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The Heptathlon

A young Indian woman, with a humble, rural background has suddenly brought into the limelight, an event, well known but hitherto unheralded. Capt Seshadri takes a look at the challenging Heptathlon. 

In athletics, as in life, only a few parts can be glamorous. The leading running stars are, obviously, the fastest men and women; not that we should take anything away from their efforts. Still, there is glory in events like the marathon, the ultimate test of endurance and stoicism. While track takes centre stage, with the finishing tape in the front of the most august audience, the field events and the throws are an integral part of every athletics competition across the globe. Each one of these needs specialised training, commitment, dedication and a great deal of effort.

Combining all these is an oft-forgotten event, relegated to the sidelines, yet requiring a rare combination of speed, strength and endurance. Seven highly competitive events spread over two days, comprises the heptathlon, a name quite naturally derived from Greek, denoting seven (hepta) athlon (feat). It appears that this is a further take from the once popular pentathlon, and is now contested by both women and men, the former vying for honours outdoors and the latter, indoors. Both, however, are dissimilar in the types of competitions.

When it started

The first women’s heptathlon was reportedly held in 1980 and qualified as an Olympic sport in the 1984 Summer Games.  Today, it is part of the IAAF World Championships, and the IAAF Combined Events Challenge decides who is the women’s heptathlon number one for the year. Points are allotted according to performance in each of the events, in terms of time or distance, with the athlete amassing the most points being the obvious winner.

The first day of the competition comprises the 100 metres hurdles, the high jump, the shot put and the 200 metres. With two sprints, and a field and a throw event each behind them, the women go into the second day with the long jump, the javelin and finally, the 800 metres. Naturally, no individual can be best at everything, so it matters little that the champion athlete should finish on the podium in every event. While one school of thought might recommend that the competitor should be above average in all the events, if not necessarily within a ‘first three’ finish, in reality, each athlete specialises in a few of them and makes calculated compromises in the rest to garner maximum points overall. In effect, the participant actually competes not against the rest of the field, but rather, against the score table, a matrix constructed by an Austrian mathematician, Dr Karl Ulbrich, with points from zero to 1,000 and above for every event.

To score 1,000 points per event, each athlete would be required to perform, on an average, something like this:

110 m hurdles                                   13.85 seconds

High Jump                                              1.82 metres

Shot put                                                 17.07 metres

200 metres                                           23.80 seconds

Long jump                                               6.48 metres

Javelin                                                     57.18 metres

800 metres                                         2:07.83 seconds

Mundane figures, to the normal eye, but to the most competitive athlete, an almost impossible task to accumulate 7,000 points. In fact, the women’s world record has been set at 7,291 points, with the athlete surpassing the 1,000 average in just three of the events, her obvious favourites.

The men’s heptathlon, at first glance, appears to consist of much easier events than those for the women, but the competition is extremely intense and the performances in each, marginal. The men hepathletes compete in the 60 m, long jump, shot put, high jump, 60 m hurdles, pole vault and the 1,000 m, the first four on Day 1 and the remaining on the second day.

And finally, for the super athletes not satisfied with just seven events, there is also a tetradecathlon, a double heptathlon, consisting of 14 events, with seven events each day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Running Longer

If you want to run continuously for an hour without taking walk breaks then here is how you can achieve that, writes Nandini Reddy

Running non-stop is a dream every runner wants to achieve. Most find it difficult to run without taking walk breaks in the initial running days. When you start you are on a run-walk schedule until you find your pace, strength and endurance to run longer. As you get better you will be running more and walking less. If you have achieved running for 30 minutes straight and are through to the best time for your 5k runs then you have to hit the next goals of running for 60 mins or more without taking walk breaks. ‘

Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you want to run non-stop:

Create a Run Routine

Ensure you create a running plan and pre-run routine. The running plan will help you mark off goals and track your progress. A pre-run routine should include nutrition and preparation. Ensure you lay out your running gear the night before. Ensure you have bottle of water filled and ready. Plan for a simple snack ahead so that you are not scrambling in the morning. Chart out a warm up routine that you do without fail before the run. The focus should be about getting out and running in the quickest possible manner.

