing atmosphere on the night of the final, and I was lucky to get some seats on the finish line. The semi-finals were a clear demonstration of the abilities of Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang and Jason Richardson. It is unfortunate that the final turned out to be a bit of a fiasco with Robles and Xiang clashing arms, resulting in Xiang losing the lead and Robles being disqualified, handing the Gold to Richardson who was originally second. The race was a clear example of pressure affecting the athletes. The time wasn't all that special, and the medals were won in some of the slowest times ever for a world championships. Colin Jackson's Championship Record of 12.91 was not going to be in jeopardy with the strong headwind that they all had to contend with.

I watched them all warm up and it was interesting to watch who was relaxed and how everyone went about their preparation. Xiang was so relaxed and his hurdling was brilliant, though Robles seemed to have the speed at the starts. Richardson was being aggressive and clearly knew that he would have to pull it out the bag to win....and he did just that!

Tomorrow night Dai Greene, who I train with, is in the final of the 400m hurdles. He is in great shape and cruised his heats and semi finals. We shall see!

Here is my heat...

And the Final:

Friday, 26 August 2011

Daegu: Pre-competition

I am now in the athlete village, ready to compete tomorrow at 9.58am (GMT +8) in heat two. The heats have been seeded well so I hope I have a good chance of making it through to the semi final. It will be the first 3 in each heat followed by the 4 fastest losers that progress. I have Jason Richardson (USA) and Dwight Thomas (JAM) in my heat so it will be a quick race.

Yesterday I had an easy day and went to the stadium where I did a light warm up on the preparation track next door to the main stadium. The surface of the track is so fast to run on so I reckon there will be some quick times posted out here in the sprint events. The stadium itself is enormous, holding over 60,000 people. Should I make it through to the semi or final I will probably have a full stadium to compete in as those races are in the evening. After our various sessions, myself and the rest of my training group had a wander around the facilities and got familiarised with the set up before we go into competition.

Now that the competitions have begun all the athletes are becoming extremely focused, but everyone is in high spirits. I went into the city centre yesterday afternoon to go to the Nike hospitality and saw all the hotshots playing ping pong and chilling out in a comfortable environment away from the spotlight.

There are posters everywhere for this championships and there will hopefully be a really good atmosphere once I get into the stadium. Pressure's on =)

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Leaving Ulsan preparation camp

This afternoon myself and the other hurdlers in the Aviva GB Team (Dai Greene, Jack Green, Elidih Child in the 400m Hurdles. Andy Turner and William Sharman in the 110m) will be making our way to Daegu. Once we are there we will have to settle ourselves into our apartments and then report to doping control in the evening for the blood-tests that all the athletes at these championships have to do. This is the first time that all the athletes, across all events, have been tested together prior to a championships.
Daegu Stadium

In the morning I have my last training session before I race on Sunday (28th) morning in the heats of the 110m hurdles. The track in Daegu will be a blue coloured 'Mondo' surface that apparently will help us run quick times. I'll be off to check that out tomorrow as well as the fabled Nike hospitality zone in town.

Start line of 110m hurdles in Daegu

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Daegu 110m Hurdles Profiles. Profile 5: David Oliver

David Oliver (USA), born  24/04/1982. (PB 12.89, SB 12.94)

Oliver, Xiang and 3 in 2011.
   With shoulders like mountains, the World No. 1 this year on rankings with 12.94 (the only man under 13 this year), and unchallenged No. 1 last year, Oliver is a man that has a lot of potential. Third fastest hurdler ever, at 12.89 set last year, he is built like a tank. He is only 6ft2in but weighs in excess of 100kg. The hurdles certainly can’t stop him and despite his recent losses, can anyone else stop him? He knows what it takes to race at the speed required to win gold, but can he hold it under the pressure. As the oldest athlete of those who I have profiled, he has some brilliant experience, but not as much as the likes of Robles or Xiang. He won Olympic Bronze in 2008, World Indoor Bronze and won every Diamond League last year.

Ryan Brathwaite (Reigning World Champion), Robles and Oliver battle it out in Daegu in 2010.

    He is also a 7-stride hurdler, and has certainly got the strength to handle it. His lead leg is the fastest and most powerful of any of those in World Athletics at the moment. This speed however can be his down fall though as he sometimes brings it down onto the hurdle. Although his size isn’t necessarily hindered by the hurdles, a slight knock of balance might be the difference between gold and 5th in this race. The four other profiled athletes will know the pressure on each of them to produce clean, technically perfect races to perform to the level needed for the Gold medal. With not much separating them on paper, any technical error might lead them amiss. Oliver knows this.

