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Archive for the ‘The Games’ Category

Dayron Robles World Record Breaker

Cuba’s Dayron Robles has toppled Liu Xiang’s 110m hurdles world record. The 21-year-old clocked 12.87 seconds, beating Liu’s time by just 0.01 seconds and smashing his own personal best. Liu was not racing.

Check out Robles’ reaction here:

Olympic favourite in more ways than one, Liu Xiang is not only expected to successfully defend his Olympic title, but is one of the most popular athletes in the host country. If the pressure from 1.3 billion people’s expectations was not great enough, Liu now has to contend with a new world record holder. Many Chinese hearts will be beating a little faster when they hear the news this Friday morning…

Liu Xiang Dayron Robles

Much has been said about the pressure Liu will face this year; seeing him win gold in the Bird’s Nest was number one in a poll of the Chinese public’s Olympic dreams. Comparisons have been drawn between Liu and more traditional Chinese heroes.

Despite having started his season well, Liu missed two races this week through disqualification and a slight injury. Meanwhile Robles could not have timed this form better, and will join Usain Bolt as a new favourite come August.

The main events in Beijing certainly look to be hotting up! Let’s hope the athletics can outshine the drugs rumours and protests after all!

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Dwain Chambers Olympic AppealIn the BBC Olympic blog Adrian Warner revealed on Friday that key figures in Athens “think Dwain Chambers has a good chance of winning his drugs appeal against the British Olympic Association and making it to the Beijing Games”.

Drugs is an issue that has come to overshadow track and field athletics (amongst other sports of course), and shows little sign of disappearing. On either side of the Atlantic there are high profile stories in the news at the moment; while in the US Antonio Pettigrew (gold medalist in men’s 4x400m in Sydney) has just admitted to using performance-enahncing drugs (let’s call them PEDs), in the UK Dwain Chambers’ quest to compete in Beijing is controversial news.

The situations, for those who don’t know:

  • Having completed at the highest level for many years, and won World Championship medals, in 2003 Chambers tested positive for the anabolic steroid THG
  • As punishment Chambers was banned for 2 years by UK Athletics, banned from representing Great Britain at the Olympics, and stripped of all medals won since 2002 (whilst using PEDs)
  • Having served the two year ban (and in the mean time tried his hand at American Football and Rugby League) Chambers is now competing again, and hopes to contest his life-time Olympic ban

Last week Chambers ran 100m in 10.26 at a competition in Greece, and thus qualified to compete at the British Olympic trials in Birmingham on 11 July. Should he run the qualifying time of 10.25 (distinctly likely judging by his speed in Greece) the only thing standing between Chambers and Beijing is the UK Athletics ban, which he plans to challenge in London’s High Court.

Dwain Chambers Rugby League

If Adrian Warner is to be believed there is a good chance that Chambers will be successful.

Dwain Chambers and Seb CoeThis situation has polarised opinion, with pretty much every British athlete (past or present) asked, backing the ban and emphasising the importance of a zero-tolerance approach to PEDs. On the other hand (according to Warner) even”the former head of the World Anti-doping Agency (Wada) Dick Pound has often said that it’s hard to legally justify punishing an athlete for the same offence twice.”

Bob does have sympathy for Chambers, who has clearly been punished greatly for his mistake, and now believes that he could win an Olympic medal (though he might struggle to keep up with Usain Bolt). For any athlete, the frustration of not being able to prove themselves on the Olympic stage must be enormous – just look at what Oscar Pistorius has been going through. And his efforts to warn people away from making his mistakes should be applauded.

However, as the Olympics approach it looks only too likely that there may be more stories of athletes on PEDs beating athletes who have resisted the temptation to cheat. Will the presence of athletes like Chambers muddy these waters further…?

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Usain Bolt 100m World Record Holder

21 year old sprinter Usain Bolt has just broken the 100m world record, clocking 9.72 seconds at the New York Grand Prix meeting. What’s really impressive is that this was only the 5th time Bolt has competed in the 100m, because he is better over 200m!

Until footage of this race reaches youtube see Bolt here running the second fastest time in history (9.76) on 3rd May.

At 6ft 5in (1.96m) tall Bolt is a giant on the track – you can see him towering over the other sprinters in the video. As a result the rangy figure finds the start the hardest part of the race, and was apparently running 100m as a means of improving his start for his favoured distance, the 200m. Until now Bolt wasn’t even sure whether he would run the 100m in Beijing this summer. It seems as if he has not only taken the Athletics World by surprise with his times over 100m, but he has also surprised himself!

Interestingly Bolt regards the Olympics as a bigger prize than the world record (via BBC):

“You’ve got to be Olympic champion or world champion to really count.

“Tomorrow if someone comes and runs faster than me I’m no longer the fastest man in the world. If you’re the Olympic champion then they have to wait four more years to get you again.

“I think the Olympics is the biggest thing, so I’m looking for that, definitely.”

As an example of the extremely fine details that can make the difference at this elite level, Bolt recognised that a false start the first time they went to the blocks in New York helped him, as he had not got away very well. For one so tall this is a crucial element, and something Bolt has been working on a lot.