Relax and don’t stress

Running for 60 mins straight is a big goal for all runners. You are already on the right training path to achieve this goal, so now its important to run relaxed. If you start your run stressed then you are less likely to achieve your target. Don’t look at your GPS watch or worry about your pace. Just focus on the distance you need to cover. The idea is to finish the distance and stay energized through the course. The idea is to not run fast and stay positive and motivated through the run. If you stress and wind yourself out before you reach your goal distance and time you will be demotivated to even try again.

Fuel well

Nutrition and hydration will ensure you do not tire fast. Try to eat something 30-60 minutes before you run. You meal should include more carbs and be low on fat and fibre. For hydration stick with water and only choose electrolytes if you plan to run continuously for longer than 60 mins. Good options for a pre-race meal would be bananas, apples, figs, skim milk, cheese or peanut butter on bread.

Stay Committed

The running longer plan builds endurance and the idea for is to run without stopping and without getting hurt. The plan will gradually build so don’t over-stress your body in the first week itself. Fatigue will accumulate so its important to rest and recover. Stay alert for injury and ensure that you get them treated early on so that you do not have to lose time running.

A determined runner will complete his run despite all odds. But the idea is run more than one time. So don’t put all your energy into one run. Ensure that you can run longer for every training run you have chalked into your running diary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Indian woman, International champion

Remembering an athlete who inspired generations, Anju George, the runner we honour for Women’s Day, by Capt Seshadri.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, with several million posts across social media, it is certainly an occasion to raise a toast to every mother, wife and daughter. Somewhere in the annals of history, however, lie outstanding achievers, whose pages gather dust, glories forgotten.

Born on April 19, 1977, in a small village in Kerala, God’s own country that also produces God’s own athletes, a young woman by the name of Anju Bobby George made history by becoming the first Indian athlete to win a medal in a World Championships. Initiated into athletics by her father, she soon excelled in the sprints and jumps, going on to a podium finish in the National Schools Games. Her initial foray into athletics was in the heptathlon, but it soon became obvious that the jumps were her forte. While the triple jump brought her several medals and even the National record, her favourite event was the long jump. Graduating from gold in the Junior Asian Championship in 1996, Anju broke into the international scene winning medals in several Asian and Commonwealth Games and across continents as far apart as Africa, Europe and Asia.

Her athletics career took a spiral turn upwards with her coming under the wing of Bobby George, a former National triple jump champion turned coach. This remarkable athlete was a Mechanical Engineer, who gave up both his technical and sports careers in 1998, to train Anju. Intensive training, careful planning and sheer toil combined to work magic. From a low rank of 61 in 2001, she shot up the ladder to be ranked 6th by 2003. This was when they both realised that to make a strong mark on the international scene, she needed the exposure. Anju went on to train under the legendary Mike Powell, who worked on her technique and skills and set her two rungs higher in the ladder at number 4 in the world.

Some of her more memorable moments came in 2005 when she won gold at the IAAF World Athletics in Monte Carlo, wresting the medal from Tatyana Kotova of Russia who was stripped of her first place finish. Her personal best of 6.83 metres came at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but that was still only good enough to earn her fifth place. In recognition of her sporting achievements, in 2002, the Government of India conferred on her prestigious Arjuna Award. Her medal performance at World level in 2003 earned her the nation’s highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. And, for her outstanding contribution to athletics, she was awarded the Padma Shri, the country’s fourth highest civilian award.

The bonding between athlete and coach was so strong that the couple soon tied the marital knot. Anju is currently the Chairperson of TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) and an Executive Member of the government’s Khelo India project.

Anju Bobby George wrote a new chapter in the history of Indian sports, when she became the first Indian athlete among women and men, winning a bronze at the 2003 World Athletics Championships in Paris. A fitting moment to remember, especially on International Women’s Day.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Standing tall – from a wheelchair

Capt Seshadri tells us the extraordinary story of Para-Olympian Deepa Malik who brought home the silver medal from Rio, in 2016.