Oliver running his life best of 12.89 in Paris in 2010, 0.02 behind Robles's World Record.
       He is, on his day, extremely powerful and technically efficient. Once his is moving and gets top speed his can run anyone down, maybe even Liu Xiang. As long as he holds his head, he could be the World Champion and World Record Holder. Like most of the others he has run in Daegu’s Colorful annual meeting, winning last year and this year, beating Robles in the former. He knows the format of the stadium, the track and the weather. This will all work to his advantage. There is nothing better than racing on a track where you have always done well. Robles, Xiang, Merritt and Richardson know Oliver’s abilities and certainly know each others. It won’t be long until we find out who is the No.1 in the World.

Olympic Bronze in Beijing in 2008

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Daegu 110m Hurdles Profiles. Profile 4: Liu Xiang

Xiang and Oliver....East vs West.

Liu Xiang (CHN), born 13/07/1983. (PB 12.88, SB 13.00)

2004 Olympic Champion

    China’s golden boy: the face of the 2008 Olympic Games until he unfortunately suffered an achilles injury and pulled out on the start line. Xiang was the Olympic Champion at 21 in Athens, equalling Colin Jackson’s 1993 World Record of 12.91 in the process. He topped this off with the World Record in 2006 in Lausanne, setting 12.88, and winning World Championship Gold in 2007 in Osaka in 12.95. He has won the World Indoor Championships, the Asian Games, the World Silver and Bronzes in 2005 and 2003. Xiang is the most competitive athlete in the world by a long shot. No one expected him to come back from injury in 2008, but in 2009 he ran 13.15, 2010 he ran 13.09 and this year he has run 13.00. These are serious times, and no doubt all the athletes going to Daegu will be wondering about his form as he has only raced a couple of times this year.

World Record in 2006 in Lausanne

    He has beaten David Oliver on Asian soil this year in his first race of the year, beating Oliver's year-long unbeaten streak, though Oliver exacted revenge in Eugene not long after. His ability to step up to plate, under the greatest pressure, is his main asset. He is potentially the most talented hurdler ever, having fluid technique and extremely good top speed, which will help enormously at the end of the race where the medals will be decided. He has a left leg lead like Robles, though differs to him in style. Xiang is very slight, unlike Robles and Oliver who are very large, strong physical athletes. However, this hasn’t stopped him from also adopting the 7-stride pattern as of this season. He is a championship performer and is from Asia. No doubt, once the Koreans fill the stadium and see Xiang, the only real Asian hurdler with the ability to make the final this year, they will get behind him. The other athletes know this will probably know that this will happen, and know the positive effect pressure has on Xiang. He won in Japan in 2007 at the last Worlds he was at, from lane 8. He has the potential this year to win, and to maybe take back his world record. He has said he will be able to run 12.9 or quicker this year so keep an eye on this man, a bet on him winning wouldn't go amiss.

Xiang and Robles, the past two Olympic Champions and World Record holders will come to a decisive head to head in Daegu.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Daegu 110m Hurdles Profiles. Profile 3: Dayron Robles

Dayron Robles (CUB), born 19/11/1986. (PB 12.87WR, SB 13.04)

    World Record holder (12.87seconds) and Olympic Champion in 2008 when only 21. This Cuban, at the height of 6ft4, is in top shape to grab the gold in Daegu. He has won all but one of his outdoor races this year, though that one loss was only because of an uncharacteristic technical error in Barcelona.  He has one of the best techniques of any hurdler ever, though owing to his height doesn’t have much problem clearly the obstacles. He is never to be underestimated when put under pressure. He won the Olympic Games in 2008 and the World Indoors in 2010, no mean accomplishment, and he is still only 24!

Robles World Record, Ostrava 2008

    He lacks the speed at the back end of the race like Liu Xiang, but his start and competitive nature will certainly stand him in good stead when he steps onto the track. He may have been struggling with injury as some press have suggested, but in the London Diamond League he won in a season’s best of 13.04, having cruised the heats in 13.16.

    Unlike most hurdlers that preceded him, Robles adopted the 7-stride strategy to hurdle one early on in his career. This removal of a step has allowed him to be the most competitive and fastest hurdler in the world to the first hurdle. The likes of past greats such as Colin Jackson (PB 12.91) and Allen Johnson (PB 12.92) who were much shorter had no chance of doing this, but certainly mastered the 8-stride technique. Many of the athletes seem to be adjusting to this 7-stride technique but it requires a lot of physical strength and speed to pull off well. I personally use 8-strides and I don’t seem to have much problem being competitive into the first hurdle when I react well. However, there certainly seems to be a paradigm shift and when the top hurdlers start something new, the younger, less experienced athletes tend to follow suit, even if they don’t know what they are doing.

Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles...two rival Olympic Champions.

    Robles has the experience, the talent, and the necessary speed to get high on the podium. Whether on not he has found the form he needs this year to run near his personal best is up to him to demonstrate. I believe the Gold medal could be within the magic 13 second barrier and potentially near a World Record. Only David Oliver has been under 13 this year but Robles has been there before and he can certainly do it again.

Technical master: Robles dominating the Olympic Games Final in 2008

Daegu 110m Hurdles Profiles. Profile 2: Jason Richardson

Jason Richardson (USA), born 04/04/1986. (PB 13.08, SB 13.08) World Youth Champion 2003.

Jason Richardson winning Stockholm Diamond League ahead of David Oliver

    Certainly Richardson, the self-styled “dark-horse of the world championships”, as he said at the London Grand Prix, is a very strong contender this year. He is running quicker and quicker, having taken the scalp of the 2010 and 2011 World No 1, David Oliver, twice this year. First in Stockholm, then London (where he was second to Dayron Robles). His personal best has been set into a headwind in the not so warm London Diamond League two weeks ago so there is plenty more to come. He has a clearly bullish and optimistic attitude that will no doubt stand him in good stead when facing the championship rounds next week.

Richardson is one of three top Americans in Daegu, one being World No.1 David Oliver.

His technique, as he seems to acknowledge, is rugged. However, his speed between the hurdles is his asset and his trail leg provides him with the necessary power off the hurdle to be a devilishly quick hurdler. He, like Robles, Xiang and Oliver, adopts a 7-stride technique into hurdle one. This signifies how physically strong an athlete he is as it requires a lot more strength and ability to be able to perform this to good effect. Although Robles is the master of this, Richardson will no doubt be able to step up on the race day and demonstrate his willingness to produce his best. Watch this space because although this is Richardson's first senior American selection, USA athletes don’t tend to be poor championship performers when they have been through such rigorous trials.

Aries Merritt (USA), Dayron Robles (CUBA), who is reigning Olympic Champion, and Richardson battle out in the London Diamond League.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Daegu 110m Hurdles Profiles. Profile 1:

Out here in Korea there will be five main contenders for the medals in the 110m. They all vary in technique, and especially in major championships experience. No doubt the athletes themselves are going to have to pull out all the stops to get the gold medal but I am sure that its not going to be easy to decide the winner.

I will be profiling each of them over the next couple of days. I will profile beginning with the lowest to the highest ranked athletes:

Profile 1:

Aries Merritt (USA), born 24/07/1985. (PB 13.09, SB 13.12)

    Aries Merritt had an amazing indoor season, being ranked second and winning every race. He then progressed to the outdoors very early, at the beginning of April with a 13.36 in good conditions. His times since then have been consistent in the 13.2s and that will be able to see him through to the final in Daegu. A time close to, or better than, his personal best will be particularly dangerous as 13.09 (set in 2007) is in the medal zone traditionally at the Olympics and World Championships. He is a competitive racer, having beaten Jason Richardson a couple of times, notably winning Oslo Diamond League and coming second in the USA Championships behind David Oliver. Merritt also won the World Junior Championships in 2004, beating Dayron Robles who is the year below.

Oslo Diamond League

Ones to watch

Liu Xiang (left), David Oliver...ones to watch in the 110m hurdles

This morning, after the first proper sleep out here, I shoveled in some porridge and went off to the track. The weather was pretty miserable, overcast, raining, but half as humid as the tropical hell yesterday. The puddles on the track did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for a running session. I set about warming up, did some technical hurdles drills before settling into the rhythm of some flat running, something I find unusually unsatisfying unlike hurdling. There is little to think about: all you have to do is run, not think about technical know-how that will necessarily affect the outcome of the exercise to a degree that a technical cock-up can in hurdles.

Ulsan track

As I finished my running almost the entire GB team turned up, everyone scattering their own ways in the stadium. The morale is positive, it gives you a real sense of being part of a team effort. Despite the fact that some are feeling the effects of the weather or the jet-lag more than others, the team seems to be adapting well to this alien environment.