In Beijing Bolt’s biggest competition will probably come from Tyson Gay, the current World Champion and Asafa Powell, Bolt’s fellow Jamaican and the previous world record holder. In New York Gay also ran a personal best of 9.85, but still finished a relatively distant second to Bolt.

UPDATED

Here is the video of Usain Bolt’s world record breaking 100m

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Paula Radcliffe has been focussing on very little this year apart from the Beijing Olympics, particularly since missing the London Marathon with a toe injury. But now it appears that another injury may rule out her chances in China too. On Wednesday an MRI scan revealed a stress fracture in her left femur.

Paula Radcliffe with Olympic TorchRadcliffe’s chances of running in Beijing seem unclear; at one time she says she is 90-100% sure she will be there, while commentators like BBC’s Mike Costello have described these chances as ‘slim’. A case of positive mental attitude on Radcliffe’s part perhaps, but it doesn’t sound likely that she will be able to train enough to be going to the Olympics with a realistic shot of a medal.

On a personal level this is very sad news, not only was Paula Radcliffe one of Team GB’s best gold medal prospects on the track, but after the drama of the Athens Games there can be few people in the UK who did not wish her success in Beijing. It may be too early to say, but it looks like Paula Radcliffe may be joining Haile Gabreselassie on the marathon sidelines.

The Games’ organisers may also feel some sympathy for Paula, for not only was she a star-prospect for their event, but she has also been a vocal supporter of the Games, with regard to political protests and pollution.

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Justin Henin Olympic Gold Medalist

Some news that has been slightly overlooked in light of everything else in the last week: the Beijing Olympics will be missing one more gold medal holder since Justine Henin has announced her (shock) retirement.

Described as the best of her generation by former Champion Billie-Jean King, Henin is the reigning World no 1, and French & US Open Champion. For emotional reasons she has quit at the top of her game.

Her coach (and close friend) Carlos Rodriguez explains her decision:

“She used tennis as an outlet for her emotions and finally with her life now reconciled, she no longer has the fire that drove her to success.”

It’s interesting to note the reaction of fellow world no 1 Roger Federer who clearly struggles to contemplate losing the will to win:

“I couldn’t imagine deciding out of the blue to retire, especially if I was number one.”

Justin Henin Olympic Champion Backhand

Henin’s exquisite backhand won her many fans (including one right here) and was her main weapon in defeating formidablely larger and stronger opponents. Henin’s career has coincided with the age of the big-hitters: Davenport, Venus, Serina and Sharapova. But her strength of mind and determination was key to helping her through great ups and downs in personal and professional life. 2007 was the year that she conquered both aspects of her life.

Double grand slam winner, the first player in 10 years to win 10 titles in a season and the first player in history to win over US$5m in a season. She split from her husband of 4 years, and by Roland Garos (May) was reconciled with her father and siblings.

After a year like that life holds new challenges for Justine Henin. The tennis world’s loss is also the loss of the Beijing Olympic Games.

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In his blog for the Seattle Times Daniel Beekman raises the extremely valid point that in all of the hype about the Olympic Games this summer, the Paralympic Games have been almost completely overlooked. It’s difficult to remember any news stories relating to them; have any paralympians withdrawn for health reasons or joined in Team Darfur? Did Steven Spielberg’s original contract include ceremonies for the Paralympics?

Paralympic LogoParalympic Mascot

Hands up, this dereliction is true of the Beijing Olympics Blog too, until now.

Beekman interestingly points out that:

“People with disabilities in China often struggle to overcome prejudice and discrimination. In Chinese, as in English, the language of disability is revealing. The most common word for ‘disability’ in Mandarin is canji, meaning deficient or deformed.”

The Beijing Paralympics will be the largest ever, and their importance to the disabled population of the host country may never have been greater.

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Deng Yaping Olympic giant

Deng Yaping is not a household name outside China. (In fact if you Google her name the intuitive search engine asks if you mean Deng Xiaoping.) But Yaping is one of China’s greatest Olympians having won four gold medals, despite her diminutive height. In contrast her public stature could not be much larger, illustrated by the fact that she was voted Chinese female athlete of the century.

What may distinguish this athlete even more, are her non-athletic achievements. Retiring at the age of 24, she has an undergrad degree at one of China’s most prestigious Universities, and a Masters at the University of Nottingham ( a University which has fostered it’s links to China, and was the founder of the first Sino-Foreign university in China with approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education) and is now working on a PhD at Cambridge. And in a couple of weeks Yaping will celebrate her 35th birthday – as long as responsibilities as a member of the IOC and deputy manager of the Olympic village don’t come in the way, of course.

So, it could be said that there are few people more entitled to speak about the pressures that the Chinese stars will be facing in the home Olympics this summer. This has been discussed here before in reference to Liu Xiang, but it can rightly be related to the table tennis players too, who will have even higher expectations on them.

This story was picked up by TIME. To see a video interview with Deng Yaping, filmed last Autumn, visit CNN.

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