This is a saga of unbelievable courage and the will to win against all odds. Set in the backdrop of the Kargil war, when a brave army Colonel was fighting for his country, back home, his wife was fighting for her life.

This is the true story of a woman with indomitable spirit, who simply refused to give up.  Army daughter, army wife and mother of two, Deepa Malik was diagnosed with a tumour in the spinal cord that required 3 major surgeries and 183 stitches between her shoulders. Paralyzed from below the waist, she was destined to be consigned to a wheelchair for life. Her elder daughter was in need of special care with a motor disability called hemiplegia. But nothing could daunt this extraordinary woman who simply refused to look helplessly upon life as a paraplegic. While most able bodied sports persons would be content with success in a single sport, Deepa began a multi-faceted sports career at 36, an age when most sportspeople retire.  Over the next few years, she became a champion biker, swimmer, rally driver and athlete, creating and breaking records in every sport that she attempted.

The Unstoppable Spirit 

Her old passion for biking was rekindled and, with a ‘quad’ bike modified to her specifications, she enrolled with the Himalayan Motorsports Association and the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. Over an 8 day period, in rarefied atmosphere and sub zero temperatures, at an altitude of 18,000 feet, she rode her bike through 1,700 km, the first woman to undertake such an arduous journey. In 2013, Deepa biked 3,278 km from Chennai to Delhi, the longest ever drive by a paraplegic woman.

Discovering that her shoulders needed strengthening to help with her biking, she took to swimming, little realizing what she was about to achieve. In her S1 category, she holds national records in 3 styles – freestyle, breast and back stroke. Breaking away from the limitation of a swimming pool, she plunged into the Yamuna river and swam against the current for a distance of 1 km.

Her competitive spirit soon turned to a new area. For 19 months, Deepa relentlessly fought for a licence for an invalid person’s modified rally vehicle and followed it up with an FMSCI rallying licence for competitive driving, both firsts for any physically challenged person. Her grit and determination saw her complete two of the toughest rallies in the world – the Raid de Himalaya in 2009 and the Desert Storm in 2010.

The Big Win

In 2016, at age 46, Deepa won a silver in the Paralympics in the shot put, becoming the first Indian woman to win a medal in these Games. Currently, she holds national records in the F53 category in the shot put, discus and javelin throws and the Asian record in the javelin. Between 2010 and 2012, Deepa was ranked first in Asia in all the three throws; at the world level, she ranked second in the shot put and third in the javelin and discus throws.

Overall, Deepa Malik has won 58 national and 18 international medals in various disciplines. Not one to rest on her laurels, she also actively works to highlight the needs of other paraplegic sportspersons to the authorities, with great success. For her achievements in swimming, she won the Arjuna Award in 2012. Her untiring work in contributing to sport and her fighting spirit against pain and disability to make a mark on the world stage, won her the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2017.

Deepa had this to say on winning her 2016 Paralympics silver: “I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently-abled individuals to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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Don’t stop till you touch the sky

Sergey Bubka, athlete supreme, the man who was never limited by the heights that he literally achieved, is in India, as the brand ambassador for the Tata Mumbai Marathon on January 21, 2018. A profile of the prolific man by Capt Seshadri.

Picture in your mind, for just a moment, a man jumping from the ground to the roof of a two storeyed building. Now, this is no Superman or comic book hero performing a stunt, but a living, breathing individual who vaulted his way to fame, clearing 6.15 metres or, 20 feet 14 inches. A world champion pole vaulter for 21 years, the first man to breach the 6.0 metre barrier, while breaking the men’s record 35 times and bettering his own, untouched record 14 times, thus making his name synonymous with the pole vault.

Sergey Nazarovich Bubka, born on December 4, 1963, in Ukraine, part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, began his career in athletics with the 100 metres sprint and the long jump. He started competing on the international athletics scene in 1981 as a pole vaulter at the European Junior Championship, where he finished a moderate seventh. His leap to fame however, took an upward turn in 1983, with his world championship gold at Helsinki, clearing 5.70 metres (18 feet 8 inches). During the next couple of decades, he became simply unbeatable.