The World University Games are on in Shenzhen in China at the moment and a lot of us have been following it closely as the time change is almost the same. Most of us have training partners or friends competing there, and perhaps, if we had not been selected to come to Daegu, would have been there ourselves. A lot of foreign countries, unlike Britain, are using those games as a preparation event for the World Championships. So it will be interesting to see how some of those athletes will do so close to Daegu’s events. One to watch is certainly the USA 400m hurdles Champion, Jeshua Anderson, who’s final is this evening.


Apparently, according to my coach, Malcolm Arnold (formerly coached John Akii-Bua (Olympic Champion 400m Hurdles, 1972) and Colin Jackson (two-time World Champion 110m hurdles)), the world student games used to be the second biggest event in the world after the Olympic Games as all the Eastern block countries would send athletes from their sporting institutions. It is strange to think how the priorities of so many countries have now changed. For example the Commonwealth Games lacks the influence and panache that it once had as a great sporting showcase. The biannual World Championships is the more consistent and commercial replacement of these various ‘area’ championships. Certainly the games in Daegu next week are going to be interesting to watch.

The events to watch in Daegu, in my opinion will be:

100m (Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell)
110m hurdles (Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang, David Oliver)
400m hurdles (Bershawn Jackson, Angelo Taylor, Dai Green)
800m (Abubaker Kaki, David Rudisha)
High Jump (the Russians)

100m (Veronica Campbell-Brown, Carmelita Jeter)
100m hurdles (Sally Pearson)
Heptathlon (Jessica Ennis)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Daegu World Championships 2011

The World Athletics Championships begin next week. So seeing as I am fortunate enough to be competing in Daegu next week I thought I might share my experiences and inspirations in the run up to, and during these games.

These Championships are the zenith of the athletics world, excluding of course the multi-sport Olympic Games. Here the best athletes on the planet will congregate to achieve performances that demonstrate the pinnacle of human physical endeavour. There is nothing more interesting than the race to be the fastest and best in each event. Usain Bolt had the world enraptured in Beijing in 2008 and in Berlin in 2009. The likes of David Rudisha (World Record Holder at 800m), Jessica Ennis (World Champion in Heptathlon), and Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles and David Oliver in the 110m hurdles (my event) will be foci of world's media and press.

For me this event is the first major stepping stone to word class performance. This is the first time I have represented Great Britain at a senior outdoor International level. The competition is certainly stiff and the atmosphere is pressing. I can't imagine how it must feel to be one of the favourites at a championships like this: the hours of training, weeks, months, years of psychological preparation, imagination and ambition. I began this sport not long ago and ever since I immersed myself in this terribly addictive world of competitive, elite athletics, I have become a crazily awed character. The athletes that will grace the track in Daegu next week and the week after have all earned a place to represent their country at the highest level. The next step from here is the Olympic Games in London, and the pressure on the best to perform and to lay down the gauntlet to the rest of the world is immense. The buzz, the focus, the preparation is in its final stage. All the athletes in the British training camp here in Uslan, South Korea have an individual responsibility to themselves, their coaches and to their countries and team. On the track this morning the determination and individual focus that is present amongst the athletes demonstrates the importance of the event for each and every person here.

Daegu Stadium

The air is so densely humid and clings to you, you feel as though you could cut it with a knife. This is a different environment to one I have ever competed in before. The jet-lag is murderous, I was up in the middle of the night for 4hrs before finally falling fast asleep again and missing my bus to the track.... The situation is the same for everyone though (except for missing the bus). In 10 days when I compete this weather will probably feel normal and won't hinder me. The acclimatisation is key and when you watch the senior athletes training, you learn the way to treat your body.

Ulsan Stadium

On the track you don't lose focus of the job at hand. I have come here to achieve a personal best (and hopefully do that 3 times). For others the medal is tangible. In the 110m hurdles the race is going be stacked. Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles and David Oliver hold the three fastest times ever in the hurdles and they are all fit and ready to fight for the Gold. The attitude of these athletes must be remarkably ambitious and steady. At the end of the day every single athlete here has trained, has competed to a high level and has experience that can help them relax and stay confident. But the athlete that wins will be the athlete who has the mental edge, that one or two percent of focus more than the other. The competitive edge, the ability to go beyond your best, is the winning ingredient. You may not have trained for as long or as hard as some of your competitors, but the mental edge on the start and throughout the race is the factor that will decide. This is something I am trying to learn. You have to go into each race as though it is a final, as a be all and end all of your career. This is what athletes like Liu Xiang have demonstrated. To step up a notch in the pressure is hard as hell, but those who do it are the champions....and next week those athletes will demonstrate the meaning of victory.