100m Hurdles: Will Sally break the WR or simply just break?

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French sprints and hurdles coach Pierre-Jean Vazel, a biomechanics lecturer at a Paris university, told The Telegraph: The trick is that at full speed Sally’s stride length is 2.17m long (during the Daegu 4x100m relay) while the 8.50m interval, excluding the hurdle clearance, between the barriers leaves only 5.30m for the three strides between the hurdles. This works out at 1.77m per stride

– speedendurance.com

I am a big fan of Sally Pearson as she is a great talent, but is she too talented to the point of danger. I was reading some interesting discussion and criticisms that she will is could either smash the world record soon, only if she is on the right course. Being on relays and just hurdling in general, as speed increases so does risk of crashing into hurdles. Women’s velocities are slower then men between the hurdles, even with the hurdles being lower relatively to the height of the athletes. When I read the quote below and wondered what the actual performances show with take off distances and angles.

I want her taking off closer to the hurdle. It has more to do with sighting the hurdle at the speed she’s running. Sally sees the hurdle coming at her fast and so she automatically chops her step….But I don’t want her to chop. In races she’s taking off a little too far from the hurdle. She can do it perfectly in training.

One question I have is if the athlete is taking off closer to the hurdle will she be risking not having enough time to clear it mechanically? The race is very rhythm based and blind faith is necessary to recalibrate global speed. Visual data while at the speed of light is great, the mind creates a paralysis by analysis. Even if she takes of closer to the hurdle the flight path will have her land further away, thus recreating the same problem that she has to deal with. Distance is also relative to time, so she is not only dealing with length of steps but time in order to reset the race pattern without slowing down her velocity of 9.11 meters per second.

The red herring is not the black swan of the 4×400 or 4×100 as several athletes have won golds or broke WRs while running open sprints and relays on both sides (men and women) but managing her race schedule. She is not opening up too fast but she is could be opening up to early being in the southern hemisphere. Based on the schedule so far, she will likely triple peak if she runs races after the olympics and could be a medalist and world record holder this year. One danger is that she will dip to near uncharted territory that Tony Dees was for him at 2000 trials and not be able to maintain the velocities and either pull, stop, or crash.

The question is what to do with the idea of going to 1.77m strides. I will have talk to as Pierre Jean as not each stride is the same length because the 110m and 100m Coh data show that each step between the hurdles is unique and must be reviewed in order to optimize the strides with the style and speed of the athlete. Brigita Bukovec was 60 kilos and 168 cm, the same specs save being 2cm shorter. While similar in builds I don’t have the data on Sally. My belief is that that she can go 12.15 if she does changes arm carriage just slightly of step two based on the kinematic data, provided her pelvis is coordinated enough to handle the ballistics of going into the hurdle with more spinal torque.

While I don’t think Sally needs to get her injuries and entrapped emotional damage in 2007 and later released like a exorcism through her fascial meridians, her falls and the fear of falling when you are going speeds never experienced is not an easy mental thing to deal with. When you are going faster than comfort zones, the athlete needs to remove the parking brake (guarding) and floor it safely. Perhaps Neurosky or other equipment such as the BTS wireless EMG will catch some patterns in practice, but that is up to hear and her coach, not the outside experts. The fear of falling is the most beautiful dragon to slay, and I am trying to find ways to do the real human side of coaching the athlete, letting them slay the dragon and not be more than a guide to the liar. I don’t have a magic spell here but that’s why we coach people and not robots.

What happens this year with the olympics is truly exciting to me. I love the fact she has worked with the same coach for years, as athletes tend to have musical chairs with coaches, and eager to see what happens.

* Note: I keep sharing the Milan Coh data because it includes practical and real information, unlike the newer and cool studies with made up metrics that require the TCSM secret decoder ring to understand or make use of. I have got more insight from Coh than I can imagine.
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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