If the cliché ‘raising the bar’ were to be epitomised, he would be the lone author. His maiden world record of 5.85 metres, was set on May 26, 1984, a date coinciding with the conquest of Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary, precisely 31 years earlier. After them, on earth, there were no more frontiers to conquer; for Bubka though, his achievement was but a small beginning. Just over a year later, on July 13, 1985, he cleared 6.00 metres (19 feet 8 inches), a feat that had been considered impossible by any human. Not one to rest on his pole, he went on, over the next ten years, to consistently break his records time and again, pushing himself on his own, despite the fact that there were no opponents to challenge him.

In the days before Perestroika, Soviet athletes who set world records were rewarded with bonus payments, every time they set a new record. Bubka made a name for collecting these bonuses at every meet, by beating his own record, many a time by as slim a margin as one centimetre! This constant improvement made him a star attraction and an object of much speculation at athletic meets.

The gap was too wide, too high, for the rest of the world. Until January 2014, no other pole vaulter on earth had jumped beyond 6.07 metres; Bubka, however, had cleared 6.10 metres as early as in 1991, in San Sebastian, Spain, such was his dominance over the event. On July 31, 1994, at age 31, when most athletes would have faded out, or when the world would have consigned them to retirement, Sergey Bubka reached his best ever leap of 6.14 metres (20 feet 1 ¾ inches), which still stands as the highest ever outdoor pole vault. He was not to be outdone indoors either. On February 21, 1993, at Donetsk, Ukraine, close to the town of his birth, he set the indoor world record of 6.15 metres, which stood firm for a couple of decades, till Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16 metres. Ironically, this was at the same meet, at the same venue, in the same month, but 21 years later.

For an athlete of his calibre and achievements, the Olympics were a severe disappointment, his only gold coming in Seoul 1988, where he cleared 5.90 metres, far below his usual standard. It was probably a matter of pride for this great star that he retired from the pole vault in 2001, during a ceremony at his Pole Vault Stars meet in Donetsk, the very place where he established his world record.

Bubka’s secret to success could probably be attributed to a few key factors. For one, he possessed enormous strength and speed, combined with the agility of a gymnast. He would also grasp the pole at the extreme height to gain extra leverage. His style is referred to as the Petrov / Bubka technique, in which the vaulter concentrates on putting maximum energy into the bar on the upward move. This, combined with high running speed, allows the vaulter to benefit most from the recoil of the pole, thereby increasing energy into the swing.

This sporting genius was twice named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News and is one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the IAAF Hall of Fame. Now well into his retirement, Sergey Bubka is the Senior Vice President of the IAAF and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine. He is also an Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee.

A little point of interest: Like many siblings who do not take after their parents, Sergei Jr is a professional tennis player.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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The high jumper who never looked down

 

This is a story of extreme determination and courage is what defines Mariyappan Thangavelu’s story. Capt Seshadri explores his extraordinary journey.

A chronicle of the extraordinary achievements of an ordinary boy, one of six children, hailing from a little village in Salem District of Tamil Nadu, undaunted by disability, pain and the odds that were stacked against him.

When Life Changed

A little boy, five years of age, while on the way to school, was hit by a drunk truck driver. The huge wheels ran over his little leg, crushing the bones below the knee and making it virtually unusable. This was a child whose labourer father had abandoned the family, which was now dependent for a livelihood on their mother, who earned a paltry 100 rupees a day carrying bricks at construction sites. Fifteen years later, the same young lad who had never considered himself different from anyone else, had completed not just his schooling, but had also graduated in Business Administration.

While in school, he excelled in volleyball; however, his physical instructor, spotting a special ability in him, encouraged him to take to high jumping. Such was his motivation and confidence, that at age 16, he placed second in a high jump competition among a host of able bodied competitors.

The High Jumper 

In 2013, Mariyappan Thangavelu, the young high jumper, was spotted by Mr Satyanarayana, a coach with the Sports  Academy of India for the differently abled who, a couple of years later, took him under his wing and moved him to Bengaluru, for specialised and intensive training. The move proved extremely fruitful. The journey to fame was from Tamil Nadu to Tunisia for the IPC Grand Prix, where he cleared a height of 1.78 metres ( 5 ft 10 in) in the men’s high jump T 42 event, qualifying him for the Rio Paralympics. The young man was apparently not satisfied with this performance. In Rio in 2016, he raised the bar to clear 1.89 metres (6 ft 2 in) to win gold, a feat that had not been achieved since 2004. ‘Master Blaster’ Sachin Tendulkar was so impressed by his performance that he set up a sports fund for his benefit.

Today, Mariyappan remains simple, humble and committed to his roots. Part of his prize money funded a paddy field and a better home for his mother. In his mind he still remains a village boy, seeking the continued affection of his old friends and shunning the formality that comes from such success.

Born: 28 June 1995 in Periavadagampatti village, Salem District, Tamil Nadu.

Achievement: Paralympic Gold – 2016, Padma Shri and Arjuna Awards – 2017.

Headlines: Plans by Aishwarya Dhanush to make a movie on his life.

Aspiration: to complete an MBA soon.

This is the inspiring and exemplary story of Mariyappan Thangavelu. For him, the bar is never too high.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

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The Queen of Indian Track and Field

The legendary runner, P T Usha, loved by millions and an inspiration to all athletes in the 80s, was known as the Payyoli Express. Capt Seshadri profiles the prolific runner. 

Kerala. God’s own country. A land of lush green forests, sprawling backwaters and a pristine coastline. Somewhere along the Malabar Coast of Kerala lies the quiet town of Payyoli. And through this town runs an express. An express that does not run on steam, diesel or electricity. An express, however, that has won 101 gold medals internationally.

Pilavullakandi Thekkeparambil Usha better known to India and the world simply as PT Usha, hailing from this little town, earned the title of the “Payyoli Express” through her immortal achievements on the athletics track. Such is her fame and popularity that not just streets but even babies are named after her.

The early 1980s were not a particularly conducive period for Indian athletes, far less a woman. International training facilities and experienced coaches were virtually unknown. Exposure to the world arena was very limited and there was a complete lack of scientific management. In this scenario, Usha started running at the age of 13. As early as in Class VII, she was so quick that she would beat the then District champion. During her training sessions, she would request male athletes to pace for her; however, they never asked her to pace for them, afraid that they might not be able to match her!

Motivation and training, both of which were largely self-developed, were crucial to success even at the National level. There was abundance of talent but no means to channelise it, recalls Usha. To quote her: ““After many years of experience in athletics, I am convinced that what we lack in India is not talent, but the basic, modern and scientific facilities. If we train our young Indian sports talents, nothing, not even Olympic medals, is unachievable.” She dedicates her achievements to her coach and mentor, OM Nambiar who, in 1985, won the Dronacharya Award for his contribution to Indian athletics.

Dwelling on the past, she recalls how she could have made it big in the Los Angeles Olympics if only she had had the opportunity to participate and benefit from more international exposure. Nevertheless, she became the first ever Indian woman to reach an Olympics finals, winning the 400 metres hurdles semi-finals in 1984. She rues the manner in which she lost the bronze by 1/100th of a second, simply because she didn’t lunge at the tape. She was not used to it, simply because she would usually win most of her races by margins of 10 m.

To crown a glorious athletic career, in 2002, after her retirement from active competition, PT Usha strongly felt the need to take sport to the grassroots level and train and share her experience with budding young talent. Hence was conceived the ‘Usha School of Athletics’ focussed on girl athletes who, she firmly believes, have the potential to bring home Olympic golds. Her school has 18 girls, mostly from underprivileged backgrounds, living on the residential campus, schooling during the day and training for over 5 hours every day, in the mornings and evenings. Funding comes purely from individual donations, but that does not deter Usha from pursuing her ambition and goals.

At a time when India was virtually unknown in international athletics, the Payyoli Express stood out as a shining example of what determination and hard work could achieve against all odds. An icon and a living legend, PT Usha swept the 100, 200, and 400 metres, the 400 metres hurdles, and the 4 x 400 metres relay at the 1985 Asian Track and Field Championship in Indonesia, pushing India up from 14th to 4th place in the overall championship list. Usha was honoured the same year with the Padma Shree and Arjuna awards.

The Payyoli Express, who still jogs unfailingly every morning, expresses her anguish at the dropping fitness levels in kids. The best way to get them fit is to organise family games like football, basketball and running, she feels. Dwelling on the bad food habits of today’s children, she talks about how she used to eat large quantities of potatoes for her carb requirement. The how the food in LA during the 1984 Olympics was so bland that she carried a bottle of pickles to add to her food!

When she is not running or training her wards, Usha loves watching movies and to clean and cook. Quite natural to her roots, fish curry is her favourite food. Simplicity personified, humble and humane, PT Usha has etched a name in Indian athletics that will stay in memory for a long time to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams

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Jumping long, aiming high

Michael  Powell, is an Olympian who was a former track and field athlete, and is the holder of the long jump world record. Capt Seshadri profile the phenomenal athlete who was the a brand ambassador for the TSK25 Kolkata 2017

At 77 kilos, he was as light as a feather. He too could float like a butterfly, an attribute that belonged to another legend from his country, although of a different kind of sport.

This is the story of a world beating athlete who rediscovered himself. In April 2013, 17 years after retirement, he was invited to participate in a charity long jump event in Japan. Among the crowd was none other than his former foe, the legendary Carl Lewis. By then 35 kilos heavier than his normal weight, at a hefty 112 kg, and in no way fit to compete, he was disconsolate after faring badly against virtually unknown amateurs. Urged by one of his closest friends and former world triple jump record holder Willie Banks, to train back into shape, stunned by his own lack of fitness and now spurred into action, he returned to his home in California a completely changed man. A mere year and a half later, down to a trim 83 kg, he announced his ambitions of going for the World Masters long jump record. “Fat doesn’t fly and now I’m lighter it is about me getting that masters record,” says he. If he achieves this, he will be the only athlete to hold the World and Masters records in a single event.

This is the story of Mike Powell. The man who broke Bob Beamon’s ‘leap of the century’ by 5 cm, flying through the air to 8.95 m at the 1991 World Championships in Athletics in Tokyo, in the process, pushing ‘King’ Carl to second place. For his stupendous feat, he was rewarded with the James E. Sullivan Award and the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year Award, the same year. In 1992, at Sestriere in Italy, he almost cleared 9m with a jump of 8.99 m, but the record did not stand as it was considered wind aided. However, as the years passed, he had to be satisfied with a silver in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the gold in 1993 and the bronze at the 1995 World Championships in Athletics.

Mike Powell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but moved to study at Edgewood High School in West Covina, California. He went on to attend the University of California, Irvine and later transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Apart from his scholarly pursuits and his athletics career, his feat in basketball is a successful dunk from the free throw line in the 1992-93 Foot Locker Slam Fest! With music as his love and dancing being both his passion and a way of staying fit, he has even been a popular DJ!

Powell, who now coaches budding long jumpers at Academy of Speed in Rancho Cucamonga, California, is a brand ambassador for the TSK25 Kolkata 2017. He has very fond memories of India, the people, their enthusiasm and warmth, also recalling in lighter vein, the warmth of the weather.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams

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The Elites at TSK 25k

The TATA Steel Kolkatta 25k will see some formidable elite runners on the track. Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan, profiles two of the top runners who will be running with you this year. 

The top runners in the male and female categories are Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia and Helah Kiprop from Kenya respecitively.

The master of track, road and cross country- Bekele

And now the marathon too!

Kenenisa Bekele was born on June 13, 1982 in Ethiopia, famed for its long distance runners. Starting as a junior in cross country, in 2001, he outran the pack at the IAAF World Junior Cross Country championships, beating the existing time by 33 seconds. He never had to look back. Later the same year, he broke the 3,000 m world junior record in Brussels and won gold at the 15 k road race in the Netherlands, establishing himself as the master on all three surfaces. He dominated the cross country running scene for a full five years, from 2002 to 2006, winning the short and long course events, unmatched by any other runner before or since. His tally of 19 medals in the junior and senior events established him as the true master of cross country.

At the age of 32, when most runners would be contemplating retirement, Kenenisa made his marathon debut in Paris in April 2014, bettering the course record as well as the time for a debut marathon, beating the performances of legends like countryman Gebrselassie and current greats Wanjiru and Tergat.  A persistent Achilles tendon injury forced him out of competition during 2015, but he returned to competition at the 2016 London Marathon. Running at way below 100% fitness, he finished third in a time of 2:06:36 behind Eluid Kipchoge and Stanley Biwott. During this gruelling race, already hampered by injury, his designated pacemakers further added to his woes by using up his drinks at five refreshment stations. In the Berlin Marathon of 2016, he timed in at 2:03:03, the second fastest marathon ever run and a personal best for himself.

The secrets to Kenenisa’s running ability are his long strides, high cadence and superb running style. His acceleration over the last lap is legendary, at times covering the final 400 m in a little over 50 seconds and the last 200 m in as low as 24 seconds. His low weight reinforces the theory of focussing on calorific quality than on quantity. Having been born in a village in the mountains, he also had a natural advantage of practising in a rarefied atmosphere. Bekele had an explosive ‘kick’, the result of fast paced training, consisting of a series of intense runs, broken by short periods of rest. Running hard uphill and recovering on the down slope equipped him with tremendous stamina and endurance.

When not beating the world in marathons, he is busy in Addis Ababa, constructing a hotel and a stadium to help the younger generation of Ethiopians train in world class facilities. Kenenisa now comes to the TS25K Kolkata, as the current world and Olympic record holder over the 5,000m and 10,000 m.

No half measures

21.1 km. 67:39 minutes. 42.2 km. 2:27:29 hours.

Helah Kiprop Jelagat, Kenya’s leading woman distance runner found her calling in road racing after a few attempts on the track. Born on April 7, 1985, she began her training with Italian athletics club GS Valsugana Trentino, winning her first 10 km road race in 2005 in 32:55. Her half marathon debut at Lille in September the same year, saw her finish on the podium, in third place in 74:02. The year 2007 saw her earn successes in the 15 km road race and she won the Tuskys Wareng Cross Country in her home country, Kenya, in 2008.

Kiprop’s performances started improving after 2009, when she clinched a series of road victories, competing in the half marathon and 10k races. 2010 was a year of second place finishes, mainly in Europe, with a personal best of 32:20 in the Odele 10k, while 2011 was a year of almost nil participation.

The Berlin Half Marathon 2012 saw her return to competitive athletics, the year she travelled to South America for the first time for the Bogota Half Marathon. November found her in India for the first time, for the Delhi Half Marathon, in which she finished a close third. The following year, her creditable performances in the Egmond and RAK Half marathons and her win in the Berlin Half Marathon, earned her an invite to her first full marathon in Berlin. She debuted with a time of 2:28:02 which earned her fourth place and kickstarted her foray into the 42.2. The year ended with another visit to India, with a gold in the Kochi Half Marathon.

Her first full marathon came in Seoul, where she ran her best time of 2:27:29, fighting for top spot over the last few kilometres against her rival Ashu Kasim. She is back in India for her third race, the TSK25 Kolkata, this December.

Helah Kiprop is coached by her husband David Marus, who is an acknowledged expert on nutrition and running. Helah’s trains at Iten in Kenya, often spending her off season outside. Her farm provides with her with all her training requirements; she even has her own cow that provides her with milk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams

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